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What is Chiropractic?

Quite possibly the most common question I am asked


What is it?

The answer will depend on who you ask!

Etymology- channeling Stephen Fry

The word Chiropractic was coined by David Palmer in 1898 and comes from the Greek words chiro meaning "hand" and praktikos meaning "practical". So Chiropractic literally means "done by hand".

Manual therapy and it's application will vary between practitioner depending on their approach to care, their interests and experience, their individual skill set, their use of other modalities etc. For that reason it's very difficult to give a simple answer, 

Some history

Chiropractic has had its fair share of controversies in the past, with differing philosophies and some eyebrow-raising claims; however, in the modern era, evidence-based chiropractic care has taken center stage, embracing a more grounded approach focused on neuro-musculoskeletal health, backed by scientific research, and offering patients safe and effective treatments that can leave them feeling on top of the world.


Today, many chiropractors happily team up with other healthcare professionals, working towards integrated care and helping empower patients to make their way to optimal health outcomes.


  • Chiropractic research institutions have been developed  

  • The institutions study the effectiveness of chiropractic on a wide range of conditions, leading to a greater understanding of how chiropractic treatments work

  • Academic programs focus on research

  • Clinical practice guidelines have been developed to help chiropractors and other manual health care professions deliver high-quality, effective, patient centered care (1, 2)

  • Many Chiropractors have embraced an evidence-based approach to care, using research and clinical evidence to inform their assessment and treatment approach to be able to select those most likely to be effective for a given patient

  • Many Chiropractors actively participate in research that answer scientific questions to improve the quality, efficacy, and credibility of the profession and the care they provide to their patients

Chiropractors are Primary Health Care Providers

A Primary heath care provider is someone who is a person's first point of contact for a medical/health related complaint. 

Many neuro-musculoskeletal conditions, such as back pain, neck pain, other joint pain, muscle/ligament strains or sprains, tendon problems, neurological problems, headaches, depression and anxiety, are common reasons for seeking medical care. Chiropractors are trained to diagnose and/or treat these conditions, and many more; and they can provide a range of services that are commonly provided by primary care physicians, such as history taking, physical examination, diagnostic imaging, and referral to other specialists if needed.

Chiropractors are uniquely positioned to provide holistic, patient-centered care that focuses on the  neuro-musculoskeletal system and its relationship to overall health and well-being.


They have the luxury of time (depending on practitioner) where they can build a professional relationship with clients that can last a lifetime.

Here are some links of for recommendations for use of Chiropractic care:

Recommendations | Low back pain and sciatica in over 16s: assessment and management | Guidance | NICE 

Benefits and harms of spinal manipulative therapy for the treatment of chronic low back pain: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials | The BMJ


  1. O’Keeffe, M., O’Sullivan, K., O’Sullivan, PB. The Lancet series on low back pain: reflections and clinical implications. BJSM. 2019. 53:7

  2. O’Sullivan, PPB., Maher, CG., Lin, I., What does best practice care for musculoskeletal pain look like? Eleven consistent recommendations from high-quality clinical practice guidelines: systematic review. BJSM. 2019. March; 54:79-86

  3. Schneider, M., Mior, S., Leboeuf-Yde, C., Kawchuck, GN., Hartvigsen, J., Cassidy, JD., Bussieres, A., Cote, P. A united statement of the global chiropractic research community against the pseudoscientific claim that chiropractic care boosts immunity. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies. 2021. 28:21

  4. Hartvigsen, J., Blanchette, M-A., Kilsgaard, J., Stochkendahl, MJ. Beyond the spine: a new clinical research priority. J Can Chiropractic Association. 2015. Mar; 59(1):6-12

  5. Nim, C. G. et al. Chiropractic conservatism among chiropractic students in Denmark: Prevalence and consequence. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies. 2020. 28"64

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