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The Art of the Chiropractic Adjustment: Part I

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The Art of the Chiropractic Adjustment: Part I

The Chiro.Org Blog

SOURCE: Dynamic Chiropractic

By Richard C. Schafer, DC, FICC

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Part II and

Part III and

Part IV and

Part V and

Part VI

This author acknowledges the value of reflexology and numerous physiotherapeutic applications (along with nutritional supplementation, counseling, “bloodless surgery,” and standardized rehabilitative procedures) in chiropractic case management.

Yet, they all stand in the shadow of the basis for and the proper administration of the chiropractic adjustment. This column and others throughout the year will focus on the need for the development of our unique art. Certain basics seem to have become lost in the teaching of “technic” during the last decade or so.

Depth of Drive

Besides patient positioning, the type of contact selected, and direction of drive, the depth of drive also must be accurate. It is sometimes taught that it should be to the anatomical limit, but this is not always true. Adjusting a strong ligament fixation immediately to the anatomical limit may rupture degenerated tissues — resulting in the development of even tougher scar tissue. The object is to progressively stretch but not rupture shortened fibers. Adaptation takes time.

The opposite should also be recognized. An attempt to mobilize further after a fixation has been released will produce a new defensive contraction and inflammation, and therefore predispose the development of a new fixation. Over-adjusting is not beneficial; it is trauma.

The Articular Snap

Read the rest of this Full Text article now!

About the Author:

I was introduced to Chiro.Org in early 1996, where my friend Joe Garolis helped me learn HTML, the "mark-up language" for websites. We have been fortunate that journals like JMPT have given us permission to reproduce some early important articles in Full-Text format. Maintaining the Org website has been, and remains, my favorite hobby.


  1. Dr. Romano March 11, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Great article. The basics are too often forgotten, and it’s always nice to refresh your mind on the art of what we do. Except for my prone T/L junction adjustments, I just observe breathing and thrust at end of exhale. I do not alert patients to my strategy. When not focused on breathing I look for the “open window” of relaxation where the patient seems most ready to accept the adjustment.

    I work with another DC and he tells patients to hold breath in for T/L junction prone adjustments, while I adjust on full exhale. My prone T/L (T11/T12/L1) adjustments tend to have more depth, but can be accompanied by a fleeting but uncomfortable pain, but I had been told in school and by other docs to do that…so I did.

    Starting today I will do all my T/L prone adjustments, without instructing the patient, during the beginning of exhalation. Let’s see how this works.

  2. Chiropractor Lynnwood March 11, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Wow, I love this kind of stuff. Makes my adjustments feel more significant and meaningful. I love trying to create a fantastic experience for the patient from start to finish, and I believe that an exceptional adjustment is paramount to achieving this. “Exceptional” definitely is subjective to each patient, and that is where a lot of the ART comes into play. The Chiropractic Artist is able to sense the unique needs of each individual patient, communicate clearly with each patient, and apply just the right force at just the right time to make the most effective changes in the patient’s health.

    This takes both experience and being fully present at each visit.

    It’s sad that a lot of this information has been lost, as our seminars are mostly aimed at increasing patient visits rather than increasing quality of care. Thanks for keeping it real!

  3. Chiropractor Austin TX March 12, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    I agree with the previous 2 comments — it’s nice to have the nuts and bolts of our signature treatment discussed. It’s been a while since we talked about it in school!

  4. Frank March 13, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Just as a side-note, I am one of those recent graduates (1993) who adjusted on (mostly) full exhalation. I don’t recall anyone having a spasm of the diaphragm, or if it did happen, I was unaware of it, and I think if someone actually had a spasm I would have noticed.

    This weekend I switched to adjusting during the early phase of exhalation, and that seemed to work just as well. I did not notice any increased resistance to the adjustment, and out of respect for Dr.Schafer, I will adopt his recommendation, even though (from my experience) this feels like a tempest in a teapot.

  5. […] I try to restore overall function as well as decrease pain.  This is done by chiropractic adjustments of subluxations primarily and most importantly.  But progress and prevention of future problems can […]

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