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When you go to the chiropractor, you expect the physician to correct your spine and promote healthy posture. The physician does this primarily through a series of adjustments. You may have heard them called manipulations, but that term is technically incorrect. You may be thinking, aren’t they the same thing? Aren’t the two terms interchangeable? Generally speaking, yes. They do mean roughly the same thing. But there’s an important distinction between the two that chiropractors feel is important to highlight.

First, manipulation and adjustment may or may not have any overlap at all. You might say that spinal adjustment is a specific category of manipulation. On the other hand, some claim that you can go to the chiropractor and receive an adjustment that does not technically involve manipulation. The key differences are focus and intent.

Manipulation is a general term that equates to “loosening” for the purpose of mobility and comfort. It’s usually accompanied by some audible sound, a popping or cracking that indicates the release of gasses. So when you pop your knuckles, or when you stand up to stretch and hear your neck crack, that might be considered manipulation.

Adjustment, on the other hand, is a hyper-focused and intentional form of manipulation. It involves targeting individual vertebrae, identifying signs of subluxation, and correcting them in a way that promotes healing and growth. There’s no wild guesswork or random pressing on your spine to see what might pop into place. It’s precise and intentional. Some say that adjustments are not technically a form of manipulation because manipulations always involve auditory cues. Whether this is tru or not depends on your definition of manipulation.

Think of the difference between manipulation and adjustment as the difference between a broad- and fine-tipped brush. Broad brushes are good for covering large areas quickly, spreading color with speed and efficiency. But fine brushes are used for detailed artwork, such as intricate portraits and landscapes. The fine brush clearly requires a lot more skill and knowledge to master. So it is with chiropractic.

Anyone can stand up and stretch and hear a pop or crack from one of their limbs, even from their spine. But a chiropractor will quickly identify the precise problem areas and work to correct them with small, non-intrusive adjustments. If you’re having back pain, headaches, or generally decreased quality of life, consider making an appointment. Call Wirth Chiropractic today!


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