Chiropractic Identity:A Neurological, Professional, and Political Assessment
Written by Editor   
Wednesday, August 17, 2016 12:00 AM

From its origins in 1895 with DD Palmer’s original focus on magnetic healing, chiropractic identity has been beset with the challenging task of keeping up not only with clinical and scientific observation but with political trade winds involving public perception and the marketplace of health care.  At present, the chiropractic profession continues to be underrepresented in most discussions of health care delivery, a situation in which the greater clarification of chiropractic’s identity and more practitioner consensus may help to alleviate this problem.

Originally, DD Palmer viewed the body from a more mechanical viewpoint, but he paid particular attention to the nerves.  It was from this origin that the popular but often misinterpreted concept grew that doctors of chiropractic dealt with “bones out of place,” the locus of such derangements being the spine. Leading to the modern notion that doctors of chiropractic were managing primarily musculoskeletal problems with emphasis upon back pain.  Yet, numerous distinguishing characteristics, including providing a model of holistic, preventive medicine and embracing a concept of neurological imbalance, have prevailed.   

The purpose of the article reported is to propose a focused assessment of the identity of chiropractic and its profession, triangulating multiple viewpoints converging upon various aspects and definitions of neurology, manual medicine, and alternative or mainstream medicine.

Distinguishing characteristics of doctors of chiropractic include the following:

(1)   they embrace a model of holistic, preventive medicine (wellness);
(2)   they embrace a concept of neurological imbalance in which form follows function, disease follows disturbed biochemistry, and phenomenology follows physiology;
(3)   they diagnose, and their institutions of training are accredited by a body recognized by the US Department of Education;
(4)   they manage patients on a first-contact basis, often as primary care providers in geographical areas that are underserved;
(5)   the spine is their primary — but not exclusive — area of interaction;
(6)   they deliver high-velocity, low-amplitude adjustments with a superior safety record compared with other professions; and
(7)   they use a network of institutions worldwide that have shown increasing commitments to research.


This article provides an overview of chiropractic identity from 6 points of view:

(1)   concepts of manual medicine;
(2)   areas of interest beyond the spine;
(3)   concepts of the chiropractic subluxation;
(4)   concepts of neurology;
(5)   concepts of mainstream or alternative health care; and
(6)   concepts of primary care, first-contact provider,  or specialist.
Over 120 years since its inception, chiropractic has struggled to achieve an identity for which its foundations could provide optimal health care. Despite recognition of the benefits of spinal manipulation in various government guidelines, advances in US military and Veterans Administration, and persistently high levels of patient satisfaction, the chiropractic profession remains underrepresented in most discussions of health care delivery.