Introducing the Thompson Technique

Celebrating 125 Years of Chiropractic

This year marks the 125th anniversary of chiropractic medicine. During each month of the year, we will focus on a specific achievement or innovation in chiropractic history. For last month’s post, we covered 1940–1950 and trigger points. This month, we will explore the Thompson Technique and the creation of the first chiropractic “drop” table. 

Who Is J. Clay Thompson?

Dr. J. Clay Thompson was a chiropractor and former student at the Palmer College of Chiropractic. During his time at Palmer, he was adjusting patients with a used table that had a broken headpiece.1 When Thompson made adjustments, the headpiece would “drop” a few inches. Oddly enough, when Thompson finally replaced the used table with a new one, his patients had complaints about the adjustments, explaining to him that they liked the ones they received on the used table with the broken headpiece.1 

Little did Thompson realize at the time, but this “drop” would inspire the creation of his patented table with multiple drop points. 

The Thompson Table with Drop Points

The first patented chiropractic table was created in 1910, and it wasn’t until 1957 when Thompson patented his idea for the drop table that chiropractic tables began to improve in design.2 In 1957, he developed the Thompson Drop Table, which featured multiple drop points in the dorsal area, lumbar region, and pelvic area.2 During adjustments, the specific drop point being utilized would drop 1–2 inches while the chiropractor “administered a high-velocity, low-impact thrust” to the subluxation.3 

Today, there are three common types of drop tables including segmental drop tables, air-powered drop tables, and stationary drop tables. 

The Thompson Technique

With the development of Thompson’s table came the formation of the Thompson Technique. This chiropractic technique is used in conjunction with a drop table. When using the Thompson Technique, chiropractors must use the Derifield Leg Check, which was adapted by fellow chiropractor Dr. Romer Derifield.4  The Derifield Leg Check uses leg lengths to determine subluxations. According to the Chiropractic Economics article “Drop tables make sense,” there are five categories that are used to help identify where a problem exists. Those five categories are Cervical Syndrome, Positive Derefield, Negative Derefield, Bilateral Cervical Syndrome, and X-Derefield.

In summary, the purpose of the Thompson Technique is to first determine where the subluxations exist, followed by the use of a table with drop points to correct the subluxations. What started as chiropractic adjustments with a used table and a broken headpiece, turned into a technique that is still widely used by chiropractors today.

Looking Ahead

As we continue our look at chiropractic technology and innovations through the decades, next month we will focus on the Activator Method Technique and Laser Therapy.

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1Duck, Julie. “Drop Tables Make Sense.” Chiropractic Economics, 14 Oct. 2009,

2DeBusk, Christina. “A History of Chiropractic Tables: From Wooden Benches to Art.” Chiropractic Economics, 19 Dec. 2018,

3“Riverdale Chiropractor: Thompson Terminal Point Technique.” Statera Chiropractic, 6 Mar. 2018,

4Cooperstein, R. “LibGuides: Thompson Technique: Home.” Home – Thompson Technique – LibGuides at Logan University Library, 2004,

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