Chiropractic Glossary

  A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M 

 N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z  

- A

Acute  Of short duration and relatively severe.

Acute back pain  Back pain that lasts a short while, usually a few days to several weeks. Episodes lasting longer than three months are not considered acute.

Adjustment  A form of manipulation, where the application of force is of a high velocity - low amplitude thrust. This type of manipulation can be likened to quickly pulling an apple off of a branch to obtain the specific apple, as opposed to pulling the apple slowly and obtaining multiple apples.
A Chiropractic adjustment is performed by using the hands to gently "adjust" misaligned vertebrae back into their proper position. Because chiropractors work on a variety of people from newborns to the elderly, gentleness is always a priority.
A specific directional thrust maneuver or application of forces applied to a subluxated vertebra that sets the vertebra into motion with the intent to reduce and/or correct the vertebral misalignment, thus improving the neurological component of the vertebral subluxation complex along with vivification of the affected tissues and body functions. 

Afferentation  The process of stimulating receptors of a specific type from the peripheral nervous system into the central nervous system.

Anomaly  A marked deviation from the normal standard, especially as a result of congenital or hereditary defect (s).

Annulus  The tough outer ring of a spinal disc.  

Arthritis  A general term referring to a condition of the joints. Literally it refers to an inflammation of the joints. There are many types of arthritides. The form which will inflict many people as they age is known as osteoarthritis. Other types include rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis.
Doctors have not found a cure for Arthritis; however, new treatment for this disease has greatly improved the quality of life for patients with arthritis. Doctors of Chiropractic will customize a pain management program of physical therapy and spinal adjustments that fits the patient’s needs.
Preventive care is also an important consideration in regards to arthritis. As the disease develops spinal fusion can occur resulting in greater loss of mobility and increased pain. Your Doctor of Chiropractic will thoroughly evaluate your condition in order to design a treatment program that will hopefully prevent or slow down the process.
If you have arthritis or if you think you do, consult a Doctor of Chiropractic for evaluation.

- B

Backache  Back pain is one of the most common ailments treated by Doctors of Chiropractic. Symptoms can be anything from pain to stiffness, numbness, burning sensations or all of the above. Your Doctor of Chiropractic will evaluate your condition by thorough examination looking for any subluxations of the spine. A subluxation is a minor misalignment of the spine "vertebra" causing an irritation to the nerve with a loss of normal function by interrupting communication from the brain to any cell tissue or organ in the body. Subluxations can be treated by a Doctor of Chiropractic through spinal adjustments and physical therapy/ rehab.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consult a Doctor of Chiropractic for evaluation.

Bells Palsy  An affliction of the nerves of the face that can cause excruciating, piercing pain with accompanying muscles spasms and facial contortions. 

"Big Idea"  The chiropractic concept that the body heals itself when interference to the proper functioning of the nervous system is removed.

Bone Spur  An extra calcium deposit in response to injury, disease or incorrect motion of position of a joint.

- C

C.A.  Abbreviation for "chiropractic assistant."

Cavitation  Pop that occurs in a spinal joint when vertebral surfaces (facets) are separated to create a vacuum that puts out carbon dioxide gas.

Cerebellum  The part of the brain that controls balance, posture and coordination of muscular movements.

Cerebral Cortex  The part of your brain that coordinates all sensory and motor activities. Different areas of it are specifically associated with memory, learning and behavior.

Cervical spine  The upper spinal area, consisting of seven vertebrae, C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, and C7.

Cervical vertebrae  There are seven vertebrae in the cervical or neck area of the spine.

Chiropractic  the science, art and philosophy of treating the articulations of the human frame to affect a response in the nervous system.
The practice of chiropractic focuses on the relationship between structure (primarily the spine) and function (as coordinated by the nervous system) and how that relationship affects the preservation and restoration of health.
Of primary concern to the doctor of chiropractic are abnormalities of structure or function of the vertebral column known clinically as the vertebral subluxation complex. The subluxation complex includes any alteration of the biomechanical and physiological dynamics of contiguous spinal structures, which can cause neuronal disturbances.

Chiropractic adjustment This term refers to a wide variety of specific manual interventions that may be high or low velocity; short or long lever; high or low amplitude; with or without recoil.
Chiropractic adjustments are directed at specific anatomical regions of the vertebral spine. The purpose of the Chiropractic adjustment is to correct vertebral subluxations, which can cause alteration of the biomechanical and physiological dynamics of contiguous spinal structures and manifest neuronal disturbances.

Chiropractic Analysis A chiropractic analysis is performed on a routine basis to determine the patient's need for spinal adjustments. A chiropractic analysis may include (but certainly is not limited to) two or more of the following procedures: instrumentation (skin temperature differential analysis), chiropractic x-ray analysis, spinal static and motion palpation, postural analysis, leg-length comparison tests, muscle strength measures, and other chiropractic analysis procedures.

Chiropractic Practice Objective The primary professional practice objective of chiropractic is to reduce or correct vertebral subluxations and other malpositioned articulations and structures in a safe and effective manner.

Chronic Persisting for a long period of time.

Common Headache Common headaches are only common because they are so familiar. Still, the pain can be excruciating, and the common headache can drastically affect your normal activities of daily living. Doctors of Chiropractic have discovered these headaches can be due to muscular contractions at the back of the head and neck due to spinal degeneration of the cervical spine. Through a comprehensive evaluation of the cervical vertebra we can determine if there is a casual relationship to your headache. Often the solution to your problem is just a matter of determining the cause of muscle tightness in your neck. Remember, it is important to realize that you don't have to suffer with the common headache.
If you suffer from the common headache, consult a Doctor of Chiropractic for evaluation.  

Consultation A specific time set aside between the physician and either the patient and/or family member or interested person for the purpose of discussing the history of the complaint, the complaint and or proposed treatment recommendations. 

Cranial Nerves 12 pairs of specialized nerves that have their origins within the cranium or brain cavity.

- D

Degeneration   A wear and tear phenomena. When the joints of the body wear out, it is referred to as osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease.

Disc   A cartilage (cushion/pad) that separates spinal vertebrae, absorbs shock to the spine, and helps protect the nervous system. 

Disc Degeneration Drying, thinning of the disc as a result of accelerated wear and tear.

Disease (Chiropractic Definition) The absence of health, a condition where the body has lost its ability to heal itself and is thereby susceptible to growth of organisms that are present in the body even in healthy situations. 

Disease The word disease is a combination of dis and ease. Dis is a prefix meaning apart from." It follows then that dis-ease is nothing more than a lack of comfort, a loss of harmony in the system. Chiropractors believe that instead of treating disease with chemicals and invasive procedures, whenever possible, first treat dis-ease with the reduction or elimination of nerve interference, thereby giving the patient a chance to recover naturally before resorting to drugs and surgery. 

Dynamic thrust Chiropractic adjustment delivered suddenly and forcefully to move vertebrae, often resulting in a popping sound.

- E -

Electrical Muscle Stimulation   Physiological therapeutic introduction of electrical stimulation at a predetermined frequency, intensity and rate for the purpose of achieving a physiological response. 

End Plate The cartilage between the bone of the vertebrae and the disc, to serve as attachment point for the fibers of the disc. 

Examination A specific time the physician takes to look at the current status of the patient. Can represent several levels of examination from cursory to complex. 

- F

Facet The surface of the weight bearing portion of the vertebrae, a part of the posterior joints of the vertebrae.

- G

Gatekeeper Health care professional designated to exercise responsibly for, and control of, the utilization of health care services, e.g., D.C., M.D., D.O., D.P.M., D.D.S., D.D.M.

- H

Health The state of optimal physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity. 

Herniation  Condition of the intervertebral disc, whereby some of the material which makes up the disc shifts to a position which irritates the nearby nerve for that spinal area.

Home Therapy Activities the patient can do, under the instructions of the chiropractic physician, to assist in their recovery; includes ice/heat, exercises, diet and moderation of activities of daily living. 

Homeostasis This is the tendency to maintain, or the maintenance of, normal, internal stability in an organism by coordinated responses of the organ systems that automatically compensate for changes in the organism.

Hypesthesia   An increased sensitivity to nerve stimulation

- I - 

Immune System The system of glands and physiological responses to invasion of foreign organisms. 

Immunity The status of resistance to invasion of foreign bodies to the host. 

Innate Intelligence, aka Innate An inborn intelligence that keeps the body of all living things in repair. The mission of Innate Intelligence is to maintain the material of the body of the living thing in active organization.

Intensive Care Frequent treatment designed to get pain or symptom relief as quickly as possible; does not imply a cure of the underlying cause. 

Intervertebral disk The tough cartilage that serves as a cushion between two vertebrae. Each disk has a gelatinous-like center (nucleus pulposus) that may protrude to form a disk herniation.

- J

Joint  The area between two bones where movement occurs. If movement is abnormal, pain and degeneration may occur.

Joint fixation Diminished movement within a joint space.

Joint dysfunction A condition, whereby the joints of a particular area are not moving properly. Any sort of physical trauma may bring this about, along with proposed chemical or mental causes.

- K

currently no terms for words beginning with "K".

- L

Ligament  A band of fibrous tissue that connects bones or cartilages, serving to support and strengthen joints 

Long-lever manipulation Method of spinal manipulation in which a general technique is used to stretch or loosen several vertebrae at a time.

Lower Back Pain It is said eight out of ten of us suffer from some kind of lower back pain. Research shows that the majority of such pain is caused by a mechanical misalignment in one or more segments of the lower or lumbar spine. The spinal column provides protection for the spinal cord. It is made up of segments called "vertebra", which must be positioned correctly in order to function properly and have a normal range of motion. When the lower vertebra is out of alignment, the discs, the spines shock absorber, can swell or tear causing it to bulge or herniate. This bulging can pinch the nerve between the vertebra producing pain, numbness, tingling or burning sensations. This condition can be treated by a Doctor of Chiropractic through spinal adjustments and physical therapy/ rehab. Which can correct the misalignment in the low back region of the spinal cord.
If you are experiencing low back pain, consult a Doctor of Chiropractic for evaluation.  

Lumbar When discussing the spinal column, this refers to the region of the low back.

- M

Manipulation A non-specific manual procedure that involves a general thrust to move a joint. 

Mechanoreceptor A specialized nerve ending that has been found to influence the neurological response of the brain, spinal cord and spinal nerves. 

Meric system Chiropractic system based on the theory that specific spinal joints are associated with specific organs, requiring adjustment of certain vertebrae for certain diseases.

Migraine Headache Do you know that 15 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches. There are many reasons for migraine headaches. Doctors of Chiropractic have discovered one of the most common reasons is cervical spinal degeneration, a misalignment and straightening of the neck that puts pressure on the nerves and arteries, causing them to swell. With less blood and oxygen reaching the brain a headache develops. By adjusting the cervical vertebra, less pressure is put on the nerves and arteries allowing blood and oxygen to f low to the brain. Most headaches can successfully be treated by a Doctor of Chiropractic through spinal adjustments.
If you are a migraine sufferer, consult a Doctor of Chiropractic for evaluation.  

Misalignment A radiographic finding, usually measured in millimeters, that represents one or more segment of the spine out of alignment with adjacent segments of the spine. 

Mobilization Method of manipulation, movement, or stretching to increase range of motion in muscles and joints that does not involve a high-velocity thrust.

Motion palpation Method of locating fixations and loss of mobility in the spine by feeling the motion of specific spinal segments as the patient moves.

Motor Neurological term to represent that portion of the nerve or joint responsible for activity or motion. 

MRI Magnetic resonance imaging, a diagnostic tool that subjects the patient’s body to massive doses of magnetism to induce an energy reading that the MRI computer interprets as images based upon water content and the hydrogen ion, non-invasive and non-radioactive. 

Muscle spasm  (Fibrositis) Each of us have over 600 voluntary muscles in our bodies that work together to control even the simplest of movements. Muscles work in conjunction with joints, such as cartilage, and bones to provide motion. When the spinal vertebra become misaligned and irritated, it disrupts the nerve muscle relationship and causes a muscle spasm. These symptoms can be treated by a Doctor of Chiropractic through spinal adjustments. Left alone they can become permanent causing chronic pain. Muscle pain can also be a symptom of a more serious problem and should be addressed immediately.

If you suffer from muscle spasms, consult a Doctor of Chiropractic for evaluation.  

Musculoskeletal  Referring to structures involving tendons, muscles, ligaments, and joints.

- N

Neck & Head Pain A stiff neck can sometimes come from nowhere. Actually the problem could have very well been developing for quite sometime. The neck consists of seven small bones collectively know as the cervical spine. They support the 22 bones of the head. The delicate curvature of these areas must be maintained for normal blood flow and nerve function. It is this curvature that can change over a period of time due to many things such as trauma, poor posture, stress or poorly performed exercises. A Doctor of Chiropractic will examine the cervical vertebra to determine if the problem relates to the spine or the muscle and the ligaments around the spine. Subluxations can be treated by a Doctor of Chiropractic through spinal adjustments.
If you suffer from head and neck pain, consult a Doctor of Chiropractic for evaluation.

Nerves  Specialized cells that use chemical reactions to send an impulse from the outside world to the brain and spinal cord. 

Nerve root  One of the two nerve bundles emerging from the spinal cord that join to form a segmental spinal nerve.

Nervous System The system of nerves including the brain, the cranial nerves, the spinal cord, the spinal nerves, and the peripheral nerves; includes the autonomic (sympathetic and parasympathetic) nerves. 

Neurocalometer  The heat-detecting instrument originally developed in 1924 for locating subluxated vertebrae.

Nociceptors  Specialized nerve receptor (neuron) that is stimulated by injury; a receptor for pain. 

Nucleus, Disc  Spongy gel-like center of a spinal disc.  

- O

Osteoarthritis  A slow degeneration of the joints that connect your bones and allow you to move. Aging, injury, poor posture and excess weight can cause joints to wear down and become stiff and painful. 

- P -

Pain  Physical pain is a symptom in the body that something may be wrong, an alarm for the body. Traditional methods of treatment usually look at ridding the body of symptoms, but not the cause of the symptoms. This is similar to if your "check engine light" comes on in your car and you put a piece of tape over it so you cannot see the warning…the problem does not disappear simply because you don’t see the warning light. To the contrary, it can get much worse, and do terrible permanent damage. Likewise with your body, except your body is not replaceable. 

Palpation  Examining the spine with your fingers; the art of feeling with the hand.

Paresthesia  Abnormal or loss of normal sensation. 

Parasympathetic  Literally means around (para) the sympathetic; refers to the parasympathetic nervous system, a division of the autonomic nervous system; responsible for the regulation of body systems. 

Pelvic deficiency (P.D.)  A condition that proponents of Activator Methods define as an "apparent" difference in leg-length, not an anatomical difference. Also called "functional short leg."

Physical Therapy  Form of treatment using physical modalities (equipment) to alleviate pain and suffering. 

Pinched Nerves  Laymen's term for pain perceived to be coming from the back or spine; physically difficult to "pinch" the nerve. 

Plasticity  Tissue that is capable of being formed or shaped. This is a term used to describe developmental changes in the nervous system.

Preventative Care  Care rendered to existing patient; designed to prevent a condition from worsening and/or returning; necessary care usually due to a persistent weakness or permanent impairment. 

Primary Contact Health Care Provider  Any health care provider capable of providing first level contact and intake into the health delivery system, (b) any health care provider licensed to receive patient contact in the absence of physician referral.

Proprioceptors  Sensory nerve terminals which give information concerning movements and position of the body; they occur chiefly in the muscles, tendons, and the labyrinth. 

- Q

Currently no definitions for words beginning with the letter "Q". 

- R

Radiograph  Proper term for an x-ray film after it has been exposed to radiation (x-ray). 

Radiolucent  An object/item/mass that appears on a radiograph that allows the x-ray to pass through it when in normal circumstances it would not. (e.g., a bone that does not look as dense as the bones around it. 

Radiopaque   An object/item/mass that appears on a radiograph that does not allow the x-ray to pass through it when in normal circumstances it would, (e.g. a bone that looks more dense than the bones around it) 

Range of Motion The range, measured in degrees of a circle, through which a joint may be moved. 

Realign  (Chiropractic Definition) to return subluxated vertebrae to a more near normal position.  

Receptor  A nerve cell that receives specific sensory information in the nervous system.

- S

Sacrum   The triangular shaped bone located just below the Lowest Lumbar vertebrae (L5), formed usually by five fused vertebrae (sacral vertebrae) that are wedged dorsally between the left and right illiums.

Sciatica An inflammation of the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in your body. It runs from your lower spine, through your buttocks, then into your leg and foot. There are actually two (2) sciatic nerves, one in each leg. When the sciatic nerve is inflamed, it can cause numbness, tingling, pain or weakness in your lower back and leg.  

Scoliosis  Scoliosis is an abnormal, curvature of the spine. Scoliosis has many causes; some due to injury while others are inherited. One common reason for scoliosis is abnormal development of the vertebra in the spine. The most common form of scoliosis is an abnormal pattern of muscle and ligament growth as a teenager grows in height.
Doctors of Chiropractic are trained to recognize scoliosis or the potential for developing scoliosis. With early detection, chiropractic treatment can correct many cases of scoliosis.
If you or your child have been diagnosed or think you may have scoliosis, consult a Doctor of Chiropractic for evaluation.

Scope of Practice The legal definition of the activities that a profession can or cannot do.  

Sensory  The "feeling" portion of a nerve; as opposed to motor . 

Somato-Visceral  Nerve pathways originating in the spinal cord and communicating with the internal organs. 

Spinal "adjustment"  A chiropractic term that most chiropractors use to describe whatever method(s) they use to correct spinal problems, whether by hand or with an instrument. 


Spinal Analysis  The comprehensive process of evaluating the spinal column and its immediate articulations for vertebral subluxations and contraindications to any or all chiropractic procedures. 

Spinal Nerves  24 pairs of nerves exiting from the spinal cord at segmental levels of the spinal column. 

Spinous Process   A posterior protruding part of the spinal bone that can be seen or felt when examining the spine. 

Sports Injury  Some sports injuries are due to improper stretching while others are accidental injuries during the activity. In either case it is important to diagnose and treat such injuries quickly to prevent further aggravation or damage to the specific area. Doctors of Chiropractic have extensive training in the area of sports medicine and can diagnose and effectively treat sports related injuries. Spinal adjustments and physical therapy/ rehab have proven to be very successful in correcting the injury and getting you back to normal activity faster.
No matter what your recreational activity may be, don't let sports related injuries or pains go unattended, consult a Doctor of Chiropractic for evaluation.  

Spurs A projecting body, as from a bone. 

Subluxation When a vertebra of the spine looses its proper position and becomes misaligned with the vertebrae above and below it, thus compromising the nerves, which results in interference of nerve transmissions from the brain to tissues, organs, and muscles. Unfortunately, most subluxations have no pain, so generally many people are not aware of them. Subluxations physically cause your spine to wear unevenly, which leads to early degeneration and break down of the spine. 

Subluxation Complex A description used to describe the five parts of a subluxation: 

  1. Spinal Kineisopathology  
  2. Nueropathophysiology  
  3. Myopathology  
  4. Histopathology
  5. Pathophysiology

Sustaining Care Treatment rendered to a patient for the purpose of making the patient as functional or active as possible despite a painful or disabling condition. 

Sympathetic  A division of the central nervous system responsible for regulating the various activities of the human body. 

Symptom  A warning signal sent from the tissues, organs and muscles to the brain that damage has occurred, and still may be occurring. Common symptoms are pain, tingling, and numbness, although, many subluxations occur without any noticeable symptoms.

- T

Technique One of several treatment methods. 

Tendon A fibrous cord by which a muscle is attached. 

Therapy The use of modalities, or machines, to augment the adjustment.  May include ultrasound, electrical muscle stimulation, traction, massage, heat/cold, infrared, laser, and others. 

Thermography A diagnostic procedure that images heat from body surfaces. 

Thoracic vertebrae There are twelve vertebrae in the thoracic or upper-back portion of the spine.

TMJ Dysfunction TMJ Dysfunction is a problem with the alignment of the jaw. When the junction of the jaw is out of alignment it can create several problems such as headaches, jaw pain, sinus problems, stiffness in the jaw and muscle tension in the face, head, neck and shoulders. If you suffer from these symptoms it may be an indication of TMJ Dysfunction / Spinal Subluxation Syndrome. Through spinal adjustments a Doctor of Chiropractic can treat these symptoms and correct the problem.
If you think you have TMJ Dysfunction, consult a Doctor of Chiropractic for evaluation.  

Torticollis/Tortipelvis  Involuntary spasms of the musculature of the spine, in the neck or low back.

Traction  Either intersegmental or elongation, used to reduce swelling, ease spasms, or assist in the realignment of vertebral segments. 

Treatment  The goal of chiropractic and chiropractic doctors is to first locate the points of interference, and then remove them. The body will then be able to rebalance and heal itself, which it has the natural ability to do anyway…once the interference has been removed. 

- U

Ultrasound  High frequency sound waves, sometimes accompanied with a form of electrical muscle stimulation, administered to areas of pain, spasm or other injury.

- V

Vertebra (plural is Vertebrae)   A bone of the spine. There are seven (7) cervical vertebrae, twelve (12) thoracic vertebrae and five (5) lumbar vertebrae, as well as those that make up the sacrum and the coccyx.

Vertebral artery  Arteries, one on each side, that thread through holes in the six upper cervical vertebrae. 

Vertigo  Sensation of dizziness and the feeling that oneself or one's surroundings are whirling about.

Viscero-Somato  Nerve pathways originating in the organs of the body and communicating with the spinal cord. 

Vitalism The concept that the functions of an organism are due to a "vital principle" or "life force" distinct from the physical forces explainable by the laws of physics and chemistry. Chiropractors refer to that force as "Innate Intelligence."

Vivification The restoration of life to the body.

- W

Wellness The relationships between health, regular physical activity, and physical fitness as it applies to Chiropractic philosophy. 

Whiplash Whiplash of the neck is caused by any sudden involuntary forced movement of the head in any direction, and the resultant rebound of the head or neck in the opposite direction. Consequently there are injuries to the surrounding and supporting tissues of the neck and head.
Whiplash may occur without you being aware of it. Because of the degrees in which it occurs, symptoms may not always appear immediately. What occurs during the accident is ligaments are stretched beyond their limit for which they were intended. This will result in muscle spasms, alteration of the normal curve of the neck and spine and the resultant limitation of movement. An experienced Doctor of Chiropractic can diagnose and correct these problems with spinal adjustments and physical therapy/ rehab. to the effected area.
If you were involved in an accident or suffer from trauma to the head or neck, consult a Doctor of Chiropractic for evaluation.  

"Working Muscles" Under five layers of muscles, there are over 240 individual muscles attached to the vertebrae of your spine. Chiropractors feel through the five layers of muscle and see if any of the muscles are pulling unequally on the vertebrae. "Working muscles" are similar to rubber bands. When the muscles are trying to pull the vertebrae into proper position, they elongate and become very taut and fiber–like feeling. Chiropractors use these muscles as a road map to find subluxations. Chiropractors then use this information to perform the adjustment; adjusting the vertebrae in the same direction that the muscles are pulling.

- X

X-rays  Ionizing radiation, used by chiropractors to view primarily the spinal column in an effort to assist in the location and identification of subluxations.

- Y

Currently no definitions for words that start with the letter "Y". 

- Z

Currently no definitions for words that start with the letter "Z"

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