Reflection: The History of Chiropractic

Chiropractic, as a profession is young by most standards, 120 years old, however those 120 years have told quite a story, ranging from the professions inception, imprisoned clinicians, blackmail and conspiracy to regulation, inter-professional patient care and worldwide influence. While I have no doubt the professions influence and health will wax and wane over the upcoming years, the profession, as I see it, is no longer dominated by philosophy but proven by research, past and ongoing. From my exploration into the history of chiropractic, particularly that of North America, has offered a few very valuable explanations pertaining to the beliefs held by many towards the profession. I am continually amazed how many people have personally said to me “chiropractors aren’t real doctors”. While these people may not understand that nature of the situation, many of them still choose to undergo chiropractic care because they believe in the value. Others however, simply refuse to be touched by a chiropractor, or worse, refuse to refer to a chiropractor, in some cases for seemingly no reason at all. Yet this is entirely understandable with a little historical context and the understanding that most people don’t take the time to fully understand much in life.


Chiropractic has had a 120 year history, however chiropractors were only granted the right do use the title of doctor and diagnose in 1991. I was born in 1991, I have only ever known chiropractors as doctors, however the majority of people were born well before 1991, which makes the belief, or confusion understandable. The issue may also have to do with the simple fact that Doctors of Chiropractic, Dentistry and Naturopathy have common names, such as chiropractor or dentist, meanwhile Medical Doctors are, particularly by lay people, simply called “Doctor”. Regardless, I do not intend on spending too much of my time arguing the semantics of what a person believes a “real doctor” is or isn’t. There is however one giant piece of history that has helped me understand the issue many older people, and their aging medical doctors have with chiropractic. The American Medical Association was founded shortly after the inception of the chiropractic profession with the sole purpose of slandering, boycotting and ultimately destroying chiropractic (1). This lasted from the early 1900’s all the way until 1987 when the AMA was pronounced by federal court to have unlawfully engaged in restraint and conspiracy of the chiropractic profession (1). I cannot fathom the impression such a powerful organization had on the minds of young medical students and doctors throughout the 21st century, but it certainly continues to affect chiropractors to this day, and I can only rely on chiropractic research and the passion and competence of today’s chiropractors to revolutionize the way the world views chiropractic and make chiropractic an essential part of every Canadians health care.



  1. Cooper R, McKee H. Chiropractic in the United States: Trends and Issues. Milbank Quarterly. 2003;81(1):107-138.

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