Chiropractic Glossary

Chiropractic Glossary: Common Chiropractor Terms

Chiropractic adjustments to the cervical spine can lead to catastrophic injury. Why? Many people do not realize that chiropractors are not medical doctors. Further, their practice of chiropractic, where the spine is “adjusted” through twists to the neck or powerful thrusts to the cervical spine, can lead to strokes and may cause death.

If you or a loved one has suffered a stroke in the hours, days or weeks following a chiropractic neck adjustment, consulting an experienced chiropractic malpractice attorney may offer the best chance of obtaining compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and permanent disabilities. The Abelson Law Firm, with offices in Washington, D.C. and Maryland, and accepting cases from across the country, has successfully handled chiropractor malpractice cases resulting in stroke. Please contact us online or by phone at 202-331-0600 for a free consultation with our chiropractor injury lawyer.

The practice of chiropractic is full of technical terms, some of which have the effect of adding legitimacy to care which has no scientific or medical support in the literature. The following is a limited glossary of some chiropractic’s main topics:

  • Adjustment: a general term that refers to any manipulation of the spine by the hands, or a noninvasive hand tool, with the intention of correcting spinal misalignments. Chiropractors use twists to the neck and blunt pressure on the back to restore alignment, but can also cause new injuries or aggravate existing injuries.
  • Atlas: the top cervical vertebra, also called the C1, which connects the spine to the skull.
  • Atlas Subluxation Complex: a chiropractic belief that the atlas area is the most commonly misaligned part of the spine, leading some chiropractors to focus on manipulation of the cervical vertebrae through the Atlas Orthogonal Technique and other methods.
  • Axis: the second-highest vertebra, also called the C2, which forms a base for the atlas and allows the skull to pivot.
  • Big Idea: the core concept of chiropractic pioneered by D.D. Palmer, that the body will heal itself when the cervical spine is aligned and nerve transmission is not impaired. That ability is sometimes called “Innate Intelligence.”
  • Cervical adjustment: see “Adjustment.”
  • Carotid artery dissection: Arterial dissection of the carotid arteries occurs when a small tear forms in the innermost lining of the arterial wall. Blood can enter into the space between the inner and outer layers of the vessel, causing narrowing or complete occlusion. Arterial dissection can be caused by improper chiropractic manipulation of the neck. Carotid artery dissection will result in stroke.
  • Cervical Vertebrae: the first seven vertebrae below the skull that make up the neck, above the thoracic vertebrae, which are connected to the ribs. The cervical vertebrae are often manipulated through a twisting motion by a chiropractor, which can injure arteries and lead to a stroke.
  • D.C.: refers to a doctor of chiropractic. This is an academic title conferred by accredited chiropractic schools, but should not be confused with a medical doctor (MD). A D.C. cannot practice until he or she has earned professional licensure by passing national board examinations and meeting state requirements. Even so, a chiropractor cannot prescribe medicine nor may a chiropractor perform surgery.
  • Innate Intelligence: see “Big Idea.”
  • Low Force Technique: alternatives to dynamic thrust that some chiropractors advertise as a more gentle manipulation of the neck. It is sometimes called by the name “Directional Non-Force Technique,” or “Activator Methods Chiropractic Technique.”
  • Maintenance: frequent adjustments by chiropractors to keep the neck and spine in alignment. Chiropractors suggest maintenance visits regardless of pain as a way to preserve health and the “Innate Intelligence” of the body.
  • Manipulation: the techniques, sometimes through powerful “dynamic thrusts,” used by a chiropractor to push neck vertebrae outside their normal range of motion to force them to re-align. The cervical vertebrae will often make a popping noise, and improper manipulation can cause damage to the spine and neck arteries, leading to blood clots and stroke.
  • Neck Adjustment: Chiropractic manipulation of the cervical vertebrae (see above), which can injure arteries and lead to a stroke.
  • Straight Chiropractic: see “Big Idea.”
  • Subluxation: supposedly, a misalignment of two spinal vertebrae. Note that chiropractors use this term loosely and in a way not recognized by medical doctors. Chiropractors may contend that a subluxation partially blocks the effectiveness of spinal nerves and, in turn, impairs the nervous system’s ability to maintain health.
  • Vertebral Arteries: two arteries along the side of the neck, one on each side, that can be damaged during cervical manipulation by a chiropractor. The damage, including an interruption of blood flow to the brain, can lead to bleeding which, in turn, can cause a stroke in the hours, days or weeks following a cervical manipulation.

If you or a loved one has suffered a stroke or other injury as a result of a chiropractic neck manipulation or adjustment, we respectfully advise you to consult an attorney with experience in chiropractic malpractice. The Abelson Law Firm, works with a board certified physician who will help determine the extent of your injuries due to a chiropractic manipulation. For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call (202) 331-0600 or fill out our online form.