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Activator technique — a commonly used chiropractic adjustment using a handheld device to provide a quick, low-force and precise impulse to restore motion to the vertebrae or joints. It is an alternative or addition to manual or “hands-on” techniques, which do not use an instrument.

Acupressure — a pain relief technique derived from traditional Chinese medicine, similar to acupuncture but without needles. Pressure is applied to points in the body intended to activate a self-healing mechanism or energy (Qi). Typically, pressure is increased for 30 seconds, held for up to two minutes and then slowly decreased for 30 seconds.

Acupuncture — a key component of traditional Chinese medicine most commonly used to treat pain. Thin needles are inserted through the skin at specific points on the body to stimulate the flow of energy (Qi). Practitioners believe that the energy flow will re-balance your body and stimulate self-healing.

Acute back pain — pain that comes on suddenly and lasts for less than four weeks, often in the lower back. It may be caused by spasms, strains or tears.

Adjustment (chiropractic adjustment) — the use of hands or small instruments to apply a controlled force to a spinal joint in order to correct a misalignment. The goal is to improve spinal mobility and function, which reduces pain and encourages the body to heal.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) — one of the key ligaments that stabilize the knee, connecting the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia). The ACL may be injured or torn during activities that require quick pivots and stops, such as basketball, soccer and tennis.

Atlas — the uppermost vertebra in the cervical (neck) spine, designated as C1. It supports the head and was named for the god Atlas in Greek mythology, who supported the world.

Axis — the second cervical vertebra (C2), linking the atlas to the rest of the spine. The axis forms a pivot point on which the atlas can rotate so the head can move.


Bone spur (osteophyte) — a bony projection that develops along the edges of bones, often in the spine as the result of wear and tear or arthritis. It may or may not cause symptoms like pain and numbness, depending on whether the spur presses on nearby structures such as nerves and muscles.

Bursitis — inflammation of the bursa, fluid-filled sacs that cushion joints and other structures in the body. Bursitis can cause pain and swelling.


Carpal tunnel syndrome — pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in the hand and arm caused by pressure on the median nerve of the wrist running through the carpal tunnel, a narrow passageway at the base of the hand.

Cavitation — the formation of bubbles due to pressure changes. During a chiropractic adjustment, the short thrust to a joint may cause a popping sound, which is the release of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide gas “bubbles” from the joint space (just as when you crack your knuckles).

Cervical spine — the neck vertebrae, which consists of the seven uppermost vertebrae of the spine. The cervical spine supports the weight of your head and connects to the thoracic, or middle, spine. Each cervical vertebra is designated by the letter C, with C1 being the uppermost vertebra and C7 the lowest, connecting to the upper back at shoulder level.

Cervicogenic headache — headache caused by a disorder of the cervical spine (neck), including the intervertebral cervical discs and soft tissues.

Chronic back pain — back pain that lasts three months or more, even after the injury or underlying cause has been treated. It may come and go, and the source of the pain may be hard to determine. Most chronic back pain is mechanical rather than caused by disease.

Cold laser therapy — a treatment for pain, inflammation and stiffness using a handheld laser device. It is called “cold laser” because the low levels of light stimulate healing without heating the tissues.


Deafferentation — pain from the disruption of nerve impulses involving sensory input. In addition to sensory loss, many patients also experience increased or decreased sensitivity to touch and pain.

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) — a condition in which vertebral discs are damaged primarily by wear and tear combined with aging. DDD may be asymptomatic or result in chronic pain in the lumbar spine (lower back) or cervical spine (neck).

Diversified technique — a manual high-velocity, low amplitude (short and quick) thrust to restore range of motion to restricted joints. It is the technique most commonly associated with chiropractic treatment.


Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS or E-stim) — a therapy using an electronic medical device to deliver low-voltage electrical current to the muscle, stimulating the fibers to contract and blocking pain transmission to the brain. It can build strength, speed recovery and reduce pain and inflammation. 

Ergonomics — the science of designing the physical environment for optimal use. Utilizes anatomy, mechanics and physiology to reduce stress on the body and create safe, comfortable and efficient devices and workspaces.


Facet joints — small joints between and behind the vertebrae that are encased in fluid-filled capsules (except at the top of the cervical spine). Facet joints allow for movement in the spinal column.

Fascia — a continuous sheet of connective tissue beneath the skin that provides a framework to support and protect every structure in the body. It is mostly made of collagen and has been compared to a spider web.

Fibromyalgia — a chronic disorder that causes musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, sensitivity and sleep problems. Usually affecting women, it may be due to an “amplified” pain sensation in the central nervous system.

Fixation — a condition in which a vertebral joint (spinal joint) loses mobility due to adhesions (scar tissue) or other causes.

Flatback syndrome — lack of the normal inward shape of the lumbar spine (lower back). Flatback syndrome can cause chronic pain and make it difficult to stand straight and perform daily tasks. People may compensate by contracting the back muscles and bending at the hips and knees, which can affect posture.

Flexion-distraction — a non-surgical chiropractic technique using a movable table and slow manual adjustments to gently separate and decompress the vertebrae. Relieves pain from herniated discs and other common spinal conditions and increases spinal mobility.

Forward Head Posture (FHP) — a common condition in which the skull leans too far forward over the neck. FHP increases pressure on the neck and shoulders, causing rounded shoulders and can lead to disc herniation and chronic pain. FHP is often the result of poor posture and continually looking down at electronic devices. Also known as “tech” or “text” neck.


Golfer’s elbow — an overuse injury that causes pain and inflammation on the inside of the elbow, where the tendons of the forearm muscles attach to the elbow’s bony bump. Pain may spread to the forearm and wrist.


Herniated disc — also called a “slipped” disc, the rubbery nucleus of the spinal disc, called the annulus, protrudes through a tear in the outer layer of the disc. This can cause pain, inflammation, weakness or numbness.

Hyperkyphosis — an excessive forward curvature of the thoracic spine (upper back). It is most common in older women, but it can occur in both sexes at any age.

Hyperlordosis — an abnormal curve in the lower, or lumbar, spine, also known as swayback. Some curvature is normal, but an excessive curve can cause back pain.


Inflammation — part of the immune system response to infections, injuries and toxins. Chronic inflammation develops when the immune response occurs even when there is no threat or when the threat has subsided, causing redness, swelling and pain.

Intervertebral discs — rounded, rubbery structures that lie between each vertebra, cushioning the spinal column and allowing it to move. Discs act as shock absorbers for the spine when the body moves.


Ligament — band of tough, flexible fibrous tissue that connects bones, cartilage or joints. It gives joints support and limits their movement.

Lumbar spine — the lower spine, made up of five vertebrae that extend from the bottom of the thoracic (mid) spine to the sacrum, which connects the spine to the pelvis. The lumbar spine carries much of the body’s weight, making it vulnerable to injury and lower back pain.


Manipulation — the specialized, precise, high velocity application of pressure by a chiropractor to the spine or other parts of the body to restore alignment and normal motion. Can address various musculoskeletal or neurological interference.

Misalignment — a term often associated with subluxation, in which the vertebrae are not properly positioned, causing pain and loss of mobility as well as the potential to affect other parts of the body.

Meniscus — “C”-shaped pad of cartilage in the knee that acts as a shock absorber. Each knee has two menisci. Meniscus tears are common sports injuries that cause pain and difficulty moving.

Mobilization — low or high velocity, gentle chiropractic adjustment to restore or enhance joint function. It is more limited in its motion than manipulation.

Motion palpation — a diagnostic method used by chiropractors to manually check for restricted motion (misalignments) or fixations that may be causing pain or limited mobility.

Myofascial release — gentle manual pressure to the body's connective tissue to help reduce muscle pain and restore motion. Myofascial tissues are tough membranes that wrap, connect and support your muscles. Myofascial pain, which is targeted by this treatment, may stem from “trigger points” and radiate to other areas.


Nerve root — a bundle of nerve fibers directly emerging from the spinal cord. The nerve roots enter and exit the spinal column through small holes called foramens (or foramina) on each side of the vertebrae. Nerve roots house the nerve fibers that relay signals back and forth between the brain and the body.

Neuritis — inflammation of a peripheral nerve or nerves. Symptoms depend on which nerves are inflamed but may include pain, pins and needles (paresthesia), numbness (hypoesthesia), weakness (paresis), paralysis, wasting and/or loss of reflexes.

Neuropathy — a disorder of the nerves caused by damage or disease. Symptoms are pain, numbness, tingling, swelling and muscle weakness. It typically begins in the extremities (arms and legs) and progresses over time.


Osteoarthritis — the most common form of arthritis, in which the cartilage that cushions the joints wears down over time. It most commonly affects joints in your hands, knees, hips and spine.

Osteophytes (bone spurs) — smooth, bony deposits that develop on the edges of the bone. These slow-growing structures are not painful unless they press on a nerve or muscle. They are very common in people over 50 or those with osteoarthritis.


Paresthesia — a burning or prickling sensation, often in the hands, arms, legs or feet. It may come and go or be long-lasting (chronic) and may be caused by a number of underlying neurological or musculoskeletal conditions.

Pelvic blocking — a chiropractic technique in which cushioned wedges are placed under the pelvis. The body becomes a sort of hinge, using its own weight to release pressure on spinal nerves. An alternative to rapid, precise thrust techniques.

Peripheral neuropathy — nerve pain or dysfunction in areas other than the spinal cord. Symptoms may include numbness, weakness, stabbing or burning pain (most often at night), lack of coordination and loss of reflexes.

Pinched nerve — excessive pressure on a nerve from surrounding tissues. The pressure can disrupt the nerve's function and cause symptoms including pain, tingling, numbness or weakness.

Piriformis syndrome — a condition in which the piriformis muscle, located in the buttock, spasms and presses on the sciatic nerve. It can cause pain, numbness or tingling down the back of the leg and may extend into the foot.

Pitcher's elbow — an overuse injury along the inside part of the elbow, often caused by overhand throwing activity. Symptoms include pain, swelling and limited range of motion.


Radiculopathy — pain, weakness, numbness and tingling due to a pinched nerve root in the spinal column. It often occurs when the space near the nerve root becomes too small because of a herniated disc, bone spurs or stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column).

Range of motion — the extent to which a joint can move. When injured or arthritic, a joint may display limited range of motion, usually involving flexion (bending) and extension.

Repetitive stress injury — a physical disorder caused by overuse or improper use, often found in but not limited to the fingers, hands and wrists. This injury can involve muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves or joints.

Rotator cuff injury — injury to the group of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint. Can cause a dull shoulder ache that often worsens when lying on the involved side. Occurs in people whose work or activity requires repetitive overhead motions.


Sacroiliac joint (SI joint) — a joint between the sacrum and the ilium bones of the pelvis, connected by strong ligaments. The sacrum creates a base for the spine and is supported on each side by an ilium.

Sacrum — the triangular bone formed by two fused vertebrae at the base of the spine between the hip bones. Provides support for the weight of the upper body.

Sciatica — pain from a compressed sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body, which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. It is usually due to a herniated disk, bone spur, stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column) or spasming of the piriformis muscle.

Scoliosis — an abnormal sideways curve of the spine, often diagnosed in late childhood or teens. In adults, degenerative scoliosis usually affects people 65 and older. Scoliosis is often accompanied by spinal stenosis, which may pinch the spinal nerves, causing pain and loss of function.

Side posture — a chiropractic technique in which patients are positioned on their side, and a precise manipulative thrust is performed to realign the vertebrae and restore motion.

Soft tissue — tissues that connect, support or surround structures and organs of the body. Includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia (connective tissue beneath the skin), nerves, fat, blood vessels and synovial membranes (connective tissue between the synovial joint capsule and cavity).

Spinal column — a modular, linked series of 33 vertebrae (backbone) that provides support for the entire body, allowing standing, bending and twisting without harming the spinal cord. It is made up of four sections:

  • cervical (neck)
  • thoracic (chest)
  • lumbar (lower back)
  • sacral (pelvic)

Spinal decompression — a technique designed to reduce pressure on the spine using distraction. It is a non-surgical method that can alleviate pain from pressure on discs and spinal nerves and widen the spinal canal.

Spinal disc — the structure between each vertebra, also called an intervertebral disc. Spinal discs are rounded and rubbery, with a thick outer layer (called the annulus) and a soft gel-like center (called the nucleus). Spinal discs are “shock absorbers” for the spine, cushioning the vertebrae.

Spondylosis — a degenerative process that develops gradually, affecting the vertebral disc and facet joints. It can narrow the spinal canal and compress the spinal cord and nerve roots, causing pain and stiffness.

Stenosis — narrowing, as of the spinal canal, usually in the neck or lower back. Often due to a damaged spinal disc or overgrowth of bone (bone spurs). It may put pressure on nerves within the spine and cause pain.


Tech neck — also known as forward head posture or text neck. Overuse syndrome resulting from excessive strain on the spine from looking forward and downward at electronic devices, which shifts the center of gravity in the body. Can cause headaches, neck pain, shoulder and arm pain, and compromise breathing.

Tendonitis (also Tendinitis) — inflammation of a tendon, the thick, flexible fibrous cords that attach our muscles to our bones. Causes pain and tenderness near the joint. Common in the shoulder, elbow, wrist, knee and heel (Achilles tendon).

Tennis elbow — inflammation of the tendons that connect the muscles of the forearm on the outside of the elbow, often caused by overuse. Leads to pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow.

Therapeutic ultrasound — the use of sound waves to reach inflamed soft tissues within the body. Provides deep heating to relax tight muscles and tendons. Ultrasound energy causes microscopic gas bubbles around your tissues to expand and contract rapidly (cavitation) and relieve pressure.

Thoracic outlet syndrome — a group of disorders that can result from blood vessels or nerves being compressed in the space between the collarbone and first rib (thoracic outlet). This can cause shoulder and neck pain as well as numb fingers. Common causes of thoracic outlet syndrome include car accident injuries and overuse injuries from job or sports-related activities.

Thoracic spine — the middle section of the spinal column, made up of 12 bones stacked upon each other, labeled T1 to T12, descending from top to bottom. The thoracic spine anchors the rib cage and is less mobile than either the cervical or lumbar spine. Together, the ribs and thoracic spine surround and protect the body’s vital organs.

TMJ disorder (TMD or TMJD) — dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint, which makes up the muscles used to chew and the joints that connect the jaw to the skull. It may cause headache, difficulty chewing, pain around the ear, and tightness in the neck and shoulders.

Traction — in chiropractic, the use of manual or mechanical forces to treat skeletal, muscular or neurological disorders. Traction stretches the muscles and ligaments and increases space between vertebrae. Often used to relieve pain caused by herniated discs or degenerative disc disease.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) — a medical therapy using a device to deliver low-voltage current to the body for pain relief.

Trigger point — a sensitive area in the muscle or connective tissue (fascia) that feels like a knot. It is painful when pressed, and the pain may be felt elsewhere in the body (called “referred pain”).


Vertebral subluxation — mechanical misalignment of the vertebrae, resulting in irritation to spinal joints and nerves.

Vertigo — a sudden sensation of spinning, different from dizziness and often triggered when looking down from heights. It is often caused by a problem with the inner ear or with how the central nervous system processes spatial information.


Whiplash — neck injury caused by rapid back-and-forth movement due to great force, similar to the motion of a whip cracking. Whiplash most often occurs during an auto accident, but it can also result from a sports accident, physical abuse or other trauma.

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