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chiro- χειρο- "hand-" + praktikós πρακτικός "concerned with action") is a complementary and alternative medicine health care profession that focuses on diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system and their effects on the nervous system and general health, with special emphasis on the spine.[1] It emphasizes manual therapy including spinal manipulation and other joint and soft-tissue manipulation, and includes exercises and health and lifestyle counseling.[2] Traditionally, it assumes that a vertebral subluxation or spinal joint dysfunction can interfere with the body's function and its innate ability to heal itself.[3]

D. D. Palmer founded chiropractic in the 1890s and his son B.J. Palmer helped to expand it in the early 20th century.[4] It has two main groups: "straights", now the minority, emphasize vitalism, innate intelligence, spinal adjustments, and subluxation as the leading cause of all disease; "mixers" are more open to mainstream and alternative medical techniques such as exercise, massage, nutritional supplements, and acupuncture.[5] Chiropractic is well established in the U.S., Canada and Australia.[6]

Although a wide diversity of belief exists among chiropractors,[15] they share the principle that the spine and health are related in an important and fundamental way, and this relationship is mediated through the nervous system.[16] Chiropractors pay careful attention to the biomechanics, structure and function of the spine, its effects on the nervous and musculoskeletal systems, and the role these systems play in preventing disease and restoring health.[17]

Chiropractic philosophy goes beyond simply manipulating the spine. Like naturopathy and several other forms of complementary and alternative medicine, chiropractic assumes that all aspects of a patient's health are interconnected, which leads to the following perspectives:[18]

  • Holism treats the patient as a whole, and appreciates the multifactorial nature of influences (structural, chemical, and psychological) on the nervous system, recognizing dynamics between lifestyle, environment, and health.
  • Conservativism carefully considers the risks of clinical interventions when balancing them against their benefits. It emphasizes noninvasive treatment to minimize risk, and avoids surgery and medication.[17]
  • Homeostasis emphasizes the body's inherent self-healing abilities. Chiropractic's early notion of innate intelligence can be thought of as a metaphor for homeostasis.[15]
  • A patient-centered approach focuses on the patient rather than the disease, preventing unnecessary barriers in the doctor-patient encounter. The patient is considered to be indispensable in, and ultimately responsible for, the maintenance of health.[15]
(Definition from )

Practitioners who work in this modality


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