Spinal Mobilization: A Gentle Approach

Did you know that Americans spend $50 billion a year treating back pain? While many do not seek treatment of any kind, an increasing number are pursuing chiropractic care. Unfortunately, videos that make the popping sounds of a chiropractic adjustment rival that of a fireworks display have sometimes discouraged people from seriously considering chiropractic care.

Chiropractors consider a broad range of treatment options when addressing the specific needs of their patients. The most common chiropractic back adjustment is known as “spinal manipulation,” which often results in an audible “pop,” as chiropractors use their hands to apply a controlled sudden force to a joint. An alternate and more gentle treatment method used by chiropractors is commonly known as “spinal mobilization.”

The goals of spinal manipulation and mobilization are similar: to restore or enhance the function of a patient’s joints. Key reasons that chiropractors may choose mobilization over manipulation techniques include:

  • Patient requests. Sometimes patients are intimidated by the sound of manipulation techniques, erroneously thinking that a popping sound is doing damage to the back.                                                                               
  • Sensitive nervous systems. Patients with sensitive nervous systems (including pinched nerves) could benefit from more gentle mobilization techniques.
  • Patient conditions. Patients with advanced osteoporosis, certain kinds of inflammatory arthritis or bone pathology could likely benefit from mobilization when compared to manipulation.
  • Pain. When patients are in severe pain, chiropractors often choose the gentler approach.
  • Obesity. In some cases, the positioning of larger patients might make manipulation techniques overly challenging, prompting chiropractors to use mobilization.

What are the most common methods used in spinal mobilization?

  • Activator Method. This is a hand-held, spring-loaded, manual tool that delivers a low-force impulse. A chiropractor uses this tool to test various muscles and adjust the spine.
  • Toggle Drop. Here, the chiropractor exerts pressure on a particular area of the spine as the drop table falls. This practice takes advantage of gravity to apply the adjustment.
  • Cox Flexion-distraction. This is a gentle adjustment that adjusts misaligned vertebrae through a series of repetitive, slow movements.

When patients with back pain visit their chiropractor, they typically undergo a thorough examination, which includes patient history, x-rays and discussion around the event that triggered the pain. Your chiropractor will discuss your diagnosis and recommend a treatment plan that’s right for you.

Most patients are extremely satisfied with the results of chiropractic care. Would you benefit from spinal mobilization treatments? There are many choices available to those who seek back pain relief, as a professional, like a spinal mobilization chiropractor in Silver Spring, MD, at a treatment center like AmeriWell Clinics, can explain.