Chiropractic--Wave of the Future or the Past?

"One or more vertebrae of the spine may or may not go out of place very much. They might give way very little, and, if they do, they're likely to produce serious complications and even death, if not properly adjusted."

Who said that you might ask? It sounds like something any chiropractor might say. But it wasn't written by a chiropractor. It was written by Hippocrates. Imagine, did Hippocrates recommend spinal adjustments? You're darn right he did. Hippocrates was a natural healer who stressed good food, exercise, various natural remedies, and spinal adjustments as a means of curing diseases and maintaining good health.

Hippocrates is but one of many physicians over the centuries who valued the healing power of spinal adjustments. Spinal health care has been around for a long time. If we study the history of healing, we find that some form of chiropractic has been practiced in nearly every culture of the world. Since antiquity man has recognized that there exists an intimate relationship between the spine and health. A few hundred years after Hippocrates, Galen treated his patient Eudemus, who was suffering with paralyzed fingers. Galen correctly diagnosed the problem as originating in the man's neck. He adjusted the spine and the numbness disappeared. Galen became a champion of spinal adjustments and is credited with the following comment, "Leaving the affected parts alone, you will reach the spine from which you will treat the disease."

After nature cure and herbalism, the earliest medical practice was probably bone setting. Since humans began to walk on two legs they have been susceptible to sprains and strains and dislocations. In time some individuals emerged who happened to have the knack of putting things to rights again -- a knack which in time developed into a craft, which was then passed down from father to son. Japanese women have practice the art of "back walking" to give relief from stress and sickness. Hawaiians are familiar with an ancient form of spinal manipulation called lomi-lomi. In India, yoga was developed as a means of keeping the spinal column and other joints of the body flexible. "A person is only is healthy as his spine" is an old yoga saying. Acupuncture is part of a much larger system of Chinese healing, which included manipulation. As a matter of fact, the oldest recorded spinal adjustments come from China. There are series of drawings on turtle shells dating over 4000 years ago, showing spinal care.

Bone setting became an important branch of unorthodox care in Britain in the 1800's simply because it was never encouraged to become orthodox. Doctors rarely attempted to practice it, because they regarded it as a knack rather than a craft—and a vulgar knack at that. For many of the practitioners, it was truly merely a knack, as they were blacksmiths or laborers or farm hands without formal schooling. Bone setting was little more than a hobby to be used when needed. There was one well-known bone-setter, a Mrs. Mapp, whose following included the Queen. The story goes that some doctors, resenting her fame, conspired to send a patient with nothing wrong to complain of a dislocation. Mrs. Mapp proceeded to give him a dislocation, and told him to go back to the doctors to see if they could cure it. Sir James Paget gave a warning to his fellow doctors: "Few of you are likely to practice without having a bone setter for a rival; and if he can cure a case which you failed to cure, his fortune may be made and yours marred." His colleagues did not take his advice. 

In the late 1800's two movements arose out of bone setting, both in the United States. One was osteopathy and the other chiropractic. Both assumed that anatomical faults would cause functional disturbances in the body. D. D. Palmer, the first chiropractor, believed that spinal displacements, or "subluxations," would cause nerve irritation, which in turn would lead to disturbances of the nervous system and eventually cause illness. Andrew Still, the founder of osteopathy, developed a theory that wherever blood was circulating normally, disease could not develop. He called this "the rule of the artery." He was convinced that the body cannot function properly unless it was structurally sound. And if the structure was sound, then the life force could take over and restore health, whatever the disorder. The concepts of chiropractic and osteopathy are remarkably similar, as are many of the techniques. Over the last hundred years there has been crossover and sharing of chiropractic and osteopathic ideas.

So what's the difference you might ask. Part of the difference was the difference in the training of the founders. Still was trained as an M.D. Palmer was trained as a magnetic healer, someone who practiced laying on of hands. Osteopathy thrived in the early part of this century, as their schools in many ways copied medical establishments. Osteopaths could prescribe drugs and do surgeries and many were not interested in manipulation. In 1962, osteopaths in California were offered an opportunity to trade in their D. O. for an M.D. for small fee. Over 2000 did. The chiropractor, by contrast, was never allowed by the medical profession to forget he was an enemy. In the 1920's, 450 of the approximately 600 chiropractors in California were hauled into court and convicted of practicing medicine without a license. They were given a choice of jail sentences or a fine. Instead of choosing the fines, most chose to go to jail. One can only admire the conviction of many of these early chiropractors.

How does Chiropractic really work? Until recently orthodox medicine ducked the question by simply denying the existence of spinal lesions or subluxations. The A.M.A. convinced Congress that there was no scientific basis for Chiropractic and interfered with any awarding of federal grants for scientific research until the late 1980's. Chiropractic research as a result has been conducted almost exclusively by private practitioners within their own practices. It is remarkable how much research they have done over the years and the diversity of findings.

Many of my patients are surprised when I tell them there are at least three dozen different chiropractic techniques that are as different as apples and oranges and bananas. Some techniques focus specifically on biomechanics and some on the bioelectrical nature of the body. All of them have the nervous system as its focus. The nervous system’s importance for health cannot be overemphasized. It is the body’s communication system whereby the immune system is controlled and directed. D. D. Palmer was not unaware of his place in history: "I am not the first person to replace subluxated vertebra, for this art has been practiced for thousands of years. I do claim, create a science which is destined to revolutionize the theory and practice of the healing arts."

Today chiropractors can be found throughout the world. In fact, chiropractic is the largest non-medical healing art in the world today. Begun by one man trying to help his deaf janitor regain his hearing, chiropractic is becoming the healing phenomenon of the 20th-century.

Remember if your condition has not responded to medical care, it just might respond to chiropractic.


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