Chiropractic care is surrounded by the stigma of being a pseudoscience. Its growing popularity is slowly showing that patients feel the beneficial results from the care and the doubt around the practice is fading. Even with the steadily growing job market and the increase in patients, the alternative medical therapy has had problems establishing itself as a legitimate form of practice since it began. The history of chiropractic medicine can provide more information as to what the therapy entails.

Daniel David Palmer started the practice in 1895 in the state of Iowa.
• He opened an office for magnetic healing in 1886 but did not perform adjustments until 1895, which is when the modern form of the therapy began. The first chiropractic adjustment was on Harvey Lillard who explained to Palmer that he had been working in a confined space seventeen years prior and had felt a pop in his back that had rendered him nearly deaf ever since. Palmer found a tender lump on Lillard’s back through examination, which indicated spinal misalignment and perhaps the cause of the deafness. After correcting the misalignment Lillard stated he could hear the wheels of the horse carts from inside the office. However, the story may be exaggerated because Lillard’s daughter said that the correction happened on accident when Palmer hit Lillard in the back with a book. Either way Palmer continued to help people by correcting misalignment since this first case.

After a few more cases Palmer, with the help of a patient and friend Rev. Samuel Weed combined the phrase ‘cheiros praktikos’ (which means “done by hand”) to create the therapy’s name chiropractic. Palmer described the practice in terms that were very similar to osteopathy. He described the human body as a type of machine that could be manipulated to produce a natural and drugless cure. Palmer also concluded that the therapy could affect a humans’ blood and nerves in ways that promote health. Palmer added a school to his magnetic healing practice and began teaching people the method in 1896, thus creating the first school of chiropractic medicine.

Another doctor took chiropractics on a different route with the care.
• Dr. Solon Langworthy narrowed the practice to treatment of just the spine and nervous systems and left blood work for osteopath doctors. He improved classrooms and provided a curriculum of study centered on science. Langworthy coined the word subluxation. This term is used to describe a spinal joint not moving in its normal rotation. He pushed the therapy as legitimate and opened the second college in 1903. Langworthy combined the care with natural healing, which developed into naturopathic cures and osteopathy. The combination was the beginning steps in explaining many ailments and back pain as a result of a misaligned spine and an unhealthy nervous system. Essentially, Langworthy made the practice scientific.

The battle over legitimizing the medicine and establishing it as a licensed profession got Palmer arrested on several occasions for practicing medicine without a license. As a result he had to turn over his practice to his son B.J. Palmer in 1906. B.J. Palmer took the school, promoted medical professionalism and instituted formal training. He expanded enrollment to over 1,000 students by the 1920s.

In the first 30 years of the practice there were only 12,000 practicing chiropractors with more than 15,000 prosecutions for practicing without a license. In the 1930s the Universal Chiropractic Association and the American Chiropractic Association joined to create the National Chiropractic Association. The NCA developed a committee to standardize education. Committee member John J. Nugent is accredited with developing new standards of the practice, which state laws regulating the practice today can be traced back to.

Since the early struggles with establishing the care as a legitimate practice different medical groups have tried to eliminate the therapy by reducing it to quackery. In the 1960s chiropractors narrowed the practice to focus only on the musculoskeletal condition and spinal manipulation to help patients. In the 1970s research to test the theories began. In 1978, the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics was started, and in1981 the journal was put into the National Library of Medicine index. The birth of chiropractic medicine as a science began in 1983 after the journal gained recognition and holistic healing training became available.

Today controversy and debate still surrounds the practice. However, with the field’s standard guidelines for medical practice the therapy is increasing in quality and legitimacy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the growth of the practice and natural healing training options to increase by 20 percent by 2018, which shows the gaining strength the therapy has. Consumer demand today is giving a place for the practice inside the medical industry despite protest from some medical professionals.

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