Can a chiropractor replace your GP?

Chiropractors are increasingly moving into family primary care, taking on the role traditionally filled by GPs.
 
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02.Origins of chiropractic

As any doctor will tell you, an orthopaedic subluxation is a real thing – a painful partial dislocation or misalignment of a vertebra that can be seen on an X-ray image.

Chiropractic has its origins in a quasi-religious system of healing invented by American bonesetter and magnetic healer, Daniel Palmer, in the late 19th century. 

At its core was the belief that the body possessed an innate intelligence, defined as an energy or vital force that enabled the body to heal itself, but whose functioning could be impeded by subluxations (displacements). The chiropractor’s remit, then, was to detect and correct these subluxations.

As any doctor will tell you, an orthopaedic subluxation is a real thing – a painful partial dislocation or misalignment of a vertebra that can be seen on an X-ray image. 

They rarely affect nerves and don’t cause disease. But a chiropractic subluxation refers to a functional entity, and can’t necessarily be detected via X-ray or modern medical imaging. According to neurophysiology professor, Marcello Costa, “The elusive ‘subluxation’, the one chiropractors postulate as causing diseases, simply does not exist.” Even chiropractors themselves have never successfully proven subluxations actually exist, let alone cause myriad health problems.

 

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Yet to a large extent it’s the belief in subluxations and innate intelligence that distinguishes members of the chiropractic profession. Many practitioners have rejected these theoretical constructs and focus on the physical aspects of musculoskeletal therapy, yet there are still so-called fundamentalists who adhere to these beliefs, including the profession’s peak body, the Chiropractors Association of Australia (CAA), which has about 2600 members.

The CAA’s core values include the recognition that there’s “an innate intelligence within a living organism that strives to preserve life and, if uninhibited, will express optimal wellbeing”. Furthermore, “subluxations compromise the expression of innate intelligence, and … prevention and removal of subluxations will facilitate the expression of optimal health”.

The other main member body for chiropractors, the Chiropractic and Osteopathic College of Australasian (COCA), which has more than 1000 members, rejects the notion of subluxations and proposes to adopt the position of the General Chiropractic Council in the UK, which states: “The chiropractic vertebral subluxation complex is an historical concept but it remains a theoretical model. It is not supported by any clinical research evidence that would allow claims to be made that it is the cause of disease or health concerns.”

 
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