Modern chiropractic began in the late 1800s when Daniel David Palmer, a self-educated teacher and healer, performed the first spinal manipulation on a patient. Today, chiropractic is the third largest area of medicine, next only to dentistry, and is the largest Complementary and Alternative Medicine (or CAM) health profession.
The word chiropractic comes from Greek words meaning "treatment by hand", which is exactly what chiropractors do—they use their hands to manipulate the body and promote healing and wellness.
The chiropractic philosophy is based on the following belief statements:
All bodily functions are connected and the healing process involves the entire body.
A healthy nervous system, particularly the spine, is the key to a healthy body. The spinal cord carries information throughout the body and is responsible for all bodily functions including voluntary movements (such as walking) and involuntary functions (such as breathing). When the systems of the body are in balance, it is called homeostasis. Disorders of the bones, muscles, and nerves can disrupt homeostasis and increase the risk of disease and other health problems.
When body systems are in harmony, the human body has the remarkable ability to maintain health and heal itself.
Chiropractors are medical professionals who diagnose and treat disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. They use traditional diagnostic testing methods (such as x-rays, MRI, and lab work) along with specific chiropractic techniques that involve hands-on manipulation of the articulations (joints) of the body. Chiropractors also offer nutrition and healthy lifestyle counseling. Chiropractors elect not to prescribe medications, and they do not perform surgery; however, many chiropractors work closely with medical doctors and will refer a patient when necessary.
Chiropractors believe one of the main causes of pain and disease is the misalignment of the vertebrae in the spinal column (this is called a chiropractic subluxation). Through the use of manual detection (or palpation), carefully applied pressure, massage, and manual manipulation of the vertebrae and joints (called adjustments), chiropractors are able to relieve pressure and irritation on the nerves, restore joint mobility, and help return the body's homeostasis.
Some chiropractors dedicate their practices solely to locating and removing subluxations. However, most chiropractors, in addition to using manual adjustments, also offer other treatment modalities such as the following:
Electric muscle stimulation
Manipulation under anesthesia
Exercise programs and instruction
Lifestyle and nutrition counseling
In addition, many chiropractors have extensive post-graduate training and become board certified in certain areas of interest such as:
Chiropractic has come a long way since its beginnings. Today, there are over 50,000 licensed chiropractors practicing in the United States. Because of its success in treating back and neck problems and as a result of recent research and changing attitudes, chiropractic has become more accepted and is now considered by many to be a part of mainstream Western medicine. In fact, many hospitals now have chiropractors on staff, and they are a part of the Medicare/Medicaid systems. Chiropractors are currently being incorporated into the U.S. military health system. Chiropractors are also recognized by the court system as expert witnesses in their field.