At once balancing between alternative and traditional modes of medicine, chiropractic care has long been used in many cultures to restore health and prevent disease. The history of chiropractic medicine itself is a long one, with one of the first mentions of its use in Greek texts from Hippocrates, the physician credited with developing the Hippocratic Oath.

A prominent 16th century French physician, Ambroise Pare, also wrote about the use of spinal manipulation, while the famous Captain Cook was noted as being “squeezed” by Tahitian women for his sciatica condition.

Throughout Europe, certain families and individuals became known as bone-setters. Their knowledge was passed on from father to son, as no formal education existed for the practice. Later, Andrew Still, a Civil War solider who lost three sons to meningitis, would begin to look to the bones and the muscles to explain disease. His ideas helped form the basis of osteopathy.

The history of chiropractic medicine was changed when Daniel David Palmer hung up his medical practice’s shingle in 1886 in a small Iowa town.

Outspoken, controversial, and well-read, Palmer used his influence to spread the ideas of chiropractic treatment. His theory of chiropractic (from the Greek words for “hand” and “practitioner”) hypothesized that subluxated vertebra interfered with normal nerve function. Palmer went on to open the Palmer School of Chiropractic in 1897. Through the work of his son, B.J. Palmer, the school grew into the well-respected and leading chiropractic school that it is still today.

In the century that followed, chiropractic care would gain legal recognition within the United States and awareness all over the world. While there continue to be challenges and changes in the chiropractic field–from changes in insurance coverage to shifts within the discipline itself–chiropractic care continues to promote a science-based approach to disease and injury, while also looking towards innovative ways of treatment.

Used as an alternative form of care or as a complement to a conventional healthcare routine, chiropractic promises results based on its long history of use and degree of training required today.

What other questions do you have about the history of chiropractic medicine? 

Image by Michael Dorausch via Flickr


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