The Philosophy of Chiropractic

Philosophy as a broad term encompasses any body of knowledge, whether considered to be truth, proven to be truth or merely discussed and pondered at the theoretical level. According to Coulter (1), philosophy is an endeavor to clarify thought, about a given subject and not a body of doctrine or dogma. Furthermore, this idea of philosophizing about a subject would then be termed philosophy of said subject, for example, philosophy of chiropractic, rather than the commonly used term; Chiropractic Philosophy (1). Coulter argues that by discussing chiropractic philosophy rather than philosophy of chiropractic implies that chiropractic is the philosophy itself which is impossible (1). The philosophy of chiropractic has evolved over the profession’s life span, however the original beliefs and thoughts about chiropractic and the function of the body have refused to evolve in all circles (2). It is for this reason that I believe it is particularly important for all students of chiropractic to learn about the philosophy of chiropractic and, more importantly, participate in the philosophy of chiropractic by discussing the beliefs, attitudes and science with our colleagues. As a student of chiropractic at a school which proudly identifies as an evidence based institution, I am confident that I am learning beneficial skills and treatments that I will use daily, because the evidence presented tells me so. That said, I also recognize the importance of looking beyond the evidence alone as clinical experience, intuition and clinician and patient beliefs all play an important role in treatment and overall patient care.

The “Chiropractic philosophy”, which serves as near gospel for many practitioners is in reality dogma, in that it is stated by an authority (the Palmers) and taken as absolute truth. Therein lies my issue with chiropractic philosophy in that many chiropractors have moved from philosophizing about chiropractic to treating based largely upon the idea, while in certain cases eschewing scientific evidence that may cause some doubt as concerns their “philosophy”. It is therefore of utmost importance that I have studied and participated in the philosophy of chiropractic so that when I talk to members of the community, my future patients, fellow chiropractors or allied health professionals I have a good background in the history and beliefs of my profession so that I can confidently discover and stand by my own identity. This becomes particularly important when fringe members of the profession come under fire for expressing beliefs or treatments that are backed only by a specific philosophy rather than any legitimate evidence. I believe in the value chiropractors offer to their patients, as uniquely skilled manual therapists as well as primary care practitioners with unique diagnostic skills that when employed strategically and in conjunction with other health professionals can provide an incredible level of quality care. The philosophy of chiropractic, a philosophy that served the profession well in the early 1900’s by keeping practitioners out of jail, is now the hurdle I find I most often have to overcome, be it addressing stigma, biased newspaper articles or the incessant infighting within the profession itself (2). Philosophy of chiropractic will and should always have an important place in the profession and in the educational institutions, however the profession has evolved over time and it is of utmost importance that the philosophy be respected, but not confused for the dogma that persists among many of today’s chiropractors.





  1. Coulter P. Chiropractic philosophy has no future. N.d
  2. Haldeman S. Principles and Practice of Chiropractic. 3rd ed. McGraw-Hill; 2005.

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