Chiropractic – the twentieth-century equivalent of bonesetting – was established in the last few years of the nineteenth century by a Canadian named Daniel David Palmer.

Palmer believed that 95 per cent of all illnesses were caused by displaced vertebrae (the technical term he used for displacement was ‘subluxation’) and after managing to restore the hearing of a janitor who had been deaf for seventeen years Palmer was convinced that the spine was the key to good health and that spinal manipulations would deal with most if not all illnesses.

Because of Palmer’s rather extreme views, and obviously outrageous claims, chiropractic was, from the start, opposed by the medical establishment.

Chiropractors still believe that when parts of the body’s bony frame are displaced they can press against nerves – causing pain and many other symptoms. Some chiropractors believe that by manipulating bones and joints they can not only help deal with specific structural problems but also help relieve internal problems involving non-bony organs such as the heart and lungs. It is, however, only fair to point out that today many chiropractors do hold far less extreme views than Palmer, recognising that chiropractic cannot deal with every ailment.


Traditionally, chiropractors use their hands to help them reach a diagnosis. But they also talk to their patients and many modern chiropractors use X-rays to help them reach specific diagnoses.


Treatment from a chiropractor usually involves manipulation. The most important items of equipment that a chiropractor uses are his hands, although it is common for chiropractors to use a specially built couch so that their manipulations can be particularly effective.

Although chiropractic is still primarily concerned with the spine, practitioners also offer exercise regimes, dietary advice and all sorts of non-specific counselling.


Chiropractic manipulation of the spine can be dangerous if it is done carelessly or without the proper investigations.


Although some chiropractors still claim that chiropractic can be used to treat almost any disease I believe that chiropractic is particularly useful for disorders of the bones and joints.

It can, for example, be helpful in the treatment of backache, headaches, hip problems, and many other joint disorders. It is also good for neck, shoulder and arm pains. Chiropractic is not, however, a sensible form of treatment for cancer, gout, generalised rheumatism, osteoarthritis of the hips or fractured bones.