Adjustment or Manipulation?


Much discussion goes on in health care circles as to what to call what chiropractors do. Is the term manipulation or adjustment?


Andrew Still was a very strong, determined man.  He had no use for the medical profession.  He began a new profession founded on the principle that the human body can largely heal itself - osteopathy.


He believed all diseases were due to mechanical blockage in the blood system, and that manipulating the area could help the body function better.  Osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT) is still taught today, although most osteopathic physicians only use OMT in addition to conventional medical treatments.


In the 1890's, D.D. Palmer (the discoverer of chiropractic) debated Still. Palmer's position was that the nerve system controlled all functions of the human body. The blockage to it's proper function is the vertebral subluxation.


He did not manipulate; he maintained the adjustment had to be specific to the subluxated vertebra. Once the neurological system was reconnected, the body could function better.

To better answer this question lets first look in a Webster Dictionary for some synonyms of each.


Manipulation: Exploit, misuse, take advantage, control, deploy, maneuver, use, ply, swing, wield, grope, examine, finger, fondle, handle, maul, palpate, paw, probe, touch, govern, sway


Adjustment: Factor, calculate, align, center, regulate, convert, scale, tune, dial, select, fine tune, finesse, modify, tweak, regulate, standardize, conform, equalize, level, set policy, alter, catalyze, change, refashion, calibrate, decide, determine, establish, resolve, set, compensate, make equal, redeem, remedy, correct, cure, fix, heal, make well, repair, restore, coordinate, attune, accommodate, conform, harmonize, integrate, proportion, reconcile, tune, correct, amend, fix, improve, mend, position, rectify, restore, right, straighten, service, maintain, adapt, balance, fit, inspect, overhaul, recondition, refurbish, regulate, repair, support.


In looking at the two it is easy to see why most chiropractors use the term adjustment.  Sadly, there are some who use the 2 words interchangeably, which further confuses the public. 


The International Federation of Chiropractors and Organizations (IFCO) defines an adjustment as: the application of specific scientific procedures for the sole purpose of safely correcting vertebral subluxations.


The International Chiropractors Association has a policy on this subject as well: The ICA holds that the chiropractic spinal adjustment is unique and singular to the chiropractic profession. The chiropractic adjustment shall be defined as a specific directional thrust that sets a vertebra into motion with the intent to improve or correct vertebral malposition or to improve its juxtaposition segmentally in relationship to its articular mates thus reducing or correcting the neuroforaminal / neural canal encroachment factors inherent in the chiropractic vertebral subluxation complex.


The adjustment is characterized by a specific thrust applied to the vertebra utilizing parts of the vertebra and contiguous structures as levers to directionally correct articular malposition.


Adjustment shall be differentiated from spinal manipulation in that the adjustment can only be applied to a vertebral malposition with the express intent to improve or correct the subluxation, whereas any joint, subluxated or not, may be manipulated to mobilize the joint or to put the joint through its range of motion.


Chiropractic is a specialized field in the healing arts, and by prior rights, the spinal adjustment is distinct and singular to the chiropractic profession.

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