Chiropractor - Doctor of Chiropractic (DC)


Chiropractic care (derived from the Greek, meaning “done by hand”) dates back to the 1895. The discipline was developed by Daniel David Palmer, a self-taught healer in Davenport, Iowa. Palmer’s objective was to find a cure for disease and illness that did not use drugs. Palmer studied the structure of the spine and the ancient art of manipulation.

Palmer first treated a local janitor who complained of deafness after performing heavy labor in a stooped position. Upon examination, Palmer noted a lump on the janitor’s back that he attributed to a displaced vertebra. Shortly after Palmer’s manipulation of the janitor’s back, his hearing was restored. Later Palmer claimed to successfully treat a man’s heart condition using spinal manipulation. Based upon his success with these two cases, Palmer concluded that disease can be the result of spinal misalignment.

As more people began to seek Palmer’s care, he refined his theory to state that many ailments were caused by the vertebrae impinging on spinal nerves. Palmer called such interference with normal nerve transmission “subluxations.” He believed that after manipulations or adjustments to correct the proper vertebral alignment, normal brain and nerve transmission are restored and the body is able to resume its innate ability to recover from illness.

Today, the majority of practicing providers mix spinal adjustments with other therapies, such as hot or cold treatments, nutrition counseling, and exercise recommendations. They also frequently use new technologies to locate and eliminate subluxations.

Chiropractors take a medical history in the same manner as other health care providers. They then perform an examination focused on detecting muscle strength versus weakness, the range of motion of the complete spine, any structural abnormalities, and the posture assumed by the patient in a variety of positions. Lab values may also be ordered. X-rays and other images may be taken to help make a diagnosis.

The chiropractor’s principal method of treatment is through adjustments (spinal manipulations). Two common techniques used are the recoil thrust and the rotational thrust. The recoil thrust requires the patient to lie face down on a special table that moves slightly downward as thrusts are made by the practitioner to accomplish adjustments. The rotational thrust requires the patient to lie with the upper body twisted counter to the pelvis. The chiropractor then applies short, fast thrusts to the spine.


To become a chiropractor in the U.S., the student typically begins with several years of undergraduate studies focused on biology and science. They then complete a 3-5 year program at a chiropractor school. Some states require that you have a bachelor’s degree and a chiropractor degree to practice.

Similar to many other professionals, chiropractors are regulated at two different levels:

  • Board certification is conducted by the National Board of Chiropractor Examiners, thereby creating national standards for chiropractic care.  
  • Licensure takes place at the state level in accordance with specific state laws. Licensure may differ significantly from state to state. Most states require successful completion of the National Chiropractic Board examination prior to licensure. Some states also require passing a practical examination. All states recognize training from chiropractic schools accredited by the Council of Chiropractic Education (CCE).

Most states have requirements for a certain number of continuing education hours to be completed every year, in order to maintain licensure.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Gevorg A. Poghosian, Ph.D.

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