A recent article in Chiropractic Economics (10/6/16), highlighted something that is often misunderstood in the field of chiropractic. Titled “Manipulation vs. Adjustment,” the article addressed the differences between these two words and how each relates to something different in healthcare. However, people tend to use words interchangeably, without realizing they are actually using the wrong word. For example, using the word complement instead of compliment, of affect instead of effect. We can think terminology is all the same. But that doesn’t make it correct. So, what difference does it make if a person says a chiropractor uses manipulation rather than a spinal adjustment?
The reality is that it does make a big difference for three reasons. First, using a word incorrectly with someone who knows the correct usage sends the wrong message about you. Secondly, using the wrong term leads the other person to conclude something that may not be true. How can someone make an informed decision with only half-truths? Finally, words have the power to change perspectives. Why do people distrust politicians or lawyers?
The point is manipulation and adjustment may appear to be interchangeable as it relates to chiropractic care, but they are not. Manipulation is used in physical therapy and defined as “the forceful passive movement of a joint beyond its active limit of motion.” There are reasons why a physical therapist performs manipulation on a patient. However, if a chiropractor used manipulation on a person’s spine it would not be good. Rather, a chiropractor performs spinal adjustments, which is the opposite of manipulation. The adjustment is a corrective thrust used to unlock a vertebrae that is out of alignment. It is this misalignment that is irritating a nerve, which in turn is causing the pain.
A chiropractor has one goal, to restore the body to its ideal state. One where the body functions as it should, without pain or limited range of motion. This happens with an adjustment, not manipulation.