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Modern chiropractic (from the Greek "hand made") was founded by Daniel David Palmer in 1895. His son B.J. Palmer and grandson David Palmer carried his dream of the creation of a new profession to fruition enduring a concerted effort by organized medicine to squelch the new approach.
"Chiropractic" is a noun and while it seems another word should be following it, in fact that is it. What you hear and see is what you get. And so it is with chiropractic. The fundamental idea of chiropractic is that disease originates from misalignment of the spine. The basis of this idea is that disease arises from organ malfunction. Because each organ from the chest down is enervated by nerves coming from the spinal cord, then spinal misalignment with alteration of nerve impulse conduction must have something to do with the disease process.
When you go to a chiropractor for treatment, you should expect some kind of "adjustment." This is a physical maneuver which is designed to cause a realignment of the spine, hopefully relieving pressure on one or more spinal nerves. Sometimes you will hear a crunching / cracking sound which is caused by the sudden displacement of ligaments and other connective tissue.
Chiropractic is an example of a paradigm. Like other paradigms, the paradigm of chiropractic can be used to conceptualize almost any disorder. It is a way of looking at health problems, a kind of keyhole through which the chiropractor hopes to see the truth. In this sense it is similar to other paradigms, for example nutritional biochemistry, acupuncture, anti-aging medicine, etc. And, in fact, many chiropractors have embraced other paradigms and use them together with chiropractic, notably nutrition and acupuncture. "If it works, use it" could be said to be the motto of doctors (not only chiropractors) who embrace multiple paradigms.
While the history of chiropractic is fraught with war stories having to do with the struggle with the medical establishment for acceptance, the position of chiropractic in the medical community seems to be assured as the new millennium begins. This circumstance owes its existence, more than anything, to the good results people have experienced over the years from chiropractic treatment and the resulting good reputation enjoyed by chiropractic. Even the American Medical Association, that renowned trade union for doctors, could not stop the emergence of chiropractic, though God knows it tried.