What Is Chiropractic?
Chiropractic is most often used to treat musculoskeletal conditions, problems with the:
The word "chiropractic" combines the Greek words cheir (hand) and praxis (action) and means "done by hand." Chiropractic is an alternative medical system and takes a different approach from conventional medicine in diagnosing, classifying, and treating medical problems.
Doctors of chiropractic, who are also called chiropractors or chiropractic physicians, use a type of hands-on therapy called manipulation (or adjustment) as their core clinical procedure. Manipulation is passive joint movement beyond the normal range of motion. The term adjustment is preferred in chiropractic.
The basic concepts of chiropractic can be described as:
What is Conventional Medicine?
Conventional medicine is medicine as practiced by holders of degrees and other allied health professionals such as:
- M.D. (Doctor of Medicine)
- D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, a form of conventional medicine, also known as osteopathy)
- physical therapists
- registered nurses
- allopathy medicine
- Western medicine
- mainstream medicine
- orthodox medicine
- regular medicine
What Is Complementary And Alternative Medicine (CAM)?
Health care practices and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine are called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
For more information see the NCCAM fact sheet "What Is Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)?"
What Is The History Of Chiropractic?
Chiropractic is a form of spinal manipulation, which is one of the oldest healing practices. Spinal manipulation was described by Hippocrates in ancient Greece.
In 1895, Daniel David Palmer founded the modern profession of chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. Palmer was a self-taught healer and a student of healing philosophies of the day. He observed that the body has a natural healing ability that he believed was controlled by the nervous system. He also believed that subluxations, or misalignments of the spine (a concept that had already existed in the bonesetter and osteopathic traditions), interrupt or interfere with this "nerve flow." Palmer suggested that if an organ does not receive its normal supply of impulses from the nerves, it can become diseased. This line of thinking led him to develop a procedure to "adjust" the vertebrae, the bones of the spinal column, with the goal of correcting subluxations.
There are differences in beliefs and approaches within the chiropractic profession. Some chiropractors continue to view subluxation as central to chiropractic health care. However, other chiropractors no longer view the subluxation theory as a unifying theme in health and illness or as a basis for their practice. Other theories as to how chiropractic might work have been developed.
Who Uses Chiropractic And For What Health Problems?
In 1997, it was estimated that Americans made nearly 192 million visits a year to chiropractors. Over 88 million of those visits were to treat back or neck pain. In one recent survey, more than 40 percent of patients receiving chiropractic care were being treated for back or low-back problems. More than half of those surveyed said that their symptoms were chronic. Conditions commonly treated by chiropractors include:
Patients also seek treatment of pain associated with other conditions, such as: arthritis.
Low-back pain is a common medical problem, occurring in up to one-quarter of the population each year. Most people experience significant back pain at least once during their lifetime.
Several recent reviews on low-back pain have noted that in most cases acute low-back pain gets better in several weeks, no matter what treatment is used. Often, the cause of back pain is unknown, and it varies greatly in terms of how people experience it and how professionals diagnose it. This makes back pain challenging to study.