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Glossary of Chiropractic Terms

Glossary of Chiropractic Terms



— The front part of the body that lies between the chest and pelvis.

Activator® Methods

— A diagnostic approach as well as a handheld instrument that is used to deliver a consistent low-force, high-speed chiropractic adjustment.


— Of short duration and relatively severe.


— An intervention with the intent of facilitating the body’s ability to “right” itself and function more normally


— Carrying impulses towards a center; when sensory nerve impulses are sent toward the brain.

Antalgic Position

— An abnormal position of the body resulting from the body’s attempt to minimize pain.


— Toward the front of the body.


— The connection of bones; a joint.


— An agreement between doctor and patient to waive payment until a claim is paid by an insurance company, which is then paid directly to the doctor.


— The uppermost and most freely movable bone of the spine.


— A decrease in the size of a normally developed tissue or organ.

Autonomic Nervous System

— The part of the nerve system that regulates involuntary action, as of the intestines, heart, and glands, and comprises the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.



— Pertaining to both sides of the body or structure.


— The application of mechanical laws to living structures.


— Wedge-shaped devices used by SOT practitioners to raise one or both sides of the pelvis into a healthier pattern for better support of the spine and head.

Brain Stem

— The “primitive” and oldest area of the brain.


— Inflammation of a bursa (eg; knee and shoulder), which is a fluid-filled sac situated where friction would otherwise develop.



— A set dollar limit that a patient or employer pays to a health maintenance organization (HMO), regardless of how much of the service is used or not used.

CAT scan

— (Computer Aided Tomography) An imaging device that uses narrow X-ray beams and a computer to create a type of three-dimensional X-ray.

Central Nerve System

— The brain and spinal cord.


— The “hind” brain.

Cerebral Hemispheres

— “The “higher” brain which is the most evolved area of the brain.


— The vertebrae of the neck, usually seven bones.


— The discipline of detecting and reducing vertebral subluxation.


— A doctor who has received a Doctor of Chiropractic degree; a doctor of chiropractic or D.C.


— Persisting for a long period of time.


— A request for payment of a loss that may or may not come under the terms of an insurance contract.


— A series of small bones at the end of the sacrum, commonly called the tailbone.

Compensation Reaction

— A new problem that results from the body’s attempt to respond to a problem elsewhere in the body (i.e. the spine).

Compressive Lesion

— A malfunctioning spinal bone or bones that results in direct pressure on a spinal nerve resulting in decreased nerve transmission.


— Existing at, or dating from birth.


— An amount paid by the insured for losses covered by a policy after the deductible amount has been met.

CPT Code

— Current Procedural Terminology code. A standardized insurance coding system used to describe specific procedures administered to patients.

CT Scan

— Also known as CAT Scan or Computer Aided Tomography which uses pencil thin X-ray beams and a computer to create a type of three-dimensional X-ray.

Customary fee

— A way of describing the average doctor’s fee based on a geographical area.


Davis series

— Seven X-ray views of the upper spine that are helpful in instances of whiplash injury.


— An out-of-pocket expense that a policyholder pays before insurance covers any of the costs.


— A statement made under oath for obtaining evidence in a legal matter.


— Tests used to reveal areas of skin, and their sensitivity, serviced by nerves distributed from the spinal cord.


— The act of distinguishing one health problem from another.

Diagnostic imaging

— The use of X-rays, MRI, CAT scans, EMG, thermography and other tools to create pictures of the structure and function of the body.


— The therapeutic use of high frequency current to create heat within an area of the body.


— The partial or total loss of mental or physical abilities caused by an injury or disease that prevents an insured from engaging in some or all of the duties of his or her usual occupation.

Disc Herniation

— An extreme bulging of the soft nucleus pulposus into a defect or weakened area of fibrous disc exterior.


— A cartilage (cushion/pad) that separates each spinal vertebra, absorbs shocks to the spine and protects the nerve systems and assists in creating the four spinal lateral curves (also known as intervertebal disc).


— Any deviation from or interruption of the normal structure or function of any part, organ, or system of the body that is manifested by a characteristic set of symptoms whose prognosis may be known or unknown.


— Pertaining to the back; the twelve thoracic vertebrae are also referred to as dorsal vertebrae.



— A condition in which fluid fills a damaged joint area with excessive fluid causing swelling; similar to the swelling of a twisted ankle.


— Carrying away from a central organ; nerve impulses leaving the brain to peripheral tissues.


— Electromyogram; a device used to measure muscle tone and detect subluxation patterns by detecting changes in electrical activity in millionths of a volt.


— Electro-Muscle Stimulation; a form of electrical stimulation designed to reduce swelling and inflammation.


— The process of inspecting and testing the body and its systems to determine the presence or absence of disease or injury.


— To stretch out or to spread to its fullest length or reach.



— A small, smooth area on bone or other hard surface.

Facilitative Lesion

— A twisting or stretching of nerve tissue due to a malfunctioning spine.

Fee for service

— The traditional method of payment for health care services where payment is made by the patient for specific services delivered by a doctor.


— Being held in a fixed position. An area of the spine with restricted movement.


— Soft, limp.


— To bend to the side, forward, or backward.


— A small opening.


— Pertaining to the forehead.



— An individual, usually a clinician, who controls patient access to healthcare services for members of a specific group.



— A state of optimal physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.


— Health Maintenance Organization. A prepaid plan (not insurance) that offers a variety of health care services for a fixed monthly fee.


— A state of physiological equilibrium produced by a balance of functions and of chemical composition within an organism.


— Excess movement of an area of the spine.


— Restricted movement of an area of the spine.


ICD-9 Codes

— International Classification of Diseases Codes.


— (Independent Medical Examination.) An examination arranged by a third party payer which is theoretically designed to impartially evaluate a patients disability or another doctor’s diagnosis or treatment plan.


— A loss, alteration or abnormality of psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function.


— Lower in position.


— A reaction of soft tissue due to injury that may include malfunction, discomfort, rise in temperature, swelling, and increased blood supply.

Initial Intensive Care

— A type of chiropractic care characterized by frequent visits for the purpose of eliminating or reducing the patients major complaint.


— A policy in which you pay a company premiums to take the risk that they might have to pay you back a lot more for treatments necessary for symptom relief.


— Damage or deficit to the nervous system.

Intervertebral Disc

— Fibrocartilage padding between vertebral bodies that act as a shock absorber, with a pulpy center that acts as a ball-bearing.

Intervertebral Foramina

— The lateral opening through which spinal nerve roots exit the spinal column.


There are no Terms that begin with the letter “J”.



— From the side, the backward curve of the spine seen in the thoracic spine.



— The side view of the body.


— A creditor’s claim against assets to secure a debt.


— The development of a bony outgrowth.


— A system used to describe the motion or position of vertebral segments in relation to adjacent vertebral segments.


— From the side, the forward curve of the spine, found in the cervical and lumbar spine.


— The vertebrae of the lower back, usually five bones.


Maintenance Care

— A type of chiropractic care designed to maintain a patients improved health and spinal function.

Managed care

— A program that imposes controls on the utilization of health care services or the providers who offer such care.


— Methodical pressure, friction and kneading of the body upon bare skin.

Maximum medical improvement

— A point in the patients care in which they have reached their pre-incident or accident condition, usually ending the insurance company’s obligations.


— A federal health insurance program that covers individuals 65 and older, the disabled, and certain dependents.


— (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) A device using strong magnets and radio waves to create an image of the internal structures of the body.



— A written report by the doctor that includes a patients health history, a description of the patients complaint(s), examination findings, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.

Neural Canal

— The opening in the spine through which the spinal cord passes.


— Pertaining to the nervous system.


— Medical doctor who is a specialist of the nervous system.

No fault

— A form of insurance in which a person’s losses from an automobile accident are paid by his or her own insurer regardless of who was at fault.

Nucleus pulposus

— The gelatinous mass in the center of the intervertebral disc.


Objective complaints

— What the doctor finds by examination.


— Slanting; diagonal.


— Pertaining to the back of the head.


— Pertaining to the correction or prevention of deformities of the musculoskeletal system.


— Medical doctor who specializes in the preservation and restoration of the skeletal system and its articulations.


— A medical therapy that emphasizes manipulative procedures and uses medication or surgery and specializes in various areas of medicine.


— A provision for reimbursement of services by a provider who is not a member of the patients HMO that usually involves a higher co-pay or a reduction in reimbursement.



— Examining the spine with your fingers; the art of feeling with the hand.


— A disease process.


— A malfunction of the body system(s) and/or spine.


— The care of infants and children and the treatment of their diseases.

Peripheral Nerve System

— The nervous system that connects the central nervous system with every cell, tissue, and organ of the body.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

— A type of coverage in an auto policy that pays for medical costs in case of an accident.

Personal injury

— An injury sustained from an automobile or slip and fall accident.


— The biological science of essential and characteristic life processes, activities, and functions; the vital processes of an organism.


— Treatment with physical and mechanical means, such as massage, electricity, etc.


— Toward the back of the body.


— An examination used to monitor the healing process and the patients progress towards recovery.


— Preferred Provider Organization. A network of doctors and hospitals that contract with an insurance company or employer to provide employees with services at competitive rates.


— The prior approval required by some payers before benefit payments will be granted.

Preventive care

— Health care that focuses on early detection and treatment in an attempt to reduce costs.


— A prediction of the probable course and outcome of a disease or the likelihood of recovery from a disease.


— Lying horizontal with the face downward.


— Those who provide health care services, such as hospitals, physicians, chiropractors, nurse practitioners and others.


— Physical therapy.


There are no Terms that begin with the letter “Q”.



— A specially sensitized film that records the internal structures of the body by the passage of X-rays. An X-ray film.

Range of Motion

— The range, measured in degrees of a circle, through which a joint can be extended and flexed.

Rare Earth Screens

— A phosphorous coated panel placed next to X-ray film that glows when it is exposed to X-ray radiation, reducing exposures and enhancing the image.

Reasonable fee

— A fee determined by a carrier that is consistent with the going rate in a geographical area for similar services.


— An involuntary action resulting from a stimulus.

Rehabilitative Care

— A type of chiropractic care with the objective of strengthening the spine and providing optimum healing of the function of the spine, associated tissues, and organ systems.


— The payment of the expenses incurred because of an accident or sickness, up to any limit specified in the policy.

Relief Care

— See Initial Intensive Care.

Report of Findings

— A short presentation, usually by the doctor, describing the patients problem, how long it will take to correct, and the prognosis.


S.O.A.P notes

— A system of patient record keeping based on the patients Subjective complaints, Objective complaints, Doctor’s Assessment, and treatment Plan.


— The triangular bone at the base of the spine.


— A pain that radiates from the back into the buttocks and into the leg caused by the irritation of the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body.


— A sideways curve of the spine as viewed from the back.

Slipped Disc

— An incorrect name given a condition in which a disc becomes wedge-shaped and bulges. In extreme cases this pressure will cause a disc to rupture.


— SOT stands for Sacro Occipital Technique, a method of normalizing the relationship between the foundation of the spine and the top of the spine by specifically positioning the body to use its weight to correct the body.


— A contraction of muscle tissue.

Spinous Process

— A posterior protruding part of a spinal bone that can be seen or felt when examining the spine.


— A projecting body, as from a bone.

Subjective complaints

— Those problems identified by the patient such as headaches, leg pain, etc.


— A misalignment and malfunction of the spine that is less than a dislocation that interferes with the nervous system, associated organs, muscles, and soft tissues of the body.


— Upper or higher in position.


— Lying horizontal on the back with the face upward.



— A specific procedure, method or maneuver used to correct spinal problems.


— Methods used to assist in the relief of pain, rehabilitation, and restoration of normal body functions.

Third-Party payer

— Any payer for health care services other than the patient such as an insurance company, HMO, PPO or the government.


— Pertaining to the part of the spinal column from the base of the neck to about six inches above the waistline.


— The act of drawing or exerting a pulling force, as along the long axis of a structure.

Transverse Process

— Lateral protrusions (wings) of bone from the vertebrae to which powerful muscles attach.

Trigger Point

— An involuntarily tight band of muscle that is painful when pressed and can cause referred pain in other parts of the body.



— High frequency inaudible sounds whose vibrations can be used for heating internal structures of the body.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

— An insurance provision that pays for bodily injury to you, a family member or others in your car when the injury is caused by an uninsured, underinsured or hit-and-run driver.

Usual fee

— Fee that a doctor usually charges for a specific service.



— Any of the individual bones of the spinal column.

Vertebral Subluxation Complex

— Various kinds of pathology resulting from a Vertebral Subluxation which often include spinal kinesiopathology, neuropathophysiology, myopathology, histopathology and pathophysiology.

Vertebral Subluxation

— A misalignment of spinal bones that is less than a complete dislocation but sufficient to cause disruption of nerve system function.


Walk in

— A patient who shows up for an unscheduled appointment.

Wellness care

— Health care that is not prompted by sickness or injury but by an attempt to achieve or promote an optimum state of physical, mental and social well-being.


— An injury to the cervical spine caused by an abrupt jerking motion of the head, either backward or forward.

Work hardening

— Physical conditioning, work simulation and education to build strength and endurance and help an injured employee return to work.

Worker’s Compensation

— A type of insurance that covers employee illnesses, injuries and disabilities occurring in the course of their employment.



— Electromagnetic radiation that can penetrate many objects and reveal their internal structure by recording the shadow cast on photographic plates.


There are no Terms that begin with the letter “Y”.


There are no Terms that begin with the letter “Z”.