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History of Chiropractic Care

Nov 10, 2014

It’s always easier to understand what you’re getting into if you know where its been. So before you go to a chiropractor, take a look at this brief history of the chiropractic art, which will show you how far we’ve come, and will help you appreciate a modern, well adjusted back.


The prehistory of bone manipulation is probably old as our opposable thumbs.

But the first known, quoted event of medicinal manipulation occurred in Greece in 400 BCE, when Hippocrates wrote about how one can alter the spine through gravity to help alleviate scoliosis.

The candidate for treatment was tied onto a ladder, dangled upside down and shaken.

He also wrote about treating out of place vertebrae by tying people to tables replete with wheels and axles used for traction, while pressing into the spine with a hand, foot, body or wooden instrument.


Later in Rome, famed surgeon Claudius Galen wrote in 200 CE that spinal manipulation can be effected by standing or walking along a patient’s back. Galen drew pictures, citing the studies of Hippocrates; these images often appear in contemporary medicinal text books.


Next, in 1000 CE, Avicenna of Baghdad wrote The Book of Healing, wherein he mentioned Hippocrates’ spinal movements, showing his interest in the same concepts.


Jumping to France in the year 1580, military surgeon and king’s doctor Ambrose Pare recommended moving vertebrae to adjust scoliosis.

And in 1656 this book, penned by Friar Thomas Moulton, was a medical best seller:

The Compleat Bone-Setter: Wherein the method of curing broken bones, and strains, and dislocated joynts, together with ruptures, vulgarly called broken bellyes, is fully demonstrated. Whereunto is added The perfect oculist, and The mirrour of health, treating of the pestilence, and all other diseases incident to men, women and children. Also, the acute judgement of urines.

Bone Setters

Despite the episodes of spinal manipulation throughout history up to and including the Renaissance, by the 1700’s, this method had apparently fallen from grace. Scholar E. Lomax thinks this was because of low quality manipulations, which occurred at the same time as the firelike spread of tuberculosis. The disease weakens a victim’s spine, making it susceptible to injury under the force of a manipulation.

It was in this period, up until the late 20th century, that the practice of spinal manipulation would be met with criticism, mistrust and attack. It was placed in the category of “bone-setters” who treated common people in rural towns and villages. Interestingly, surgeon James Paget in the 19th century wrote that doctors could learn from the best practices of bone-setters while rejecting their inferior methods.

Still, he called them enemies of proper medicine, and believed most of their positive work emerged from luck.

Committee on Quackery

This view on chiropractic care remained strong through the 20th century, when in 1963 the AMA Board of Regents devised the Committee on Quackery to destruct the embattled field Chiropracty.

New Research

Research into spinal manipulation that would be widely accepted didn’t occur until the 1970’s. In the 1980’s the first chiropractic journal was published, which began serious and scholarly interest in the chiropractic method, and how it can live with and be applied to modern medicine.


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