Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-7d684dbfc8-tqxhq Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-09-25T07:46:04.249Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForArticlePurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForBookPurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForElementPurchase": false, "coreUseNewShare": true, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

III.6 - A History of Chiropractic

from Part III - Medical Specialties and Disease Prevention

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2008

Kenneth F. Kiple
Bowling Green State University, Ohio
Get access


Chiropractic is a system of healing that holds that disease results from a lack of normal nervous function caused by a disordered relationship between the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Controversial from its inception, chiropractic has grown into the largest nonallopathic healing profession in the United States, with nearly 35,000 active practitioners. Although considered by many a “marginal” group, chiropractors are licensed in all 50 states, are reimbursed by Medicare, Medicaid, and many thirdparty payers, and in 1984 earned an average yearly net income of $55,000. The recent defeat of the American Medical Association (AMA) by chiropractors in a major lawsuit dramatically emphasizes chiropractic’s current strength. The public image of chiropractic has significantly improved, and opposition from medical organizations has abated. Chiropractic has successfully established itself as an alternative healing profession.

At first glance, it seems an unlikely system to have achieved such success. Chiropractic was founded in 1895, just as medicine was being transformed into a dominant profession. Successfully uniting disparate elements of the medical community, the AMA reorganized in the early 1900s and developed into a powerful force, influencing nearly every aspect of the U.S. health care system. The homeopathic and eclectic sects, important mid-nineteenth-century competitors, virtually disappeared during the first decades of the twentieth century. Physicians actively and effectively suppressed competition from patent medicine vendors with pure food and drug legislation. Yet despite the impressive strength of the medical profession, chiropractic thrived. Whereas nearly every other form of unorthodox healing was being suppressed, banned, or co-opted, this system of healing established itself as an independent profession.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1993

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Baer, Hans A. 1987. Divergence and convergence in two systems of manual medicine: Osteopathy and chiropractic in the United States. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brennan, Matthew J. 1987. Demographic and professional characteristics of ACA membership: 1987 annual survey and statistical study. Arlington, Va..Google Scholar
Cooper, Gregory S. 1985. The attitude of organized medicine toward chiropractic: A sociohistorical perspective. Chiropractic History 5.Google ScholarPubMed
Dye, A. Augustus. 1939. The evolution of chiropractic: Its discovery and development. Philadelphia.Google Scholar
Gibbons, Russell W. 1980. The evolution of chiropractic: Medical and social protest in America. In Modern development in the principles and practice of chiropractic, ed. Haldemann, Scott. New York.Google Scholar
Gibbons, Russell W. 1985. Chiropractic’s Abraham Flexner: The lonely journey of John J. Nugent, 1935–1963. Chiropractic History 5.Google Scholar
Palmer, Bartlett J. 1917. The science of chiropractic, 3d edition. Davenport, Iowa.Google Scholar
Palmer, Daniel D. 1910. Textbook of the science, art, and philosophy of chiropractic. Portland, Ore..Google Scholar
Reed, Louis. 1932. The healing cults. Chicago.Google Scholar
Turner, Chittendon. 1931. The rise of chiropractic. Los Angeles.Google Scholar
Wardwell, Walter I. 1972. Limited, marginal, and quasipractitioners. In Handbook of medical sociology, 2dm edition, ed. Freeman, Howard E., Levine, Sol, and Reeder, Les G.. Englewood Cliffs, N.J..Google Scholar
Wardwell, Walter I. 1988. Chiropractors: Evolution to acceptance. In Other healers: Unorthodox medicine in America, ed. Gevitz, Norman. Baltimore.Google Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats