What Are “Low-Force Techniques” and When Are They Appropriate? 

 January 31, 2013

By  Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

CMechanicsville Virginia Chiropractor – Need help with your low back pain?  Neck Pain?  Are you nervous about the “popping and cracking” you hear about related to chiropractic care?

Most chiropractic adjustments are done using the “high velocity, low amplitude” (HVLA) approach, which consists of quick, short movements (which may cause audible noises of popping) to bring the spinal column back into alignment.  These are very safe and effective.  However, there are times when other methods may be more appropriate for health reasons or patient preference.

Patients who have suffered recent trauma and elderly patients are two common examples.  So are young children and those who are new to chiropractic treatment.  Whenever a patient’s body may be fragile or a patient is particularly nervous about receiving a chiropractic adjustment, low-force techniques reduce the likelihood of accidental injury and may make treatment (subluxation correction) more effective by minimizing the defensive tensing of muscles.

Palpation is a technique which uses the hands to assess the degree of tension and range of motion in a patient.  In many cases, the chiropractor will take the joint to the furthest end of movement but by then it may already be causing pain.  Chiropractors practicing low-force palpations feel for the first barrier to movement and stop there, which is gentler for the patient.

Similar to low-force palpation, low-force adjusting begins slowly in order to find the minimum force needed to make the desired adjustment rather than immediately using full force.  Low force adjustments do not give the same “buzz” to patients as HVLA techniques (which often cause neural receptors in the joint to fire), but this is not always a bad thing.  This is especially true for those who are especially sensitive or already in a state of nervous tension or excitement.  Many upper cervical techniques fall into this category.  Orthospin0logy, which we do at Stover Chiropractic, is one of these low force techniques.

Low-force techniques also include soft tissue methods such as post-isometric relaxation, which involves gently contracting a target muscle for a short time (5-10 seconds) while the patient resists it.  Following the resisted contraction there is a 10-15 second period in which contraction is “switched-off” and the muscle can be manually lengthened with little resistance.  Myofascial release is another low-force technique that is routinely used by chiropractors and other manual therapists to passively relax and lengthen muscle tissue through palpation and massage.  Trigger point therapy, which focuses on identifying and stimulating specific points of muscular tightness to produce a relaxation response and release of tension, is also low in force but still very effective.

Although low-force techniques are particularly appropriate for patients who have recently experienced trauma and for patients who are especially sensitive, nervous or excited, there also may be other times when they are preferable to HVLA adjustments and other full-force techniques.  If you’re wondering whether chiropractic care may be right for you or have questions about our approach to care, please call or visit our office.  We’ll be happy to help!

I’ve got your back,Logo

Dr. Tripp Stover

Stover Chiropractic, P.C. –  Real. Simple. Healthcare.






We are located at 9097 Atlee Station Road in Mechanicsville, Virginia, 23111.  This is a Hanover county address, but we are minutes from Glenn Allen, Innsbrook, Sandston, and Varina.  We also serve many people from King William and New Kent Counties.  Our close proximity to I295 means we are very easy to reach from anywhere in the Richmond Metro area.  Contact us: 804-559-1100

Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

Dr. Stover grew up in Richmond. He has been married to his wife Andrea since 2000 and they make their home in Mechanicsville with their children, Avery and Garnett.

Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

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