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What is a Chiropractor and what does a Chiropractor do?

A chiropractor, also known as a doctor in chiropractic, is a certified physical therapist who focuses on adjusting the muscular-skeletal system to optimise nerve flow and stimulate the body’s healing power. An experienced chiropractor will carefully assess the body and identify postural imbalances and misalignments of the vertebral segments causing faulty movement patterns, inflammation, pinched nerves or other types of nerve flow interference resulting in pain and reducing the body’s function and capacity to express health.

According to the NHS: “Chiropractic is a treatment where a practitioner called a chiropractor uses their hands to help relieve problems with the bones, muscles and joints.”.

A chiropractor typically starts by carefully assessing the client to establish a root cause diagnosis and formulate a care plan to address any imbalances. As part of this process chiropractors may use several measuring tools and devices including x-rays (if clinically required) to get a clear picture. If the client qualifies for care, the chiropractor will perform a series of specific chiropractic adjustments to help the body rebalance. Part of the healing journey may involve some soft tissue manipulation and corrective exercises and guidance to accelerate the process.

What does Chiropractic mean?

Chiropractic originates from the Greek words ‘chiro’ meaning hand and ‘prattein’ from which we also get ‘praktikos’ meaning to do an and practical. *

The Ooxford English Ddictionary defines it as: “a system of complementary medicine based on the diagnosis and manipulative treatment of misalignments of the joints, especially those of the spinal column, which are believed to cause other disorders by affecting the nerves, muscles, and organs.”

According to the World Federation of Chiropractic it’s “A health profession concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, and the effects of these disorders on the function of the nervous system and general health. There is an emphasis on manual treatments including spinal adjustment and other joint and soft-tissue manipulation.”

The British Chiropractic Association explains it as follows: Chiropractors use a range of techniques to reduce pain, improve function and increase mobility, including hands-on manipulation of the spine. As well as manual treatment, chiropractors are able to offer a package of care which includes advice on self-help, therapeutic exercises and lifestyle changes..


  • This is the reason why Healing Hands Chiropractic chose its name as it perfectly points to what chiropractic does: healing with the hands by adjusting the muscular-skeletal system, joints and nervous system.

Are chiropractors covered by medical insurance?

Chiropractic is recognised as an effective alternative health therapy and is covered by most medical insurances. For a chiropractor to work with insurance providers a registration is required for each health or medical insurance provider. If you or a loved one are looking to claim for the cost of chiropractic care through your health or medical insurance, speak to your insurance provider and chiropractic clinic first. They will be able to assist you as each provider has a slightly different process and budget. The first step in the process usually requires that you undergo a complete initial assessment, to obtain a root cause diagnosis and establish if chiropractic is an effective option for you. In some cases you will also require a referral from your GP, whilst in other instances you simply need an authorisation number from your medical insurance provider.

When did Chiropractic first became an alternative health therapy?

In 1895 D.D. Palmer , whilst observing a janitor, identified that a joint in his spine had moved out of its correct position and went on to perform the first chiropractic ‘adjustment’. This adjustment lead to this deaf janitor recovering his hearing. Spinal adjustments did already exist however David Palmer was the first to use short-leverage points for making specific spinal ‘adjustments’.

Daniel David Palmer founded the Palmer School of Chiropractic not long after, where he taught his methods to those who became the first chiropractors.

What is a school of chiropractic?

A school of chiropractic is a University or College where you can train to become a Doctor in Chiropractic. Typically, it takes between 4 and 6 years to complete this masters degree. According to MedicalNewsToday chiropractic programmes typically include the following:


First year: Courses in general anatomy, chiropractic principles, biochemistry, spinal anatomy.


Second year: Courses in chiropractic procedures, pathology, diagnostics, clinical orthopaedics, imaging interpretation, and research methods.


Third year: Courses in clinical internships, advanced diagnostics, integrated chiropractic, paediatrics, dermatology, practice management, and ethics and jurisprudence.


Fourth year: A clinical internship, in which a student studies under a chiropractor and completes rotations in a hospital or veterans’ clinic.


Fifth and Sixth year: Goes deeper into clinical experience, advanced diagnosis and bringing together all the knowledge and practical skills acquired.

Some chiropractors after obtaining their Masters in Chiropractic may choose do an additional post-graduate degree to specialise further.

There are also different schools of chiropractic in terms of styles and techniques used. Below is a list of the UK schools of chiropractic.

What is the underlying principle of chiropractic?

The underlying principle of chiropractic is that the body has an innate capacity to heal, which can be stimulated by optimising the nerve flow and muscular-skeletal mechanics. By improving the mechanics and nerve flow of the body, the mind and body communication improves promoting a healing response. One of the key benefits of chiropractic is to create alignment and restore the proper curvature of the spine. To achieve this the chiropractor helps a client improve their posture and restore function. This in turn reduces inflammation and pain, as those were simply symptoms related to areas of disfunction.


Correcting and improving bad posture.

By carefully aligning the body and restoring the correct curvature to the spine and improvinge weight distribution. .

Treat specific areas and joints.

Other treatments may involve specific areas and joints like shoulders, knees, ankles, the sacroiliac joint (SI), TMJ jaw structure, occipital, etc.

Help with other type of muscle-skeletal imbalances.

Chiropractors can also help with other imbalances like muscle tightness, friction in the joints, balance and coordination issues, frozen shoulder, etc.

Imbalances of the nervous system.

The fourth category of areas a chiropractor may help with are symptoms related to imbalances of the nervous system such as: insomnia, stress and anxiety, referred pain, fatigue, etc.

Do chiropractors fix posture?

Chiropractors are always working on optimising their client’s posture and restoring the correct balance, movement, and curvature in the spine. Correcting bad posture and fixing postural imbalances is a big part of a chiropractor’s work. The reason is simple: posture imbalances correlate very highly with subpar performance, uneven weight distribution, accelerated wear and tear, disfunction, lower back, sciatica, and other pains.

Chiropractic techniques

Chiropractic techniques refer to specific type of adjustments that a chiropractor is able to make in order to bring about positive change. Techniques are like the tools in the chiropractor’s toolbox. Some are purely manual, whilst other techniques involve the use of specialised tools and equipment.

Chiropractic adjustments are aimed at restoring quality and quantity of movement, correcting faulty movement patterns, improving nerve flow and optimising posture.

Experienced chiropractors will carefully assess the client and choose the technique that is most suited for each case with a desired outcome in mind. The repertoire of techniques allows a chiropractor to adapt the care to each client’s needs. It’s never a case of one size fits all, everyone has different needs and underlying issues and conditions which must be accounted for when recommending the appropriate care plan.

List of chiropractic techniques

Please note that chiropractic techniques should only be performed by those who have been thoroughly trained in adjustments. A doctor of Chiropractic has undergone 4-6 years of intensive training with two years of clinical experience. Doing otherwise is not recommended.

Direct thrust adjustment (diversified)

This technique is often referred to as diversified. A chiropractor will apply a rapid thrust to different parts of the spine, using their hands. The adjustment may produce a cracking sound as gas is released from the joint that is being mobilised. It helps relieve tension around the area and improves movement, circulation, alignment and the flow of vital fluids.

This technique maybe used in clients suffering from a herniated disc, whiplash, headaches, misaligned bones and joints. When performed well this type of adjustment can provide instant relief.


High-velocity, low-amplitude (HVLA)

This type of chiropractic adjustment consists of applying a short (low-amplitude), fast (high-velocity) thrust with the goal of restoring a normal range of motion. This technique is used to mobilise joints one at a time. The adjustment of the spine is optimised by carefully positioning the body.

Myofascial release

This technique is often referred to as diversified. A chiropractor will apply a rapid thrust to different parts of the spine, using their hands. The adjustment may produce a cracking sound as gas is released from the joint that is being mobilised. It helps relieve tension around the area and improves movement, circulation, alignment and the flow of vital fluids.

This technique maybe used in clients suffering from a herniated disc, whiplash, headaches, misaligned bones and joints. When performed well this type of adjustment can provide instant relief.

This technique is designed to improve joint function and restore movement. Spinal mobilisation uses slow movement to restore joint movement. It’s a gentle chiropractic technique, that benefits clients with a sensitive nervous disposition, to protect the body from causing muscle spasms and reacting vigorously.

Activator method chiropractic

This technique of chiropractic adjustment uses a hand-held, spring loaded, manual tool that allows bones and spinal joints to be tapped gently using a low-force impulse. It achieves the desired outcome through a series of smaller incremental impulses instead of one single bigger adjustment, and doesn’t create a cracking noise. This is suited to clients requiring gentle adjustments.

Drop table adjustments

The technique makes use of special chiropractic adjustment benches that have a built-in mechanism known as drop tables. The drop benches or table can be elevated to raise a specific body part, using different sections of the table. When the chiropractic adjustment is applied it also causes the bench to drop down suddenly. It allows a chiropractor to create a very short controlled (mini) drop-down from a tiny height, of one to two inches maximum, to perform an adjustment. The drop-down table adjustments require less force to be applied, as the body’s own weight is used.

This technique maybe used to adjust the lower back, hip joint, disc injuries, cervical area, thoracic or mid-back area. It’s quite gentle and suitable for elderly patients and clients with acute lower back pain or muscle spasms.

This technique has gained a lot of interest lately thanks to media attention. It uses a Y-strap which is carefully placed around the neck and head along the longitudinal path Y-axis of the body, towards the top of the head. The chiropractor can perform slow, gentle pulling to decompress the vertebral segments and discs, creating spinal decompression. The Y-strap technique can also be combined with a high-velocity, low-amplitude pull to adjust the cervical area.

According to the Mayo Clinic a “Chiropractic adjustment is a procedure in which trained specialists (chiropractors) use their hands or a small instrument to apply a controlled, sudden force to a spinal joint. The goal of this procedure, also known as spinal manipulation, is to improve spinal motion and improve your body’s physical function.”

Chiropractic adjustments can be performed on most joints in the body.

Sacroiliac Joint (SI) Adjustments

Commonly referred to as the lower back or buttocks. According to “Its full name is the sacroiliac joint. There are two of them in your lower back, and they sit on each side of your spine. Their main job is to carry the weight of your upper body when you stand or walk and shift that load to your legs.”

Sacroiliac Chiropractic Adjustments will focus on rebalancing the position of the joints and improving stability and weight distribution whilst reducing inflammation and friction.
The sacroiliac adjustment is usually performed whilst the client lays on one side with the top knee bent (flexed) raised towards the chest. The other leg is in an outstretched but slightly flexed position. The chiropractor will place his hand over the SI joint, whilst creating a slight rotation in the spine. A quick thrust is applied which may result in an audible cracking sound, known as a cavitation, resetting the position of the joint for a healthier range of motion.

TMJ adjustment

Relates to jaw issues which may be caused by injuries, traumas, autoimmune disease, teeth grinding and arthritis. TMJ chiropractic adjustments, or TMJ in short, describe the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ). It’s the hinge joint connecting the mandible (lower jaw) to the temporal bone of the skull. Symptoms caused by TMJ related issues include:

  • Dizziness & tinnitus ear ache
  • Jaw pain when chewing
  • A clicking or popping jaw
  • Headache
  • Jaw pain
  • Jaw tightnessTMJ adjustments will focus on releasing and rebalancing the masseter, temporalis and pterygoid and suboccipital muscles. As part of the adjustment the related cervical vertebrae – particularly the C1 and C2 – (the top two) are carefully palpated and mobilised to make sure they get re-aligned as these have a significant impact on the jaw joint.

Occipital adjustments.

The occipital area is around the base of the skull in the back of the head and includes nerves that run up to the scalp. Some people experience pain in this area knowns as occipital neuralgia caused by the irritation, inflammation or injury of those nerves. Tension, muscle tightness in the cervical area, sudden trauma to the back of the head, whiplash, infections and tumours can cause such injuries.

Sometimes pressure on the brain stem may also lead to pain at the base of the skull and a proper root cause diagnosis is an important first step to find out. This type of pressure can result from a misaligned upper cervical spine.

The chiropractor may use some soft tissue manipulation to relax the area and reduce tightness and use mobilisation techniques to assess where movement is restricted. Some adjustments that maybe used are an occipital lift, which aims to adjust the atlas area which consists of the two top cervical segments (C1, C2). Y-strap decompression maybe used as well and the client is sometimes left to rest for a little while to let the body recover from the adjustment. An activator may be used depending on the specifics of each client’s case.

An experienced chiropractor will first assess your shoulders for pronation (rolled forward) and unevenness through imbalances in the thoracic spine or pelvis. This will show by having one shoulder higher on one side of the body. Other issues may involve a rotation of the torso, which shows as one shoulder being in front of the torso instead of beneath the ear. Once the picture is clear as to what’s happening, the chiropractor can proceed to gently adjust your shoulder to move it either forwards or backwards. The adjustments help to reset the joint and restore quality and quantity of movement.

It’s a manual adjustment using the direct thrust method. Other tools like the arthrostim or activator maybe used on the area in combination with soft tissue release. In some case the client maybe booked in a for a deep tissue massage to recalibrate the muscles and release trigger points for a faster recovery.

Cervical spine manipulation

Spinal manipulation of the cervical area is very common using high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust. A long or short lever arm maybe used depending on intended target and desired outcome. The cervical area, also known as the arc of life, is very important for maintaining good general health as many very important nerves travel through the cervical spine.

These include the master switch for the nervous system, the ears, eyes, nose, mouth, arms, legs, breathings system, balance and coordination to name but a few. Imbalances in the cervical curve can cause an anterior head tilt which may lead to tension headaches, difficulty breathing, neck pain, swaying, jaw pain and discomfort and disruption of the nerve flow which can cause loss of concentration and memory.

Cervical adjustments can be performed in a variety of ways; laying down, sitting up, face down, or face up. A skilled chiropractor will carefully palpate the area to detect the imbalance and review that in conjunction with the nerve scans and x-rays if available. Adjustments may be performed using direct thrust and the drop benches. The activator maybe used as well to fine-tune in cases of higher sensitivity.

Thoracic spine adjustment

The thoracic spine starts between the two collar bones (T1) and goes all the way down to the upper lumbar area T12, just above L5. Thoracic adjustments help improve the curvature of the thorax and have a relaxing effect on the body.

Thoracic spinal adjustments are typically performed in a laying down or standing position. A variation of this technique is where the chiropractor will start the client in a seated position and gradually lower the client down whilst exhaling. With each descent a different section will be adjusted, allowing for a deep but gentle adjustment.

For the face down version the chiropractor may preload his weight and apply a direct thrust. This may be performed in conjunction with a drop bench or on its own. The pressure, force of the trust and speed can be modulated for optimal results according to each client’s specifics. This may be delivered along with some myofascial release.

Lumbar spine adjustment

The lower back is known as the lumbar spine and consists of the 5 bottom vertebrae (L1-L5). This is one of the areas that clients most commonly present with when visiting chiropractors. Chiropractors will adjust the lumbar spine typically in two different ways:

Lumbar adjustment using drop benches

The lower back is adjusted by placing the client face down on the bench. The drop benches are adjusted to the correct height, to elevate the lumbar region. A light thrust is delivered to the pelvis or lumbar area, the drop down uses the momentum of the body weight to deepen the adjustments.
A slight variation consists of using the micro-seconds where the lower back is moving down mid-flight, and the chiropractor repositions the lumbar region and pelvis gently. This causes the body to land in a slightly different position than where it started to create a micro-adjustment towards the desired direction. This is achieved because when the bench drops, the muscles are relaxed and the joints free from constraint – increasing the range of motion.

Both techniques allow an experienced chiropractor to skillfully reposition vertebral segments and the pelvic structure to a healthier position.

The side posture diversified lumbar adjustment

The client lays down in a side position with the bottom leg straight and the top leg bent at the knee (tucked position) and pointing forwards. The shoulders are brought back by using the bottom arm to embrace the top shoulder, causing a slight rotation. The palm of the hand will be placed on a specific segment of the lower spine – and a combination of thrust plus body weight is applied to create the adjustment. This is sometimes repeated on the other side or not, depending on each case.

Ankle adjustment

If the pelvis is like the foundation of the spine, the ankles and feet are the foundation of the body. Misalignments, injuries and bad posture can reflect on our ankles and vice-versa. Having the ankles tracking and performing properly is key for overall postural stability and to avoid injuries.

A chiropractor will mobilise and palpate the ankle to see where the restriction of movement is. The ankle is a very strong joint so to adjust the ankle the client is generally laying down facing up whilst the chiropractor holds the foot and ankle joint delivering a quick and powerful pull to release pressure and restore healthy movement.

Other adjustments may involve twisting the foot into a pronated or supinated position. The structure of the foot and the knee may also be mobilised to ensure the tracking of the ankle is restored and any tightness and faulty movement pattern corrected.

Jaw adjustments

Chiropractic adjustments of the jaw are also referred to as TMJ adjustments. These will typically include cervical spine adjustments and release of the jaw muscles by performing pressure point adjustments. Sometimes the activator will be used on cervical segments.

Hand and wrist adjustments

For this type of adjustment the chiropractor will conduct palpation and tests to isolate and diagnose the issue causing pain or restriction in movement. Using his/her hands and thumbs firm pressure will be applied over the specific area and the hand/wrist mobilised to best improve the affected area. A quick adjustment is made using a short lever thrust improving the movement and function of the hand/wrist. Tests are repeated to confirm the effectiveness of the adjustment.