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History of Chiropractic

In about 400 B.C. Hippocrates wrote his tome of medical knowledge of his time which he entitled Corpus Hippocrateum. In this extensive book of knowledge is a chapter headed as Mochlikon or the lever. In this chapter Hippocrates describes and illustrates how to remove pain of the lumbar spine when a kyphosis is present. Hippocrates advises that the patient should be place in traction by two assistants while a long beam used as a lever is placed across the patient into a hole in the opposite wall and enough force applied down on the level to remove the kyphosis. This practice was also recorded in writing from this period through the 17th century A.D. in Crete, Arabia, Bologna, Spain, Vienna, Italy, and many more with little modification (1). Many cultures in which these practices were used also developed other methods of relief of lumbago and sciatica which used hands, feet, levers and even hammers but stressed the holistic approach toward the health of the patient (1,2).


With the discovery of the Americas people from many other countries migrated and immigrated into a new world bringing with them their culture and knowledge of medicine fusing it with the native culture already present. For many years the colonies in the Americas had the great diversity in treatments though only a few practitioners were in anyone location, most were welcome to practice where they pleased. With the revolutionary war and the formation of the United States the freedoms of medical choice which we had enjoyed seemed to be safe forever.

"To restrict the art of healing to one class of men and deny equal privileges to others will constitute the Bastille of medical science. All such laws are un-American and despotic. They are fragments of monarchy and have no place in a Republic." -Benjamin Rush Signer of Declaration of Independence and Surgeon General Continental Army (3)

The prevailing attitude of the time, it is awesome to see how politics changes the face of our country and the attitude toward medical monopolies in just seventy-one years. America declared it's independence in 1776 and by 1847 the AMA had formed with the mission to become the medical authority (4). By the 1880's many of the alternatives to bio medicine had died out about the same time that bio-medicine discovered that micro-organisms were responsible for causing tuberculosis, rabies, plague, and anthrax (4,5). The need for chiropractic was developing as the biomedical community became organized medicine.


Professional bonesetters were around two hundred years before chiropractic's inception in 1895, by Daniel David Palmer, or osteopaths beginnings in 1874, by Andrew Still. These two movements were in the early years much like the bonesetters manipulating the spine for relief of many symptoms with the practitioners having little or no medical training (1,4). Osteopathy would later take on the medical curriculum of bio-medicine and become only slightly different; while, chiropractic developed it's own schools and curriculum with a developing art form as anatomical knowledge was merged with the appropriated or rediscover knowledge of Hippocrates (1).


The early nineteen hundreds were dynamic years in changing the face of the newly formed chiropractic profession and changing the power that the medical establishment now possessed. The Flexner Report, a report on the substandard medical educational system within alternative and biomedical schools, called for reform of medical education and set the stage for a national accrediting agency (4). This was followed, in 1928, by Alexander Fleming's discovery of penicillin which gave the biomedical establishment the long sought after silver. Chiropractic continued to develop as well during this period with B.J. Palmer taking over the Palmer school of Chiropractic in 1906. During the 1920's and 30's schools sprang up across the country while educational standards improved and national organizations offered some protection against the persecution the legal system was placing on the profession (4). Chiropractic continued to survive through this period of history by will of its practitioners and by public demand for an unmet need for treatment.


Still we ask ourselves if the public wanted spinal manipulation why did the biomedical community fail to incorporate it into their scope of practice as they had with so many other healing modalities and treatments. In 1904 a medical authority of the bio-medicine community published a paper on what he called fibrositis. As he described, lumbago was inflammation of the sacrospinalis muscle and fibrous tissue, fibrositis. This was taught in medical school for the next forty-one years until it was challenged and shown that disc protrusion was the cause of lumbago (1). Medicine did not take spinal manipulation because it was scientifically unsound at the time and by 1945 when the error was elucidated chiropractic was organized far better than any previous holistic movement.


Chiropractic was reinvented from timeless principles for a nation and culture which had a need for it's art but no history of it's own on which to draw. As a profession chiropractic incorporated or rediscovered many principles which were timeless components of our many predecessors holistic modalities. Through it's growth chiropractic organized national professional organizations to protect it's political interests. Later chiropractic would also form a national education accrediting organization allowing for the same federal funding to students that the biomedical students have access to and it provides a level of validity. Chiropractic continues the art of the adjustment, much refined from the days of Hippocrates, with the support of a political network, national educational accreditation, and ever growing acceptance.


Works Cited

1. Schiotz EH. Manipulation past and present. Great Britain: Chapel River press.;1975. pg 1- 59.


2. Mennell J. Science and art of joint manipulation. Philadelphia: Blakiston comp.;1949. pg 1-30.


3. Cook A. Alternative medicine sourcebook. Detroit, MI.:Omnigraphics Inc.;1999. pg 1-25.


4. Redwood D. Contemporary chiropractic. New York: Churchill Livingstone. 1997. pg 1- 13.


5. Murray P. Medical microbiology 3rd ed.St. Louis: Mosby. 1994. pg 1-3.

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