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We do our best to use everyday language in our patient explanations. In case we don’t, here are some commonly used terms in chiropractic and their meanings.

Relatively severe and of short duration.


The use of a pressure or force in a specific location, direction and time to the spine or other joints of the body to help normalize function and to facilitate the body’s correction of nerve interference.


Refers to conventional medicine as practiced by the graduate of a medical school which grants a medical degree.


Toward the front of the body.


Proteins manufactured by lymphocytes to neutralize foreign protein, such as bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms in the body.


Inflammation of a joint which is often accompanied by symptoms and changes in structure.


The top and most freely moving bone of the spinal column. 1st cervical vertebra (C1).


The second cervical vertebra (C2).


Bone Spur:
The medical term is osteophyte which is an enlargement of the normal bony structure. A bony outgrowth. A calcium deposition which can be part of the body’s response to abnormal motion or position of bones in the spine or elsewhere. Bone spurs on the vertebral body are often a radiographic indicator of disc problems. Since the disc in tightly adhered to the vertebral bodies, as the disc bulges, over time, if left untreated, will result in bone degeneration which presents as bone spurs on an x-ray.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:
A condition characterized by pain, weakness, numbness or tingling sensations in the hand and caused by compression of a nerve in the carpal tunnel at the wrist.


Carpal Tunnel-Like Symptoms:
Compression of a nerve in the neck, shoulder or elbow that results in pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in the hand. Often characterized by bilateral hand involvement as well as entire hand involvement, instead of the classic three fingers as with true carpal tunnel syndrome.


The vertebrae of the neck, usually seven bones.


Cervical Strain/Sprain:
An injury to the soft tissues of the neck including, but not limited to, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and discs. Synonymous with whiplash injury, hyperflexion/hyperextension injury and cervical acceleration/deceleration (CAD).


Pronounced: “`kí · ró · “prak · tik” Comes from Greek, “cheiros” meaning “hand” and “praktos” meaning “done by,” or “done by hand.” A primary health care profession in which professional responsibility and authority are focused on the anatomy of the spine and immediate articulation, and the condition of nerve interference. It is also a practice, which encompasses educating, advising about and addressing nerve interference. The only profession specifically trained to detect and correct vertebral subluxations.

Chiropractic Care Level:
There are three levels of care you will progress through when you are under the care of a doctor of chiropractic. The length of each care level is at the discretion of the doctor and varies from patient to patient. Ultimately, it is up to the patient as to what level of care they wish to go as well as how long they wish to benefit from chiropractic care.


  • Level I Care: RELIEF PHASE. (Initial Intensive Care). Our first goal while beginning care is to start to feel better; therefore, your office visits are frequent and composed of therapies designed to help offer the quickest relief of your symptoms. Depending on your age, condition, lifestyle, and response to treatment, a patient-specific number of visits, from daily to three times a week over a 2-4 week period may be needed to reduce or eliminate your symptoms.  Although your symptoms may be largely gone at the end of this phase of treatment, it is important to continue your care into the next to completely heal and to help prevent reoccurrence of your problems(s).


  • Level II Care: CORRECTIVE & STRENGTHENING PHASE. (Rehabilitative Care). Underlying tissue dysfunction and degeneration often remain after your original symptoms have improved. Rehabilitative care stabilizes your condition and promotes more complete healing. Your visit frequency is reduced to one to two times a week and your assigned homework, such as advanced exercises, increases. You learn how to take care of yourself for life to avoid re injury and you learn how to minimize problems should they arise again.


  • Level III Care: WELLNESS or MAINTENANCE PHASE. (Preventative Care). After maximum therapeutic benefit has been gained, you may elect to begin a wellness/maintenance care program. This type of program seeks to prevent disease, promote health, and enhance the quality of life by treating an underlying problem before symptoms appear. Because many problems are due to chronically poor posture and overuse syndromes, occasional visits help catch problems before they become serious. Just as a retainer is essential to wear on your teeth after the braces come off to prevent them from misaligning back to their original position, wellness/maintenance chiropractic care will  maintain the stabilized condition we have worked hard to attain.


Persisting for a long period of time. A problem showing little change or with a slow progression.


A series of small bones below the sacrum that are also known as the tailbone.


Compensation Reaction:
A new problem that results from the body’s attempt to respond to a problem elsewhere.


Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD):
A condition in which trauma, infection, injury or aging sometimes cause the discs to dry out, stiffen or even rupture, resulting in pain as the nerves in the spinal column are exposed or compressed by the discs. Also referred to as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD).


A comprehensive process of evaluation of the spinal column and its immediate articulation to determine the presence of nerve interference and other conditions that may contraindicate chiropractic procedures.


See Intervertebral Disc.


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.


Comes from Latin, “docere” meaning “to teach,” defined by Webster’s dictionary as one who is skilled or specializing in the healing arts, especially a physician, surgeon, chiropractor, dentist or veterinarian who is licensed to practice.


A condition in which fluid fills a damaged joint area causing swelling; similar to the swelling of a sprained ankle or black eye.


Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS):
Electrical impulses applied to muscles using pads that conduct the impulses through the skin, producing a soothing, tingling sensation. The treatment is used to increase circulation, decrease pain and muscle spasm, and facilitate healing of injured soft tissues.


An increase in the severity of a condition(s) or the patient’s symptoms. Often a result of physical, chemical or emotional stress.


Lower and upper limbs, such as a leg or arm.


The joint surface of a spinal bone facing the adjacent bone above or below.


Failed-Back-Surgery Syndrome (FBSS):
Severe, persistent back pain with or without radiating pain following back surgery. The most common causes are: an operation that was contraindicated or not indicated, a wrong site of surgery, an incomplete decompression, an omitted fusion, a pseudoarthosis of a fusion, a recurrent disc herniation. Epidural scar (scar tissue) is considered an enhancing factor for symptoms. It is interesting to note that studies tend to point the finger at patients, lawyers, and external factors rather than at the surgeon. Discussion of iatrogenic (disease which is caused by a physician) reasons for FBSS seems to be stifled by the fear of malpractice lawsuits; this fear inhibits research and underreports the actual number of patients who experience this disorder. Conservative estimates reveal that 10-40% of back surgeries fail although many studies indicate a much higher percentage.


Being held in a fixed position. “Stuck”. A joint with restricted motion/movement.


See Intervertebral Foramen


A state of optimal physical, mental and social well-being; not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. When your body works the way it was designed to work.


Herniated Disc:
A disc is composed to two parts: an outer rim of fibrous (tough) tissue surrounding an inner loose material. When there is a break in the outer rim, the inner material can leak out of the disc space and enter the spinal canal where the disc material can compress nerve roots or the spinal cord. The majority of herniated discs can be managed quite well conservatively with chiropractic care preventing the need for drugs or surgery; however, few may require those drastic measures after conservative care has been tried.


A system of medicine, founded by Dr. Hahnemann in 1796 in Philadelphia, in which drugs are used in extremely small doses.


The ability or tendency to maintain normal, internal stability and balance in an organism by coordinating responses of the organ systems. Examples of homeostatic mechanisms are the regulation of blood pressure, body temperature and blood sugar levels.


Hydrochloric Acid:
Normal constituent of gastric juice found in the stomach. Produced by the parietal cells of the gastric glands to serve many digestive functions. An overproduction may result in symptoms like acid reflux or heartburn.


Too much movement.


Restricted movement.


One of the two large bones that form the pelvis with the sacrum; the hipbone.


A reaction of soft tissue due to injury that may include malfunction, discomfort, rise in temperature, swelling and increased blood supply.


Intersegmental Traction (IST):
A table that rolls or massages the spine from underneath while the patient lies comfortable on their back. Although not actually a traction device, this table helps with blood flow and to reinforce the adjustment by creating additional movement to spinal joints. It may also “warm-up” the spine, to prepare it for the adjustment. This therapy is especially beneficial for patients that have a severely restricted or tight back. Research suggests that just 15 minutes on this table is equivalent to 45 minutes of spinal exercise.


Intervertebral Disc:
A cartilage (cushion/pad) that separates spinal vertebrae, absorbs shocks to the spine, protects the nervous system and assists in creating the four normal curves of the spine. A soft, jelly-like center is contained by outer layers of fibrous tissue. Healthy discs help allow normal turning and bending.


Intervertebral Foramen:
An opening, hole or passageway in a bone for blood vessels or nerves. On each side of the vertebral column there is an opening between each vertebrae that enables the spinal nerve roots to pass through. It is this hole or opening that gets constricted when there is a misalignment of a vertebra, disc bulging, and/or inflamed facet ligaments which as a result can irritate the spinal nerve exiting from the spinal cord at that level.


A backward displacement in the lateral curve of the spine.


Surgery that removes the lamina (the bony roof of the spinal canal) on one side or usually both sides of the vertebra to increase the size of the spinal canal, giving more room for the spinal cord or nerve roots.


The side view of the body.


A condition of sluggishness. Getting a good nights sleep and still waking up feeling exhausted.


A band or sheet of fibrous connective tissue between the ends of bones that facilitate motion and support. They also limit motion beyond its normal physiological range.


The forward curve of the spine. Normally found in the cervical and lumbar areas of the spine.


The forceful passive movement of a joint beyond its active limit of motion. It does not imply the use of precision, specificity or the correction of nerve interference. Therefore, it is not synonymous with chiropractic adjustment.



Repetitive pressure, friction, and kneading motions applied to a body region(s) to break down inflammation and muscle spasm.


Medical Diagnosis:
Procedures that provide information about disease processes for the selection of treatment.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI uses a combination of radio waves, magnetic fields, and computers to create a high quality picture of the internal organs, the soft tissue and the nerve network. Like the CAT Scan, the patient lies motionless while being passed through a narrow cylinder. It can detect brain and spinal tumors, disc disease, spinal stenosis, degeneration and indications of a stroke. It’s also used to examine heart and liver tissue and the joints. This is the method that is preferred for examination of spinal disc degeneration.


Nerve Interference:
See Vertebral Subluxation.


Nosocomial Infection:
An infection contracted as a result of being hospitalized.


Nutritional Supplements:
A term referring to nutritional support including: vitamins, mineral, herbs, etc., recommended by a chiropractor or other practitioners to aid in treatment of the patient’s condition.


Originally, a system of medicine based upon the theory that the normal body is able to rectify itself against toxic conditions. While some manipulation is still used to treat patients, most osteopaths today rely heavily on drugs and surgery to treat patients. Today, only about three percent (3%) of osteopaths perform any kind of spinal manipulation.


A decrease in bone mineral density and increased porous condition of bones with bones becoming soft.


Examining the spine with your fingers; the art of feeling with the hands.


Paraspinal EMG Scanning:
A painless, non-invasive procedure to measure and record the electrical signals given off by the muscles that attach to the spinal column. Electrodes are placed on the skin and their readings are shown in the form of a graph. Since one of the symptoms of nerve interference is abnormal muscle activity, the EMG is becoming a popular method for charting muscle spasms and spinal imbalance.


Pertaining to the care and medical/chiropractic treatment of children.


Physical Therapy:
Treatment of a body region using heat/cold treatments, water, traction, hydrotherapy, electrical stimulation, massage, therapeutic exercise, neuromuscular reeducation, etc. Physical therapy is adjunctive to the chiropractic adjustment which helps to facilitate quicker and more complete correction. Most chiropractors have taken, in addition to their course of chiropractic studies, at least 2 years of physical therapy education and training as well as receiving board certification in physical therapy.


Pinched Nerve:
Because of the way your spine is designed, abnormal spinal function caused from physical trauma, emotional tensions, or chemical toxins can affect the delicate tissues of the spinal cord and nerve roots. While commonly associated with the spine, the pinched nerve (compressed lesion) is actually rare. Research suggests that only 10-15% of spine related problems are caused by direct pressure of bone on nerve tissue. More common are nerves that are stretched, twisted, or irritated by spinal structures. This is caused when nerve tissue is rubbed, scraped, stretched by a loss of spinal curve, or irritated by malfunctioning spinal joints. See Vertebral Subluxation.


Toward the back of the body.


Practice Objective:
The professional practice objective of chiropractic is to correct nerve interference in a safe, effective manner. The correction is not considered to be a specific cure for any particular symptom or disease. It is applicable to any patient who exhibits nerve interference regardless of the presence or absence of symptoms or disease.


Any disease of the nerve root. Radiculitis indicates actual inflammation around the nerve root; the associated pain is sometimes called radicular pain. Thus radicular pain may radiate directly form mechanical abnormalities or indirectly from herniated discs, fractures, or tumors.


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


An involuntary action resulting from a stimulus.


To regress after partial recovery from illness. To fall or slide back into a former state. A falling back into a former state, especially after apparent improvement.


The two joints where the pelvis (hip) connects to the sacrum. Known as “S-I” joint.


The triangular bone at the base of the spine.


The sciatic nerve exits the spinal column between the lowest lumbar vertebral body (L5) and first level of the sacrum (S1). It supplies sensation to the posterior thigh and buttock, knee flexors, and foot muscles. When this nerve is compressed, inflamed, or irritated anywhere along its length, pain may result. The term sciatica refers to a pain that radiates from the lower back into the buttocks and down the back of one or both legs. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve of the body.


Looking from the back, a side-ways curvature of the spine.


Slipped Disc:
A disc can bulge, herniate or rupture but because of the way each disc is attached to the vertebrae above and below, a disc cannot “slip”. Trauma or injury to the spine, however, can cause discs to tear, bulge, herniate, or worse, rupture. This can be quite painful, as the soft center of the disc leaks, putting pressure on the adjacent nerve roots and spinal cord. It is more accurate to say that a vertebra can slip which can cause damage to the disc and irritate a spinal nerve. While results cannot be guaranteed, many patients have avoided needless surgery or a dependency on pain pills by choosing chiropractic care for their disc-related health problem. See Vertebral Subluxation.


Involuntary contraction of a muscle or group of muscles, interfering with usual function of that particular muscle group. A constant contraction or tightening of a muscle.


Spinal Fusion:
An invasive surgery to induce new bone growth into the space between the transverse processes or the vertebral bodies which attempts to restrict motion between the vertebrae. Because joints are made to move, these surgeries have a high rate of failure leading to more problems as a result of damage and scar tissue from the surgery itself.


Spinal Nerve:
31 pairs of nerve roots that branch off the spinal cord and exit through holes (intervertebral foramen) formed by the vertebral column and the intervertebral discs. They are the main conduit through which the brain is able to send and receive nerve impulses to all parts of the body.


Spinal Stenosis:
A narrowing of the spinal canal which causes pressure on the spinal nerves or cord. This condition is mostly seen in patients over the age of 50. The congenital form of spinal stenosis is seen in individuals who are born with a narrow spinal canal. In these individuals, minimal changes in the structure of the spine can cause severe spinal stenosis. The more common acquired form of stenosis is caused by progressive changes in different spinal elements (such as the discs, joints, ligaments, etc.) With improper maintenance of the spine, all these different elements sag or bulge and form arthritis that narrows the spinal canal.


Spinous Process:
The protruding part of the back of each spinal bone that can be seen or felt when examining the spine.


A condition in which a vertebra is displaced forward of the one below it in the spine. This problem can cause both back pain and leg symptoms. There are different causes of spondylolisthesis. The congenital form (being born with abnormalities which contribute to the displacement) is a rare cause. Other causes include trauma (sudden falls, accidents, etc.), degenerative changes in the spine (like arthritis), or destruction by tumors. The majority of spondylolistheses can be managed very well with chiropractic care preventing the need to drugs and surgery.


A state of extreme difficulty, pressure, or strain. There are three types of stresses: physical, chemical and emotional; and each is equally detrimental to the health of a person.


See Vertebral Subluxation.


Tarsal Bones:
The seven bones of the ankle.


Fibrous tissue that connects muscles with bones.


This procedure measures the temperature on the skin surface to locate inflammation of muscles and soft tissues. A special thermocouple instrument or camera is used to make bilateral temperature comparisons at each level of the spine. Thermography has been used to pinpoint spinal nerve and muscle stress.


Pertaining to the 12 vertebrae of the middle back form the base of the neck to about six inches above the waistline to which the ribs attach.


A contracted state of the neck muscles that produces a twisting of the neck and unnatural position of the head.


Transverse Process:
Lateral protrusions (wings) on the side of each vertebrae to which powerful muscles and ligaments attach.


Trigger Point:
A focal spot of tenderness within a muscle that may cause local or referred pain. An involuntary tight band or muscle that is painful when pressed and can refer pain to other parts of the body.


High-frequency sound waves transmitted through the body to produce high frequency pulsing or heating of body tissues, particularly in a muscle.


Any of the individual bones of the spinal column (usually 24).


Vertebral Subluxation:
Also referred to as nerve interference, is a misalignment of one or more of the 24 vertebrae in the spinal column, which causes alteration of nerve function and interference to the transmission of mental impulses, resulting in a lessening of the body’s natural ability to express its maximum health potential. Synonymous with vertebral subluxation complex (VSC), subluxation complex, subluxation syndrome, slipped disc, pinched nerve and sometimes, spinal misalignment.


An active care model, where patients play a role in achieving their best possible health. The doctor of chiropractic emphasizes wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention to the patient.


An injury to the spine caused by an abrupt jerking motion, either backward, forward or from the side.


The common name for Radiograph which is a picture of the solid parts of the body produced by passing electromagnetic rays through the body positioned against photographic film. The rays pass through the soft tissues but are stopped by metal and other solid objects, like the bones including teeth. The X-ray tube was invented by Wilhelm Roentgen in 1895, the same year D.D. Palmer discovered chiropractic. His son, B.J. Palmer, established one of the finest X-ray laboratories in the country because he realized the contribution X-ray diagnosis would make to spinal analysis.

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