Subluxation is a word covering a broad range of problems that DCs see regularly, regardless of specialty or patient population.
There are actually two definitions of subluxation, according to Medical-Dictionary.com, and both are applicable to DCs and the problems that can be treated with instrument adjusting:
- incomplete or partial dislocation.
- in chiropractic, any mechanical impediment to nerve function; originally, a vertebral displacement believed to impair nerve function.
Many DCs treat shoulder problems regularly. The shoulder is the most commonly dislocated joint, along with the fingers, and is more prone to partial dislocation, or subluxation, after being dislocated and treated.1 Thus, DCs may well see patients suffering from shoulder subluxation. Using instrument adjusting to correct shoulder subluxation may offer a gentler, less painful approach than manual manipulation.
For nerve function
The second definition of subluxation is completely familiar to any DC, and is, according to some, the foundation of the profession. Whatever your stand on subluxation theory, the fact that DCs correct “mechanical impediments” regularly cannot be argued. Sometimes, correcting mechanical impediments can best be done using tools, or instruments, designed for specific purposes.
The reasons a DC may choose to use instrument adjusting as part of a patient’s treatment plan depend entirely on the condition, the patient, and the DC. Some of the reasons that a DC may choose to use an instrument rather than perform a manual adjustment include:
- Patient frailty. Instruments are generally used to perform low-force adjustments, which may be the best choice for patients who are elderly or otherwise frail.
- Patient fear. People who are unfamiliar with chiropractic treatments or who have heard so-called horror stories about chiropractors are terribly fearful of treatment. In such cases, instrument adjusting can represent a gentle introduction to treatment.
- Patient pain. When a person is in pain, the very idea of an adjustment can be overwhelming. Instrument adjusting can be one way to help without causing additional pain.
- DC comfort. Performing manual adjustments is heavy work, so if the adjustment can be done as effectively but with less physical effort using an instrument, it may make sense to choose the instrument.
- Time constraints. Some DCs find that instrument adjustments are faster, and if time is critical for either the patient or the doctor, performing the adjustment with an instrument could be the best choice.
As is the case with every individual patient and treatment plan, the choice of manual or instrument adjustment depends on the situation. Subluxations, either of the partial dislocation or the mechanical impediment variety, can be treated successfully with instrument adjusting.
1 Mayo Clinic Staff. “Dislocation.” MayoClinic.org. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dislocation/basics/definition/con-20022264. Published January 2015. Accessed May 2015.