DR. WENDY CUNNINGHAM: Gentle chiropractic techniques

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One of the common misconceptions that people have about chiropractic is that there is only one kind of adjustment. Many people have this idea that a chiropractic adjustment always involves twisting of the spine to create a cracking or popping sound. However, the high velocity low amplitude (HVLA) is only one type of chiropractic adjustment. There are many techniques that are very gentle and effective that do not involve any “twisting” or “popping.” The gentle approach may be more appropriate for those who are fragile (old age, babies, osteoporosis, or recently injured) or if the patient is particularly nervous about the treatment (perhaps a child, a first-time patient or someone who is bothered by the sound of a traditional adjustment). In these cases, low-force techniques reduce the risk of increasing pain while also improving the patient’s experience.

There are many gentle forms of the chiropractic adjustment that may be utilized rather than the more traditional HVLA techniques. A less forceful spinal manipulation often involves slower (low-velocity) techniques that allow the joint to remain within its passive range of motion. The gentle techniques may also increase the treatments effectiveness by minimizing the defensive tensing of muscles that often occur when a patient is anticipating an HVLA adjustment.

Examples of commonly employed gentle chiropractic techniques include (but are not limited to):

Activator technique (or other adjusting tools). This is a specialized spring-loaded adjusting tool that provides a low-force impulse directed at specific locations along the spine or extremities.

Sacro-occipital technique (SOT). SOT uses gravity traction by placing padded wedge shaped adjusting blocks underneath the body. With the patient lying face down, the practitioner can gently reposition the sacroiliac joint and other areas by employing gravity from the block to passively adjust the spine.

Thompson technique, or “drop table.” This technique uses a special chiropractic table that has sections that can be raised up, then dropped a short distance while the doctor applies a downward thrust, allowing gravity to assist the adjustment. There is no rotation or twisting of the spine, however a “crack” (joint cavitation) may be heard with this technique.

Cox flexion/distraction technique. Flexion distraction involves the use of a specialized table that gently stretches the spine. The chiropractor is able to isolate the area of pain while slightly flexing the spine in a pumping rhythm.

Spinal mobilization. This technique involves moving the joint through its passive range of motion while the patient is relaxed. It consists of a smooth, non-thrust type of stretch with the goal of reducing fixations or areas where motion is restricted between spinal segments.

Respiratory-assisted adjusting, long-axis leg traction techniques. While the chiropractor gently pulls a leg at a specific angle, the patients takes deep breaths to facilitate the adjustment.

If you haven’t tried chiropractic because you thought it would be painful or scary, ask for a gentle adjustment. Most chiropractors use a combination of techniques to suite all types of patients.

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For more information, contact Wendy at haydenhealth@gmail.com.

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