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The 7 Types of Chiropractic Treatment Options (Modalities)

Chiropractor explaining treatment to patient

This article was written and submitted by Dr. Brent Wells, DC.

Chiropractic care is often associated with treatments that affect the spine and nervous system. Many people fail to realize that there is more associated with this field of care than a simple adjustment on your vertebrae.

The different chiropractic modalities can play a big role in your overall treatment and care. These additional services can make the difference between a successful treatment and subpar care.

Every chiropractor will offer a different set of modalities based on their specialized knowledge. However, there are a few that are common to many chiropractors around the world. Take a look at a few of the most common chiropractic modalities that you may find:

  • Massage Therapy
  • Ultrasound Therapy
  • Interferential Current
  • Low-level Laser Therapy
  • Cervical Traction
  • Flexion-Distraction Therapy
  • Activator Method

Learning more about these chiropractic modalities can help you to make an educated decision regarding your care. Be sure to ask your local and experienced chiropractor about which of these services they can offer in addition to your adjustments.

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1. Massage Therapy

Woman getting a massage therapy

At the end of a long week, there is nothing more satisfying than a good massage. Chiropractic care has expanded to offer massage therapy as a way to promote faster healing. By massaging the soft tissues of your body, you can reduce inflammation that leads to spinal problems. You get a whole-body experience that focuses on both the bones and the muscles.

This helps to address any underlying issues that may be exacerbating your neck and back problems. More than a relaxation technique, massage therapy is often used to treat a wide range of issues. When it is used as a chiropractic modality, massage can actually help treat some of these issues:

  • Frequent headaches or migraines
  • Muscle issues such as sprains and strains
  • Back or neck pain
  • Arthritis
  • Tendonitis
  • Stress-related injuries

2. Ultrasound Therapy

Ultrasound therapy machine

Many people associate ultrasounds with pregnancy, but this type of chiropractic modality can be particularly helpful for inflammation. It utilizes sound waves to treat inflammation and to stimulate blood flow.

Different types of ultrasound therapy are available depending on which modalities your chiropractor offers. However, many of these therapies are excellent for treating chronic pain issues like osteoarthritis.

Ultrasound therapy is frequently followed by a chiropractic adjustment or a few exercises to help your range of motion. At times, this is used in conjunction with massage therapy for more intense healing to your tissues.

3. Interferential Current

Interferential current is a specific type of electrical stimulation that aids in reducing pain and inflammation in the body. Your chiropractor will place electrodes on the affected area of your body before sending electrical currents to these areas. The currents are in low quantities, so you don’t have to worry about the pain of an electrical shock. For most people, they might feel a slight tingling sensation.

According to a review of studies done on interferential current, this treatment was found to be highly effective. Compared to another intervention and placebo treatment, interferential current was more effective in follow-up patients. In order to be so effective, it must be used in conjunction with another treatment such as chiropractic care.

4. Low-level Laser Therapy

3D model of a human spine

One of the newer chiropractic modalities that is being offered is low-level laser therapy. You may have heard this referred to as cold laser therapy instead. The laser used in this process takes therapeutic light and delivers it straight into your muscle tissue.

While it may not sound like this can do much for your healing, it actually does speed up the restorative process. Cold laser therapy has been shown to reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling.

One study conducted measured the outcomes of both chiropractic joint manipulation and low-level laser therapy. The participants were split into three groups where two received either chiropractic joint manipulation or low-level laser therapy. One group received both treatments. The group who received both treatments was shown to be more effective than either chiropractic modality was on its own.

5. Cervical Traction

Many of the chiropractic modalities are suitable for any type of pain, but cervical traction is specifically aimed at the neck. Cervical traction allows you to stretch the vertebrae in your neck by gently tugging the head away from the neck. It lightly stretches the vertebrae in this area and reduces pressure. This chiropractic modality is used to treat a number of common ailments including:

  • Bulging discs
  • Herniated discs
  • Pinched nerves
  • Joint pain
  • Sprains
  • Muscle spasms
  • Various neck injuries

A meta-analysis of several studies concluded that cervical traction is an excellent way to relieve pain in the neck. It was found to be a short-term solution, but it could prove to offer long-term gains when combined with chiropractic care.

6. Flexion-Distraction Therapy

Flexion distraction therapy applied to injured woman

Flexion-distraction therapy is another chiropractic modality that is designed to treat back and neck pain. However, it is also able to assist with associated pain in the legs and arms.

(Check out our article about synovial joints or carpel tunnel syndrome for further info about the body!)

A chiropractor will use slow manual traction in order to move around the different body parts that are affected by pain. You will lie on a special flexion distraction table that is designed to offer the chiropractor more controlled movements than a typical table.

Are these different types of motions truly effective for treating your pain? Studies show that they are more effective than active trunk exercise protocol often used by chiropractors.

In a study of 235 individuals, those who were assigned to the group receiving flexion-distraction therapy significantly reduced their pain levels compared to those who were assigned to the exercise program.

7. Activator Method

The activator method is the most common chiropractic method out there today. It’s a mechanized alternative to manual spinal adjustments. The method uses an Activator Adjusting instrument in order to provide gentle force to the spine.

It’s considered to improve traditional manual adjustments by allowing higher speeds and preventing muscle resistance.

Specifically, the Activator Adjusting instrument will relax spinal tissues without twisting or bending muscles. This makes it an ideal method for relieving back pain, neck pain and headaches, because it maximizes tissue relaxation while avoiding common tension reactions.

Other Modalities to Try

Chiropractors are often apt to offer secondary services to their clients to increase their health and overall wellbeing. While these are some of the most common chiropractic modalities, you may also encounter others.

Some of the remaining modalities include nutrition counseling, exercise plans, and other lifestyle adjustments that could reduce inflammation, improve your motion, and reduce pain levels.

Many of these modalities are offered at your local chiropractor.  I’m a chiropractor in Juneau, but be sure to do your research before you go regardless of which city or town you livein. One specific chiropractic modality may stand out to you more than another. Be sure to ask an experienced chiropractor if any of these additional services might benefit you.

About Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his bachelor of science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998. He became passionate about being in the chiropractic field after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers.

The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment.