The History of Chiropractic Care and Treatment

The historic roots and the very foundation of chiropractic care reach back to the very beginning of when man started to record time and the passing of the years. Writings from China and Greece that have been dated back to 2700 B.C. and 1500 B.C. make mention of and comment on the process and idea of spinal manipulation and the moving of the arms and legs as a way to reduce and cure low back pain. Hippocrates, the famed Greek physician, wrote many famous medical documents and sketched many drawings between 460 to 357 B.C. and a great deal of them made mention of the importance of chiropractic care and its benefits for the human body. In one document, Hippocrates stated "Get knowledge of the spine, for this is the requisite for many diseases." Since that time, mankind has been fascinated and mystified by the spine and the impact is has on the entire body.

Initial Resistance in the Medical Community

As human nature seems to be controlled by one truth- fear and resist what you do not understand- the initial reaction to many chiropractic ideas was not the greatest. The medical community was not receptive to the idea of spinal care at first and it did not immediately take kindly to some of the idea that common ailments could be cured by working on the neck and back. Many found the idea to be too similar to notions of magic, witchcraft, and just plain absurd in light of the medical knowledge of the early 19th century. Chiropractic care was seen more as old wives tales, legend, and old school medicine whereas the modern conventions were the ones people seemed more likely to embrace since they were founded and based in current research and studies. It really was not until the early 20th century and well into the 21st century that chiropractic care really began to get the attention and respect that it deserved.

American Chiropractic History in the 20th and 21st Century

It was not until mid 1895, that D.D. Palmer started to bring chiropractic care into the limelight once again. With a background in medicine, specifically magnetic based healing and care, D.D. Palmer reported that he had partially restored a man's hearing after giving him a spinal adjustment. This of course was met with great controversy and backlash, but despite this, he founded the Palmer School of Chiropractic just two years later (and it is still around today). The school was created in order to teach students the basic chiropractic principles that Palmer adhered to and to train them in his practice of chiropractic manipulation. It was Palmer's son Bartlett Joshua (B.J.) who would further developed the ideas and concepts of chiropractic theory that went on to promote it during the early 20th century. B.J. Palmer did not just provide new studies and research and he did more than simply expand on the training principles in chiropractic care, but he also greatly aided in the education of the general public as well as the medical community. Until the work B.J. Palmer did, even in the medical community the concept of chiropractic was largely unheard of in serious discussions.

During this time, the ideas and concepts behind spinal manipulation were perfected and over time, the medical community as well as the general public slowly began to warm up to the idea and practice of chiropractic applications. Once it began to take root, the ideas and concepts the Palmer family embraced were largely accepted by the late 20th century, and today it is one of the most popular and accessible aspects of spinal health care. A wide range of mental, physical, and emotional disorders are treated, at least in part, by applying the standard chiropractic care and treatments- a far cry from where it was a few hundred years ago.

Through much of the twentieth century, doctors who studied and practised the intricacies of chiropractic earned recognition, though until the start of the twentieth century many chiropractors ended up serving small jail sentences for practising without licenses. By the early twentieth century, chiropractors gained legal recognition in all fifty states. Chiropractic News of New Zealand published a study in 1979 that strongly substantiated the effectiveness of many of the basic chiropractic care treatments and methods, and the study eventually evoked wider acceptance of chiropractic and medical cooperation and care. In 1993, a widely renowned and respected group published research known as the Manga Study in Canada; the study investigated the cost effectiveness of chiropractic care and the benefits gained from chiropractic care compared to more traditional methods of treatment and care. The results of this study showed that hundreds of millions of dollars annually could be saved by using chiropractic care, especially in areas related to long term care, injury recovery, and workplace injury.

Doctors of the chiropractic arts are the one who fought on the front lines for changes in the way we look at, think about, and treat disorders. They are the pioneers in a field of medicine and health care that focuses on non-invasive care promoting science-based approaches to a variety of ailments. A continuing dedication to chiropractic research hold the promise of even more discoveries in terms of treatment and cures for a wide range of problems and disorders.

Straights, Mixers, and Reformers

Since the beginning of its rise in popularity, chiropractic practice and theory has seen many internal schisms and theories come and go and develop. Today there are plenty of differences between the many individual chiropractors that are out there as each has his or her own unique approach and focus, but almost all of them can be placed within one of three basic types: Straight, Mixers, and Reformers.

Straight chiropractors often times see themselves as the only true chiropractors because they hold to the pure core tenants of chiropractic care and they limit their practice to the identification and treatment of spinal disorders. They adhere strictly to Palmer’s concepts and hold to the core truth that all ailments can be treated by restoring the spine to its natural healthy state. Often referred to as an innate intelligence, once the balance in the body is restored, straight chiropractors believe it has unlimited power to repair and heal the body naturally. Straight chiropractors generally hold a very extreme  stance with their anti-scientific views and their stance on a purely natural approach to healing. They openly shun the scientific basis for health care, often calling it apathetic, mechanical, and non personal. They see many of the medical community and big physicians as drug pushers and try to avoid the option of surgery if at all possible. They oppose medical interference such as vaccinations and pills and opt for a more holistic and organic approach that uses only spinal manipulation. They also openly advocate using chiropractic as a replacement for commercialized primary health care options.

Mixers, when it comes to the chiropractic community, usually end up comprising the largest portion of modern chiropractors. They are often seen by those who are new to the idea of chiropractic care as being the more logical and rational and many of the tenants they hold to combine scientific and natural methods. They accept the proven fact that some disease is the result infection or other causes and they have tailored their practice to target other treatments aside from pure chiropractic adjustments and spinal manipulation. Most chiropractors in this group will not replace Palmer's theory with a purely scientific approach to chiropractic medicine, but rather they have an eclectic array of pseudoscientific options, treatments, practices and methods that they will use. Mixers will prescribe homeopathic and herbal remedies, and they also embrace other non-professional medical practices in order to compliment the spinal insinuations and adjustments. They will often use acupuncture, massage, iridology, contour analysis, and other nature-based approaches to treatment that fall outside the scope of the straight chiropractors. They are often referred to as alternative treatment practitioners.

Occasionally chiropractic reformers will come along with a new idea, theory, or area of focus that requires a new definition and new approach to chiropractic treatments. These individuals have long been part of the spinal treatment family and they have attempted to forge new professions within the rather general umbrella of chiropractics. Practitioners who focus on food, head, physiological, rehabilitation, biological, or any area outside of the spine itself can often be considered part of the reformers. This goes a long way in explaining why there is such a wide range of theories and practices that still carry the title chiropractor, even if they are not solely focused on the spine – because it is part of the recognized licensed profession and has its roots in the spinal manipulation theories. To further complicate things, the idea and practice of spinal manipulation is not purely limited to the chiropractic profession. Many medical professionals practice spinal manipulation, and not all spinal manipulation is true chiropractic manipulation. Some behaviourist, sports doctors, podiatrists, therapists, and paediatricians legitimately used manipulative therapy in order to ease muscle strain, reduce inflammation and pain, mobilize joints, strengthen muscles, improve nerve reactions, and improve overall body function. Chiropractors do this as well and have made it their speciality. This is why it is difficult for the general public to differentiate between general spinal manipulation and treatments and true chiropractic care and treatments.

Today, it is estimated that in the United States alone there are more than 60,000 active chiropractic licenses. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands legally see chiropractic care as a true health care profession. Many other countries also follow suite: Canada, Australia, Japan, Great Britain, Mexico, and Switzerland.



Please, see the attached Printable and Downloadable .pdf for sources used.

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Page Last Updated: November 7, 2016

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