Chiropractic is an alternative health care method developed in 1895 by David Daniel Palmer of Davenport, Iowa. Chiropractic care consists mainly of manipulation of the spine to effect correct alignment, though some practitioners include other types of treatment. Chiropractic is much safer than most traditional medical treatments and has been shown to be effective for a number of conditions, but it has also met with skepticism and condemnation by the medical profession, with some claiming it is unscientific and carries no real health benefits. Today, chiropractors are licensed in every state in the United States, and the profession is practiced in more than 100 countries.
The basic premise behind chiropractic is that the misalignment of spinal joints, termed vertebral subluxation, places pressure on nerves and can cause a multitude of ailments throughout the body. Realigning the spine can help one to heal from such ailments and promote general wellbeing. A small group of chiropractors today, known as the Reform school, do not accept the idea of vertebral subluxation and simply use chiropractic to treat musculoskeletal problems.
Over the years, chiropractic has struggled for acceptance as a valid health care profession. One of the problems with the validity of chiropractic arose in its early years, when D.D. Palmer and his son, B.J., held that vertebral subluxations caused illness by blocking the flow of what they called innate intelligence throughout the body. Though most chiropractors today do not subscribe to the idea of innate intelligence, or rather explain it as the normal functioning and self-healing power of the body, rather than anything metaphysical, the idea has made it difficult for some to accept chiropractic at all.
Another problem with chiropractic is that the nature of the treatment makes it difficult to evaluate through traditional methods. Because the doctor uses his or her hands or other methods to manipulate the patient's body, double blind studies such as those used in drug trials are not possible. Today, chiropractic is often used in conjunction with more traditional medical care or specifically to treat musculoskeletal problems. Though chiropractors must complete six to eight years of higher education to be licensed in the United States and are designated as doctors, chiropractic is often not covered under insurance plans.
Chiropractic has a number of benefits over traditional health care treatments. It is noninvasive and does not use drugs, making it safer than other treatments. Chiropractic stresses prevention and wellness, while traditional medicine in the United States has historically focused more on curing illness. Chiropractic also seeks to eliminate the cause of health problems rather than simply treating symptoms. Though chiropractic has not been definitively proven effective, there is extensive anecdotal evidence in its favor and negligible side effects to fear, especially when compared to traditional medicine. The American Medical Association (AMA) issued a statement in 1997 in favor of the use of chiropractic for musculoskeletal complaints.