What NCCAM Says About Chiropractic
Chiropractic is a health care profession that focuses on the relationship between the body’s structure—mainly the spine—and its functioning. Although practitioners may use a variety of treatment approaches, they primarily perform adjustments (manipulations) to the spine or other parts of the body with the goal of correcting alignment problems, alleviating pain, improving function, and supporting the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
- People seek chiropractic care primarily for pain conditions such as back pain, neck pain, headache, and extremity (e.g., hand or foot)
- In the United States, chiropractic practitioners must meet the licensing and continuing education requirements of the state in which they practice. All states require practitioners to complete a Doctor of Chiropractic degree program at a properly accredited college.
- Most chiropractic-related research has focused on the efficacy of spinal manipulation. The application of controlled force to a joint, moving it beyond the normal range of motion in an effort to aid in restoring health. Manipulation may be performed as a part of other therapies or whole medical systems, including chiropractic medicine and naturopathy, especially for low-back pain. Researchers are also gathering evidence on the safety of spinal manipulation.
- Tell all your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
Overview and History
The term “chiropractic” combines the Greek words cheir (hand) and praxis (practice) to describe a treatment done by hand. Hands-on therapy—especially adjustment of the spine—is central to chiropractic care. Chiropractic is based on the notion that the relationship between the body’s structure (primarily that of the spine) and its function (as coordinated by the nervous system) affects health.
While some procedures associated with chiropractic care can be traced back to ancient times, the modern profession of chiropractic was founded by Daniel David Palmer in 1895 in Davenport, Iowa. Palmer, a self-taught healer, believed that the body has “innate intelligence” or a natural healing ability. He theorized that “subluxations” (misalignments of the spine) can interfere with this ability, and that manipulation of the spine can help to restore or maintain health. Evidence-based explanations for the effects of chiropractic manipulations are the subject of ongoing scientific investigation, including studies supported by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).
Spinal adjustment/manipulation is a core treatment in chiropractic care, but it is not synonymous with chiropractic. Chiropractors commonly use other treatments in addition to spinal manipulation, and other health care providers (e.g., physical therapists or some osteopathic physicians) may use spinal manipulation.