Alternative Medicine Spinal Manipulation

When many people think of spinal manipulation therapy, they think of chiropractic manipulation. However, other healthcare providers may use spinal manipulation techniques, including osteopaths, physical therapists and some conventional medical doctors.

To perform spinal manipulation, practitioners use their hands or a device to place a controlled force on a joint of the spine. This force moves the joint beyond its passive range of motion, in an attempt to realign the joint with the other joints of the spine. Advocates of spinal manipulation therapy believe that correct spinal alignment relieves pain and improves physical functioning.

Chiropractic Manipulation

Chiropractors generally focus on correcting intervertebral subluxations and other misaligned joints. A subluxation occurs when the vertebral segments of the spine are injured, fixated or misaligned, irritating nerves and causing tightness in the surrounding muscles. Chiropractors believe that correcting these subluxations supports the body’s natural healing ability.

Many people think of chiropractic manipulation, commonly known as an adjustment, as a high-velocity thrusting technique that often causes loud pops. However, many chiropractic manipulation techniques use gentle, low-force adjustments. Each of the more than 100 named chiropractic methods has its own approach to assessment and corrective techniques.

Osteopathic Manipulation

Practitioners of osteopathic manipulation—also called osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT)—use their hands to diagnose, treat and prevent illness or injury. An osteopathic physician (DO) moves your muscles and joints using manipulation techniques such as stretching, gentle pressure and resistance.

Do Spinal Manipulation Techniques Work?

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) (2007), low-back pain studies show that spinal manipulation can provide mild to moderate relief from pain, and appears to work as well as conventional medical treatments. The American College of Physicians (ACP) and the American Pain Society (APS) also recognize spinal manipulation as a treatment option for back pain that doesn’t improve with self care.

NCCAM notes that spinal manipulation from a qualified practitioner is safe and rarely causes serious side effects. The most common minor side effects include temporary discomfort in the treated area, headache or fatigue for one or two days.

If you see a practitioner for spinal manipulation therapy, state all your medical conditions and medications—occasionally, spinal manipulation is inadvisable. In addition, always let all your healthcare providers know what other treatments you’re receiving, including spinal manipulation therapy.


American Osteopathic Association. (n.d.). OMT: Hands-on care. Retrieved August 27, 2010, from

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (2007). Chiropractic: An introduction. Retrieved August 27, 2010, from

University of Minnesota. (2009). How can I find a qualified chiropractor? Retrieved August 27, 2010, from