Origins of Chiropractic

Massage and ‘bone-setting’ have been used throughout the ages as a type of folk medicine, even dating back to ancient Egyptians. Daniel D. Palmer, however, founded Chiropractic in 1895 in Davenport, Iowa (US) and he describes how he ‘popped bones back into place’, creating a cracking sound and releasing pressure on the nerves that could be causing pain in other areas of the body. Chiropractic means ‘hands-on’ or ‘by hand’ in Greek, from cheiro “hand” and praktikos “practical”.

The discipline has grown in the the 20th century to become the 3rd largest medical profession in the world after medicine and dentistry. Chiropractic treatment is based on improving quality of life without drugs or surgery, promoting vitality, wellness, patient performance and empowerment. It should be remembered that when Chiropractic was founded there was a general dissatisfaction in the medical service; doctors were often poorly trained and patients were looking for a more natural approach to health.

Chiropractic Philosophy

‘Health occurs when the spine, joints and nervous system are working properly’

Chiropractic’s roots are based on healing naturally without drugs and helping conditions to settle without surgery, injections and other medical intervention where possible. It based on the premise that the body has an “innate intelligence” to heal itself when the nervous system is working well, which occurs when the spine or vertebral column and joints are working healthily. When the spine is misaligned, ‘subluxations’ can occur that upset the nervous system and can lead to ill-health. By correcting spinal misalignments with specific chiropractic adjustments, the spine is balanced and the nervous system flows and works correctly, allowing the body’s self-repair mechanisms to restore full health.

The philosophy of Daniel Palmer, Chiropractic founder

  • Your body has an ‘innate intelligence’ to heal itself
    Daniel Palmer described this innate intelligence as is the natural self-repair mechanisms that know how to fight disease, repair cuts and broken bones, eliminated toxins, fight infection and so on. Sometimes things go awry when these self-repair mechanisms fail and disease or pain can arise, and then the body needs a helping hand restore balance and restart the self-repair mechanisms.
  • The ability for the body to heal itself depends on a healthy nervous system
    The brain and nervous system control the body’s functions by sending and receiving constant messages to all the organs, muscles, tissues and cells in the body. When the parasympathetic nervous system is in a balanced state it creates a relaxation response which allows the natural self-repair mechanisms to work.
  • The nervous system connects the mind and body.
    Some refer to this as the “master control system.” In Alexander Technique it is called the Primary Control, when the body works as an integrated system with all the individual parts in balance. The mind and body are connected via the spine and nervous system which is fundamental to our health and wellbeing.
  • A healthy spine means a healthy nervous system
    Our spines or vertebral columns house and support and protect the spinal cord and branching nerves, but also allow for tremendous protection and flexibility, so when the joints in the spine are moving healthily and in correct alignment your body functions as it was designed.
  • A misaligned spine is called a subluxation and can lead to ill-health
    Palmer discovered that the bones in the spine (intervertebral joints) can misalign, and he called these ‘vertebral subluxations,’ from the term subluxation that means a minor luxation or dislocation. He believed these subluxations lessen the body’s ability to function and heal itself as a pressure on the cord and spinal nerves, however small, can interrupt and prevent clear nervous system communication. Spinal nerves need to be only slightly pressured in order to cause not just back pain, but pain radiating down the arm or leg and that also the viscera or internal organs can be affected by toxic nerve stimuli from the site of the spinal dysfunction. As Chiropractic has evolved we understand that it is blockages in spinal movement that are important, rather than just the concept of a joint ‘out of place’, and the subluxation complex includes additional anatomical, physiological, biomechanical, chemical and factors.
  • Subluxations may give no pain but can cause disease over time
    Chiropractors believe that subluxations can subtly weaken or misalign the body and cause problems to arise over a period of time, or seemingly for no reason, which accounts for the majority of patients saying “I don’t know what caused my problem, it just came on”.
  • Restoring the spine to optimal alignment helps the body restore optimal health.
    Palmer believed that a safe correction of the spinal subluxation, called a chiropractic adjustment, allows your body to heal faster and can even prevent disease. He believed that a chiropractic adjustment must be highly specific to move the vertebra from being ‘out-of-place’ back to alignment. Modern thinking is that a spinal adjustment restores movement to a joint, releasing the surrounding muscle spasm and pain, allowing the spine to re-align naturally.

In conclusion…

My own philosophy on Chiropractic, health and treatment is that nature knows best. Sometimes, however, nature needs a helping hand, and treatment is best given in a gentle, non-invasive and safe way with minimal risks. Further medical intervention with injections, medication or surgery should be saved for when non-invasive treatments are either not working or are not indicated, for example with a severe injury.

Jeremy English