Chiropractic: Overview and Philosophy

Chiropractic has a long history of serving the public by healing people through the use of natural methods.6 Founded by David Daniel Palmer in September 1985, chiropractic has become one of the most commonly used complementary and alternative medicine therapies in the world.2 Currently, chiropractors practice in over 100 countries, in which 90 have established national chiropractic associations.2 Worldwide, billions are spent each year for their services.1 In the United States alone, there are over 60,000 licensed chiropractors, making chiropractic a major stakeholder in the healthcare expenditures of the nation.2 Knowing the foundations of chiropractic will assist in the understanding of this growing profession. 

Originating from an ancient Greek phrase meaning “done by hand,” chiropractic was viewed by Palmer as an integration of science, art, and philosophy.3 Early chiropractic displayed many aspects of a religion, declaring that there existed an “innate intelligence” that enabled the body to heal itself.1 The “innate” regulated all body functions, but was hindered by “vertebral subluxations.”1,5 People were well when the “innate” had unobstructed freedom to act throughout the body.5 Diseases were caused by a lack of normal transmission of the “innate.”5 The role of chiropractors was to correct subluxations through manual adjustments of the spine and, therefore, restore the flow of the “innate.”1,5 Early chiropractic was advertised as a cure for many ailments like insanity, sexual dysfunction, measles, and influenza.1 Chiropractic soon became known as “a science of healing without drugs.”1 

Today, chiropractic is defined by the World Health Organization as a health care profession concerned with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders of the neuromusculoskeletal system, with an emphasis on manual corrections of misalignments of the vertebrae.4 Modern chiropractic philosophy views health as an expression of biological, psychological, social, and spiritual factors.7 At the very center of chiropractic is the belief that the body is self-regulating and capable of healing itself.6 This perspective represents a holistic biopsychosocial philosophy of health, in contrast to the biomedical one typically shared by medical doctors.7 Chiropractic embraces three main principles.First, there is a symbiotic relationship between the spine and health.1 Second, subluxations negatively affect health.1 Third, correction of subluxations by spinal manipulation improves health.1 

Chiropractors address patients’ health and wellness by using conservative and natural methods, as opposed to prescription drugs and surgery.6 They are mainly focused on the relationship between structure, primarily the spine and musculoskeletal system, and function, as directed by the nervous system.Chiropractors propose that neurological disturbances in the spine and other areas can cause dysfunction to appear in remote organs and tissues.6 Since the nervous system has an influence on all bodily functions, chiropractors argue that corrections of dysfunctional areas of the spine and other parts of the body improves health.They utilize chiropractic manipulations, also known as adjustments, to bring relief to patients most commonly suffering from back and neck pain, headache, sports injuries, and neuromusculoskeletal disorders.6 Chiropractic manipulations involve applying specific and controlled movements to various joints in the body to help restore normal structure and function.6 In addition to providing adjustments to patients, chiropractors may also provide patients with rehabilitation exercises and counsel patients on healthy lifestyle and nutritional habits.7 

It is important for healthcare professionals to understand the fundamentals of chiropractic. Patient visit to chiropractors are becoming increasingly popular, accounting for 30% of all visits made to complementary and alternative practitioners.6 As the percentage of patients receiving chiropractic care each year continues to grow, healthcare professionals should be knowledgeable about the profession and be prepared to answer questions patients may have.6 


  1. Ernst, Edzard. 2008. “Chiropractic: A Critical Evaluation”. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 35 (5): 544-562. doi:10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2007.07.004. 
  1. Beliveau, Peter J. H., Jessica J. Wong, Deborah A. Sutton, Nir Ben Simon, André E. Bussières, Silvano A. Mior, and Simon D. French. 2017. “The Chiropractic Profession: A Scoping Review of Utilization Rates, Reasons for Seeking Care, Patient Profiles, And Care Provided”. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies 25 (1). doi:10.1186/s12998-017-0165-8. 
  1. Senzon, Simon. 2018. “An Integral Approach to Unifying the Philosophy of Chiropractic”. Journal of Conscious Evolution 2 (2). 
  1. Glucina, Tanja T., Christian U. Krägeloh, Panteá Farvid, and Kelly Holt. 2020. “Moving Towards A Contemporary Chiropractic Professional Identity”. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 39: 101105. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2020.101105. 
  1. Palmer, B. J. 1920. The Science of Chiropractic. Davenport, Iowa: Palmer School of Chiropractic. 
  1. Hawk, Cheryl. 2017. The Praeger Handbook of Chiropractic Health Care. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, LLC. 
  1. Hawk, Cheryl, and John Weeks. 2017. Careers in Chiropractic Health Care: Exploring A Growing Field. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, LLC.