Chiropractic is a survivor in a century-long war waged by the AMA to put an end to the specialty because it works. Today, the practice is growing faster than ever before and its effect on the healthcare industry and positive patient outcomes are undeniable.
Medical Doctors in the 18th Century
In the 1800’s, medical doctors were little more than barbers who bled their patients, put leeches on them, and gave them mercury-laden medications which often made them sicker or even killed them. In 1799, they bled George Washington to death.
There were many other healing modalities at the time, including traveling “snake oil” salesmen. Doctors said their craft was “science-based”, but they had no idea what caused 95% of the problems they saw and no understanding how to treat them. A doctor learned from an older doctor, and if they went to school, it was for a week and taught by men who knew nothing much more than superstition. Going to a doctor was dangerous - they could heal a dog bite or a broken bone, but little else.
Birth of Chiropractic
In 1865, Daniel David Palmer was healing by the use of magnets in Davenport, Iowa when he noticed that his janitor, who was working in his office without a shirt, had a large lump on his spine below his neck. Palmer thought it was a bone out of place and asked if he could press it back. When he pushed it back, the janitor shouted, “I can hear!”
It seems that he’d suffered a back injury and lost his hearing at the same time. The vertebrae being pushed back restored the neural connection to his hearing and this ‘eureka’ moment made Dr. Palmer realize that spinal maladjustment could cause many associated health problems.
The Rest is History, Except…
Palmer developed adjustment techniques that helped patients’ pain and picked up adherents. Schools developed to teach the new science. Medical doctors railed at the competition as a threat, and formed an elite organization to exclude any other type of medical therapy. Chiropractic was attacked for not being “science-based”.
Influence of Big Money on Medicine
In 1901, John D. Rockefeller created the, "Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research". Within five years the AMA’s Council on Medical Education had created a list of unacceptable schools. In 1910, the AMA hired Abraham Flexner (author of the Flexner Report) who, backed by the Carnegie Foundation, began to close hundreds of private medical and homeopathic schools across the country. Johns Hopkins was named as the model school for all others in the United States to be based upon. The AMA had now gained control of all federal healthcare research and student aid.
The remaining schools were ordered to never teach any therapies but those recommended by the AMA, or face the prospect of losing their licenses. In the end, chiropractic and all other natural processes were excluded.
Death of all Except “Allopathic”
Medical doctors called their practices “allopathic,” and began a war of suppression against any competing practices. Most were squashed except for chiropractic, which held its own and finally won a lawsuit against the AMA for trying to eradicate this new healthcare modality. Chiropractic suffered, but did not die.
Fast forward to 2019 and chiropractic is not just surviving, it is flourishing. The U.S. chiropractic market size is expected to reach $17.93 billion by 2025, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc. The market is projected to witness a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 4.32% during the forecast period. (source: PRNewswire)
Rising cases of back, shoulder, foot, neck pain, and headaches are driving the chiropractic market in the US. Other factors such as the aging of the population and the increasing number of chiropractors in the country would help in the market growth. The majority of people suffering from lower back pain and other such issues initially seek help from a chiropractor.
Acceptance by Medical Doctors, Insurers, and Federal Agencies
Growth in the marketplace for chiropractic services has resulted in a steady increase in the amount of chiropractic practices in the US. Furthermore, it has also exhibited steadily increasing acceptance by doctors, third-party payers, as well federal and state governments.
These factors are expected to support the growth in the market. As per the American Chiropractic Association, it is estimated that by 2020, there would be roughly 80,000 chiropractors in the country with an addition of over 2500 new practitioners graduating college each year. Chiropractors treat approximately 35 million patients each year in the US, which has contributed to making the American chiropractic industry a significant one.
In 2017, the American College of Physicians released an update to its low back pain treatment guideline that recommends first using non-drug treatments, such as spinal manipulation (a centerpiece of chiropractic care), for acute and chronic low back pain. A systematic review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2017 supports the use of spinal manipulative therapy as a first-line treatment for acute low back pain. (source: American Chiropractic Association)
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