History of Chiropractic Care

Although most patients may only think of chiropractic care in terms of whether or not it can help alleviate pain, the truth is that chiropractic adjustments have a very long and colorful history above and beyond how it can help heal the human body. In fact, chiropractic’s history could read very much like a psychological thriller novel, complete with underground activities, the risk of jail time, taking on those who controlled the system of medicine, and at least one death under mysterious circumstances.

The Early Roots of Chiropractic Care

Chinese and Greek medical texts dating as far back as 2700 BC and 1500 BC make reference to the use of spinal and lower extremity manipulation to treat back pain. The Greek physician Hippocrates (and originator of the Hippocratic Oath all physicians must take) also discussed the importance of the spine in holding the key to understanding many diseases. In fact, the actual word chiropractic comes from ancient Greek: Cheir (hand) and praktikos (practical). In essence, chiropractic means “to do by hand.”

Origin of the Chiropractic Specialty

The actual beginnings of chiropractics as a medical specialty took place in the late 19th century in Davenport, Iowa. D.D. Palmer founded the Palmer School of Chiropractic in 1897, which still stands today as one of the leading schools for the specialty. D.D. Palmer believed that proper spinal health and positioning could ward off an entire host of illnesses. He performed the first chiropractic adjustment on a deaf man, who reported regaining some of his hearing following the treatment.

Due to legal maneuverings on the part of not only the American Medical Association (AMA), but the growing osteopathy medical specialty, many chiropractors, including Palmer, were jailed for “practicing medicine without a license.” The AMA insisted that chiropractics was distinct from medicine and did not actually treat any conditions. For his part, Palmer maintained that chiropractic care should not require the same license as medicine or osteopathy, as it used different techniques from those specialties.

In 1906, D.D. Palmer’s son, B.J. took over Palmer School and worked to expand the profession by forming the first chiropractic association, designed to help cover legal costs for chiropractors who were jailed. His father tried unsuccessfully to regain control of the school. In 1913, during a homecoming parade at Palmer College, D.D. Palmer was run over by his son, who was driving a car towing a parade float. He died shortly thereafter in the hospital, ostensibly from pneumonia. There remains some controversy as to whether he tripped and fell underneath the wheel of the car, or was purposefully driven over.

The Mid-20th Century

The AMA continued its relentless campaign against chiropractics, referring to chiropractic care as an “unscientific cult” in 1966 and stating in 1980 that it was unethical for MDs to professionally associate with chiropractors. In a landmark 1987 case, the AMA was charged with an unlawful conspiracy to restrict the trade of chiropractors by attempting to “contain and eliminate” chiropractics as a professional medical field. By the mid-1980s, serious scientific research into the benefits of chiropractic care began to be published.

Nowadays, the chiropractic field enjoys the benefit of being covered by many health insurance plans, as well as by Medicare. It is not uncommon to see MDs working side by side with chiropractors. This is a far cry from the early days when chiropractic care was dismissed as little more than snake oil or quackery.

To schedule a chiropractic adjustment appointment, contact Horst Chiropractic.

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