Before there was a chiropractic profession, there was a question in the mind of the founder of chiropractic, Daniel David Palmer. “I desired to know,” Palmer would say, “why one person was ailing and his associate, eating at the same table, working in the same shop, at the same bench, was not.”
Palmer concluded that people get sick when something interferes with their nervous system, primarily when this interference occurs where their spinal nerves exit their vertebrae (through an area called the intervertebral foramen, a tunnel formed between two vertebrae). Palmer called this interference a subluxation, and, as the history of chiropractic now shows, the term stuck.
Chiropractic is deeply rooted in this philosophy, as well as that of Palmer’s son Bartlett Joshua Palmer. This outlook is based on the premise that healthy people have healthy spines and nervous systems. Extrapolating from this, chiropractors believe that subluxations are linked to a weakened nervous system, which can lead to a weakened immune system and can prevent the body from functioning properly and staving off illness. For that reason, many chiropractors believe that subluxations are involved in conditions such as low back pain and possibly even illnesses like colic and asthma.
According to the chiropractic philosophy, there are five components to a subluxation: a spinal component, a nervous component, a muscular component, a soft-tissue component and a disease component. Chiropractors focus on detecting these and removing subluxations, freeing up the body’s natural healing ability, improving function and relieving pain.
Because of this belief in the body’s healing potential, chiropractors have a holistic approach to health and wellness. So, while the philosophy keeps the profession distinct, practitioners often work in multidisciplinary settings, joining medical doctors, massage therapists, nutritionists, reflexologists, naturopaths, acupuncturists and other complementary health-care providers to meet the goal of improving people’s health.