Written by Dr. Mark
Chiropractic: a system of complimentary medicine based on the diagnosis and manipulation of misalignments of the joints, especially those of the spinal column, which are held to cause other disorders by affecting the nerves, muscles, and organs.
Chiropractic was founded in 1895 by Daniel David (D.D.) Palmer. He was a magnetic healer and was very interested in human anatomy. He hypothesized that a manual manipulation of the spine could remove pressure on a nerve allowing the body to heal itself. The first chiropractic adjustment was on Harvey Lillard. He claimed that he had been suffering from hearing loss that had started after he felt a “pop” in his spine. D.D. found this spot in his spine and adjusted it and Harvey supposedly regained his hearing.
In 1898 D.D. opened the first chiropractic school, the Palmer School of Chiropractic. His son Bartlett Joshua (B.J.) Palmer became very passionate about the profession and took over the school in 1906 and quickly grew the school and the profession. B.J. introduced the use of X-Rays for diagnosis of spinal misalignment. He also invented the neurocalometer, a temperature sensing device which used the same principle we use when we do a nervous system scan.
Since the beginning of the chiropractic profession the American Medical Association (AMA) was in opposition. In the early years it was through prosecuting chiropractors for practicing medicine without a license. This lead to separate licensing for chiropractic, starting in 1913 in Kansas, to all 50 states by 1974. When chiropractic began to grow in the early years the AMA took a stance that it was unethical for any medical doctor to associate with a chiropractor. Up until 1974, the AMA had a committee on quackery which had the purpose to challenge “unscientific” forms of healing, but it was argued this committee was formed for the sole purpose of ending chiropractic. If you have ever heard someone talk about chiropractors being quacks, it is because of the AMA’s actions during this time, and unfortunately the sentiment still lingers among some in the medical profession.
In 1976 Chester Wilk, DC and four other chiropractors sued the AMA for violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. They lost the first trial but obtained a second trial on appeal. On September 25, 1987 the judge found the AMA had violated a portion of the Sherman Antitrust Act and “it had engaged in an unlawful conspiracy in restraint of trade to contain and eliminate the chiropractic profession. The AMA had entered into a long history of illegal behavior.”
Chiropractic was founded on the knowledge of human anatomy along with faith in our innate ability to heal. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that any real scientific research was done in chiropractic. By the 1990’s there was a growing interest in studying chiropractic. Early studies focused on pain relief, therefore strong evidence currently exists for the use of chiropractic for the relief of low back and neck pain. This is the reason most current clinical guidelines, and what insurance will cover, are for pain treatment and management. There is evidence of other effects of chiropractic such as an increase in white blood cells following treatment, decrease in blood pressure, decreases in headaches/migraines along with a massive amount of clinical evidence in aiding with all types of disease.
In the last 20 years chiropractic has become much more widely accepted, specifically by medical professionals. One of my best friends from high school, Dr. Sunjay Kapoor, always thought he was going to medical school. Because of a few different circumstances it wasn’t going to work, so he asked me about chiropractic, and he and I went through chiropractic school together. Since graduating he was hired by UB Neurosurgery, as a chiropractor. He is referred patients from the surgeons in an effort to prevent the need for surgery and also treat patients post surgery. I think it’s awesome to see chiropractic used in such a way, and how accepted it is. However this acceptance is almost exclusively for its use for treating pain. This is mainly because of what I mentioned above, most scientific evidence is only for this purpose. The difficulty we face is how to scientifically prove improved function. Science prefers specific variables that are easily measured and unfortunately, we don’t have a perfect measure of health or function. So we as a profession have a lot of work to continue to grow the scientific evidence. The good news is that we have common sense. It just makes too much sense that our body cannot function optimally if we can’t properly communicate with our brain.
It will be interesting to see where our profession goes. There’s a growing number of us pushing for a more integrated model of chiropractic with traditional medicine, as pain management specialists. I’m not opposed to this, I actually like that we are getting into these types of relationships with traditional medicine, like my friend Sunjay has. Because even if he doesn’t practice corrective care, if he can prevent someone from an unnecessary surgery, or an unnecessary drug, he’s doing a lot of good, and hopefully this can bring a shift in how we view health. Along with this, the number of corrective care doctors is also growing, so we’re getting this environment of wellness based offices like ours that are really pioneering the fight for health and wellness while the others of our profession are getting themselves, and our chiropractic ideals into these large medical establishments.
The future of chiropractic is bright!