The Art of Spinal Manipulation: The History of Chiropractic Care in the U.S.

The Art of Spinal Manipulation: The History of Chiropractic Care in the U.S.

Whether it’s achy, dull, stabbing, or sharp, body pains can make it hard to focus on everyday tasks. Many occupations, such as factory work, construction, and even routine office work, can sustain significant demands on the back and extremities. To lessen the pain and discomfort, most people find remedies by going to a massage parlor, applying relief patches, and taking painkillers.

But among the back pain reliefs mentioned, most people choose chiropractic treatment. Chiropractic therapy is one of the largest alternative medical professions and an essential component of the U.S. healthcare system. According to WebMD, around 22 million Americans are consulting a chiropractor every year. Many of these patients suffer from back pain because of various causes, such as accidents, muscle strains, and sports injuries.

Chiropractic involves the proper aligning of a body’s musculoskeletal structure through hands-on spinal manipulation and other alternative relief treatments. To better understand chiropractic as a medical practice, we will examine its long history that started in the late 1800s. Keep reading as we unravel the wonders of chiropractic as a form of therapeutic treatment.

Early Discovery

Manipulation of the spine has been done many times in the ancient years, with the earliest references in Buddhist temples over 2000 years ago. Even the famous Greek physician Hippocrates used the same method by manually manipulating a patient’s spine to ease their conditions. In the 16th century, the practice became popular among families known as bone-setters who teach their trade to the succeeding generations through apprenticeships.

But despite its long history, the initial use of modern spinal manipulation marked its beginnings during the late 1800s. A prolific individual of all things scientific, Daniel David Palmer, a healer and self-educated teacher, realized that although spinal manipulation has been used for many years, no one had attempted to make a scientific or philosophical rationale to discuss its effects.

From there, Palmer made his significant contribution to the medical field by introducing the science and philosophy of chiropractic. Palmer studied the practice based on his extensive study of physiology and anatomy.

The Development of Chiropractic Care

The initial chiropractic treatment took place in September 1895 after Palmer performed a spinal manipulation on Harvey Lillard, a deaf janitor working in Palmer’s building. Lillard lost his hearing 17 years ago after he felt a “pop” in his upper back when he was bending. Palmer examined his spine area and found that it was a displaced vertebra in the spine. He performed a crude adjustment that changed the position of his spine, which surprisingly improved his hearing.

Eventually, Palmer discovered that adjusting a patient’s spine can relieve them from pain and other symptoms. He began to apply “hand treatments” to treat various ailments, such as epilepsy, sciatica, stomach complaints, heart trouble, and migraine headaches. These issues related to the vertebrae developed a new term called chiropractic subluxations.

Although Palmer was not the first one to use the manipulation method, he introduced the term “chiropractic” using the Greek words cheir, meaning “hand” and praktos, meaning “done.” The direct translation of the term is “done by hand” that appropriately defines the method applied.

Two years after his first spinal adjustment, Palmer continued to develop the art of chiropractic. By 1897, he founded the Palmer School of Cure, currently known as the Palmer College of Chiropractic located in Iowa. Since then, people became interested in Palmer’s healing alternative, leading to many students. Among them were his son, Barlett Joshua, and the older members of the healing arts of medicine and osteopathy.

Unfortunately, the medical community did not wholly embrace Palmer’s techniques and chiropractic theories. In fact, the succeeding years brought a great deal of tension between practitioners of conventional allopathic medicine and Palmer’s chiropractic treatments.

Amidst its criticisms, chiropractic care received its first licensing law in 1913, allowing chiropractors to use their treatments under professional regulation. But in places without such regulation, chiropractors are fined or sent to prison for any illegal practice without a license.

In the beginning, many chiropractors opposed the medical statuses as they regard it as a violation of their rights and obligations to treat their patients. That is why it is not uncommon for the jailing and fining of chiropractors until the 1960s.

Chiropractic Today

Today, there are more than 70,000 licensed chiropractors in the U.S. These include the 50 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia that officially recognized chiropractic as a healthcare profession.

In many hospitals, doctors often combine medicine and chiropractic care to recommend a treatment course of spinal adjustments if a patient is suffering from musculoskeletal issues. The practice offers treatment for various problems such as headaches, slipped discs, and back and neck pain.

Along with its North American roots, chiropractic continues to gain worldwide acceptance in medical, patient, and legal communities through its record of ongoing research and beneficial results.

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