Chiropractic Terms

Chiropractic care, like any profession, uses many terms that may be unfamiliar to new patients at first. Here are  Chiropractic terms along with their definitions to assist you.

Acute (traumatic) Injuries
An acute injury is one that comes from a event, such as a fall, sports, accident at work, or a motor vehicle accident. It is the most common type of injury and is short lived in nature.

A form of chiropractic technique involving the application of gentle, yet firm pressure to a bone. Adjustments employ a high velocity, low amplitude thrust. The goal of any adjustment is to restore the bone to its natural, or original, position.

A slow breakdown, or deterioration, of the joint spaces in your musculoskeletal system.

Bone Spurs
Additional bone material, or over-growths, that have been attributed to a wide variety of ailments. Also called osteophytes, bone spurs are manufactured by your body in response to a breakdown in existing bony structures. Sometimes, bone spurs can exert pressure on nerves, and this leads to pain.

Bulging Disc
A common contained disc disorder. Bulging discs may push into the canal causing symptoms such as pain going down leg or into the arm depending on location of the bulge.

A condition in which the bursa, which is the fluid filled sack that cushions the joint, becomes swollen. Usually causing pin point tenderness.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
A progressive and sometimes painful joint disorder caused by a compression of the median nerve of your hand. The compression causes swelling, which exerts pressure on the nerve.

Cervical Spine
The cervical spine in your neck. It is made up of seven vertebrae.

Come from the Greek words, “chiro,” meaning hand, and “practic”, meaning practice, or treatment.

Also known as a doctor of chiropractic (D.C.), diagnoses and treats a broad range of physical conditions in patients with muscular, nervous and skeletal problems, especially in the spine.

Chronic pain
Long-term, seemingly endless pain that could be a sign of a more serious problem or disease.

Degenerative Disc Disease
A condition in which the inner core of the vertebral discs leak proteins that can inflame the nerve roots.

Application of scientific knowledge to the work place in a effort to improve the well being and efficiency of workers.

Facet Joint Syndrome
A condition in which the cartilage in the spinal joints wears thin. Your body begins producing material (called bone spurs) to shore up the cartilage. This material can calcify, or harden, causing stiffness in the joint. In some cases facet joint syndrome can contribute to joint inflammation, muscle spasms, and later osteoarthritis.

Facet Joints
The bony structures that allow your back and neck to easily move in different directions.

Failed Back Surgery Syndrome
A condition that refers to a host of problems that may be related to the after-effects of back surgery, but also other factors such as poor body mechanics or medication problems.

Foraminal Stenosis
A form of compressive neuropathy, or nerve impingement, in the lower back. Because lumbar stenosis almost always impinges the sciatic nerve, one or both legs can also be affected. Radiating pain or numbness in the legs, and sometimes the ankles, feet and toes, is common.

Heat Therapy
A form of therapy often used in patients who have a chronic, or long-lasting pain. Heat therapy can involve many kinds of methods, from simple heating pads, wraps, and warm gel packs, to sophisticated techniques such as therapeutic ultrasound. While ice therapy is used to reduce swelling, heat therapy is used to relax the muscles and increase circulation. Both kids of therapy help reduce pain.

Herniated Disc
A common non contained disc disorder in which a disc has ruptured, usually at its weakest point. The vast majority of herniated discs occur in the lower back or lumbar region. In a herniated disc, part of the disc shifts to a position that irritates the nearby nerve for that spinal area.

Ice massage (cryotherapy)
A form of therapy involving the application of ice to treat kinds of injuries, including those associated with back or neck pain. Ice causes the veins in the affected tissue area to constrict. This reduces the flow of blood while acting as kind of anesthetic to numb the pain. But when the ice is removed, the veins compensate by opening large, allowing a large volume of blood to rush to the affected area. The blood brings with it important chemicals that aid in the healing process.

The lower back – made up of five vertebrae.

A form of chiropractic treatment which involves the application of gentle yet firm pressure to muscles, joints and bones. The goal of manipulation is to restore normal joint motion and to eliminate pain.

A type of headache that some people get repeatedly over time. Migraines occur when blood vessels of the head and neck spasm or constrict, which decreases blood flow to the brain. Minutes to hours later, the blood vessels dilate (enlarge), resulting in a severe headache. Inflammation around the blood vessels also occurs in some cases.

A degenerative form of arthritis that mostly affects the elderly. In some, osteoarthritis may affect the spine’s facet joints, making it extremely painful to bend or twist. Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage to break down and away from the joints. Stripped of their protective material, the joints begin rubbing against each other, causing pain and impending movement. This action further irritates the surrounding nerves. Advanced forms of spinal osteoarthritis lead to disc collapse and other problems.

A gradual disintegration of bone. Osteoporosis can have a devastating impact on the joints and vertebrae of your spine. Osteoporosis causes the loss of mass and density in bones, making them highly susceptible to fractures.

Overuse Injuries
Injuries that occur during the course of everyday activities, such as housework or exercise. Symptoms may include pain, muscle spasms, and stiffness.

Piriformis syndrome
A condition caused by the sciatic nerve getting pinched as it exits the spinal column. (Sometimes, it can mimic the symptoms of sciatica.) The pinching is sometimes caused by muscles spasms. Piriformis syndrome sometimes causes pain along the back of the thigh to the knee, or loss of feeling in the soles of the feet.

Radiation of pain in one or more spinal nerve roots.

Rheumatoid arthritis
An advanced form of arthritis that causes inflammation of the joint tissues leading to pain, weakness, low red blood count (anemia) and loss of appetite.

Sacroiliac joint
The spinal joint that links the bottom of the spine with the pelvic bone.

Sacroiliac joint disorder
A common joint disorder involving the sacroiliac joint, which links the spine with the pelvic bone. This joint endures a lot of pressure and absorbs the shocks form the upper body. While it is a very strong and mostly stationary joint, the sacroiliac joint can become damaged or impaired. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction can mimic many of the symptoms of herniated lumbar disc.

Sciatic nerve
The main nerve traveling down the leg. Pain associated with the sciatic nerve usually originates higher along the spinal cord when nerve roots become compressed or damaged from narrowing of the vertebral column or from a bulging disc. Symptoms can include tingling, numbness, or pain which radiates to the buttocks legs and feet.

A condition in which the sciatic nerve is impaired. A bundle, or cable, of small nerves travels down the spine and into the pelvis area, where they come together to form the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve then branches off into each lower extremity, through the buttock and into the tops of the legs. People who have sciatica often complain of numbness or tingling in the feet or toes, or sharp, stabbing pain in the buttocks or shooting down the backs of their legs.

A medical term that refers to spinal curvatures. Scoliosis is a condition that almost always begins in early childhood. And it is exceedingly rare. In fact, only about 5 out of 1,000 American children usually develop curved spines enough to warrant treatment. Scoliosis affects only 1% of the world’s population.

Slipped disc
A misnomer for a ruptured or herniated disc. Discs don’t actually slip.

Spinal column
The collective term for the bones of your back. It acts as protection for the spinal cord and allows the body to flex and bend in various directions.

Spinal cord
A longitudinal structure of tissue, including nerves, that extends from the brain-stem to the tailbone.

Spinal infections
Infections of the spine, including spinal meningitis. While rare, spinal infections have been linked to nerve disorders. As in any infection, the affected area of the spine may become swollen, causing pressure on spinal nerves. In addition, the infection, left untreated, could lead to an abscess and permanently damage soft tissues and nerve cells.

Spinal osteoporosis
Osteoporosis, or gradual disintegration of bone, in the spine. Spinal osteoporosis is hard to spot in its early stages. In advanced stages, people complain of chronic pain, loss of mobility, and shorter or humped over stature.

A condition in which the spinal openings, or bony canals, become blocked or narrowed, causing nerve impingement.

Mis-alignments in the bony structures of the spine. Subluxations can create pressure or irritation on the various nerves in your spine, and can cause a wide variety of symptoms throughout your body, such as localized pain, soreness, irregularity, and weakness. When pressure is applied on a nerve in your spine, the nerve energy is interrupted, and sometimes this can profoundly affect the function of other systems or organs in your body.

Table adjustments
A form of chiropractic adjustment that entails lying on a specially designed table that drops when pressure is applied to a specific area. The dropping motion allows more gentle adjustments than some manual adjustments do.

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
The ball and socket joint on each side of your jaw.

Temporomandibular joint disorder
A condition caused by problems with the muscles of the jaw or the joint itself. A clicking or popping sound when opening the mouth wide, such as in yawning, may be a sign you have a problem with your TMJ.

A condition in which a tendon becomes swollen or inflamed.

Thoracic spine
The region of the mid-back made up of 12 vertebrae.

A technique using sound waves that heat soft tissue. This decreases scar tissue formation, and increases healing time.

Vertebral discs
The shock absorbers that are found between vertebral bodies. Each disc is essentially sandwiched between two vertebrae supported by ligaments. Composed of collagen, discs have a tough outer core and a soft inner core. When you are born, these discs are mostly water. As you age the disc become more dehydrated and  thinner.

Vertebral subluxation complex
Medical terminology for the way chiropractors categorize the various locations, or “components,” where subluxations are known to occur. The five components of the vertebral subluxation complex are osseous (bone), muscle, soft tissue and chemical.

Vertebral bodies
The 24 large movable bony structures that form the support column of your back. Vertebral bodies are separated by small spaces containing discs.

An injury to the cervical spine, or neck, and occurs when the muscle and other soft tissues are hyper-extended or hyper-flexed.