The effectiveness of manual adjustments cannot be denied. There is certainly something to be said for a hands-on approach, and there are valid reasons to continue predominantly using manual adjustments. However, there are several compelling reasons to make use of an instrument when adjusting the spine: the comfort of the patient, frailty, and precision.
The most frequently cited reason for using instrument adjusting is that it eases patient stress. Instrument adjusting removes
some of the reasons patients experience fear. While reducing patient stress is important, instrument adjusting also allows for
a greater level of control and precision for DCs. Adjustments can be made to specific joints of the spine, and with a high degree of control, especially when using computer-assisted instruments.
Elderly patients, children, and people who have prior conditions or complications benefit from instrument adjustments to the
spine. Traditional manual adjustments, which require a considerable amount of force, may be dangerous for patients with
particularly fragile bones, such as those with conditions like osteoporosis or those who have undergone chemotherapy.
Instrument adjusting works, in part, because the thrust is delivered faster than the human body can react. When a manual
adjustment is performed, more force is required because the muscles will contract. With an instrument, the muscles don’t
have time to contract so less force is required. Less force means less risk of injury for patients who may be at a higher
risk. Different types of instruments are available and the best one to use depends on the needs of the practitioner and the
Instrument adjusting allows for greater precision. The earliest chiropractic adjusting instruments provided an increased ability for the practitioner to adjust within a very specific area, and as technology advances, instruments are becoming evermore precise. The availability of different types of instruments means that there are various levels of precision.
Traditional, hands-on manipulations are effective but not necessarily precise. Mechanical instruments, that are spring-loaded,
offer more precision and have several benefits:
they are generally inexpensive, easily available, and simple to use. More complex, computer-assisted instruments provide even more precise adjustments but also require a greater investment and more training.
Computer-assisted instruments allow DCs to actually measure, very precisely how much movement occurs during an adjustment. The force, velocity, and pulsation of the instrument can be controlled in order to provide the most precise adjustment possible. Patients who have multiple issues, who have been injured, or who suffer from other
complications may need such exact adjustments.
DCs who see a large number of patients with special conditions, or who prefer the greatest level of control and precision may find computer-assisted instruments meet their needs. As instrument adjustments continue to grow in popularity — with both practitioners and patients — and technology continues to advance, learning how different types of instruments work and what their potential benefits to patients may be can is a useful investment of time and effort for any chiropractor.