Unveiling Chiropractic Origins

Chiropractic was developed in the late 19th century by a Canadian doctor (and magnetic healer), called Daniel David Palmer (1845-1913).

Early chiropractic education and philosophy is based upon relatively abstract notions of holistic medicine. However, modern practitioners tend to confine themselves to the following, basic principles:

Most chiropractors believe that subluxations are ultimately responsible for back pain and neck pain. In strict, medical terms, a luxation refers to a dislocated joint; a sub-luxation is therefore an incomplete, or partially, dislocated joint. In chiropractic terms, however, a subluxation is simply a joint problem that affects the spinal nerves.

In the vast majority of cases, a high velocity thrust is used to restore normal function to the joint (also referred to as manipulation, or adjustment). In theory, this should restore normal, spinal mobility, alleviating stiffness and back pain. Other forms of treatment may be used including ultrasound, acupuncture, massage etc.

EFFICACY

We agree with the basic principles of chiropractic treatment, namely, that a patient’s health is greatly influenced by the state of their nervous system. Structural problems in the spine do lead to back pain and many other conditions.

However, we strongly disagree with:

Firstly, palpation represents a very crude method of diagnosis (palpation is sometimes used in Orthopedic Medicine, but never as a primary method of diagnosis). In theory, chiropractors can identify problems in spinal position and mobility, but the accuracy of the diagnosis is generally very poor.

Part of the problem here is that the definition of a subluxation is extremely vague. Given the anatomical structure of the spine, it is manifestly obvious that problems with the spinal joints will affect the nerve roots (thereby leading to back pain, and other adverse conditions).

Unfortunately, this crude diagnosis does not lend itself to a targeted, and accurate, form of treatment.

In the vast majority of cases, the actual form of treatment used is a chiropractic manipulation or adjustment, a high velocity thrust, designed to restore normal function to the joint.

The exact nature, and existence, of subluxations is actually highly contested (both outside, and within, the chiropractic community). Most traditional chiropractors believe that subluxations exist and that they are readily visible (on x-ray film). Others define them more loosely; they believe that they exist, but do not believe they are visible. Finally, a few chiropractors reject the theory of subluxation completely.

Unfortunately, spinal manipulation is relatively violent. The joint is often moved beyond its natural range of motion, leading to a significant amount of trauma in the surrounding structures.

Chiropractic therapy may yield reasonably favorable outcomes for patients suffering from short term, acute pain, which may be the result of accident or injury. In this case, the risk of trauma might be outweighed by the potential benefits. However, chiropractic treatment is not suited to the treatment of long term, or chronic, back pain, where the patient’s symptoms will be aggravated (and prolonged) by a high velocity thrust.

CONCLUSIONS

In theory, chiropractors can identify problems in spinal posture and mobility, but the accuracy of their diagnosis is generally very poor. The adjustments made to the spine during treatment are relatively violent, and poorly targeted. Short term relief may be experienced, but the onset of trauma is highly likely. The symptoms of chronic back pain will be aggravated and prolonged.

Personally, we recommend that people seek an alternative to chiropractic treatment for back pain; we believe the correct approach is to decompress the spine instead, using techniques that are based on Orthopedic mobilization (as opposed to chiropractic manipulation).

PRICE

Approximately: £50 for initial examination; £35 per visit thereafter.

In some instances, back pain sufferers will spend a lot of money, over a number of years, attempting to manage their pain via the use of Osteopathy and/or chiropractic.