Are All Chiropractic Techniques Effective?

Samuel Homola, D.C.
January 31, 2005

I have been told that chiropractors use 200 different techniques and that all are effective. Is that true? If not, what constitutes an appropriate chiropractic manipulation?


The standard method of spinal manipulation consists of using the hands to loosen, stretch, or mobilize muscles and joints in areas of the back and spine. This is an appropriate method used by chiropractors, osteopaths, physiatrists, physical therapists, and other practitioners who use manual therapy. Practitioners who use manipulation appropriately use similar hands-on techniques in the involved areas to treat mechanical problems.

Chiropractors who “adjust” the spine to remove what they call “nerve interference” caused by “subluxations,” may use a great variety of techniques, some of which do not involve hands-on manipulation. For example:

  • “Activator Technique” utilizes a spring-loaded stylus to tap “subluxated vertebrae” back into alignment.
  • Cranial therapists claim that the bones of the skull can misalign and cause problems by blocking the flow of cerebrospinal fluid.
  • Some chiropractors adjust only the upper cervical spine, where they feel that most “nerve interference” occurs.
  • Some chiropractors use the “Meric System,” which involves adjusting specific vertebra for each ailment.
  • And so on.

Chiropractors who adjust the spine to correct “subluxations” to remove “nerve interference” that they believe is causing a health problem base their treatment on an implausible theory that integrates implausible diagnostic methods such as muscle-testing (Applied Kinesiology) or Contact Reflex Analysis to locate alleged “subluxations.” The diagnosis and treatment of nonexistent lesions is closely associated with unethical entrepreneurial practices.

The bottom line is that I personally recommend hands-on spinal manipulation for treating carefully-selected mechanical-type back and neck problems. I do not recommend any technique said to restore or maintain health by adjusting “subluxations” to remove “nerve interference.”


Dr. Homola is a second-generation chiropractor who has dedicated himself to defining the proper limits on chiropractic and to educating consumers and professionals about the field. His 1963 book Bonesetting, Chiropractic, and Cultism supported the appropriate use of spinal manipulation but renounced chiropractic dogma. His 1999 book Inside Chiropractic: A Patient’s Guide provides an incisive look at chiropractic’s history, benefits, and shortcomings. Now retired after 43 years of practice, he lives in Panama City, Florida.

This article was posted on January 31, 2005.