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Chiropractic

A chiropractor treating a patient.

A chiropractor treating a patient.

Credits:Wellcome Library, London.

In the 1800s the Canadian Daniel David Palmer (1845-1913) developed chiropractic, a physical treatment which aims to restore health by realigning vertebrae in the spine. Bone-setting was a practice passed on in families through the generations, and people including Palmer and the founder of osteopathy, Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917), observed the beneficial effects which bone-setters could frequently achieve.

Palmer, who had no formal medical training, practised ‘magnetic healing’ - he claimed he could treat diseases by manipulating the magnetic flow in the bodies of his patients. During this time he encountered a man with a lump on his back who was deaf. Palmer reported that the man's hearing returned when he manipulated the lump physically, and he began to develop a new form of treatment on the basis of this observation. He claimed that diseases were the consequence of obstructions to the flow of energy in the nervous system caused by badly aligned vertebrae. The charismatic Palmer greatly impressed his patients during demonstrations of his new method of ‘chiropractic’, and he founded a School of Chiropractic in the United States in 1897.

Today, chiropractic has been developed further to include exercises and counselling in addition to physical manipulation by the chiropractor. In the UK chiropractors have to be registered with the General Chiropractic Council (GCC). Chiropractic is considered complementary medicine, and is not generally available through the NHS.

Bibliography

D D Palmer, The Chiropractor's Adjuster (Portland, Oregon: Portland Printing House, 1910)

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