In 1978 I was a student at New York Chiropractic College. Excitement was in the air.
The government of New Zealand had set up a commission to determine if chiropractic care should be included within their national health coverage.
Back in 1978, there was far less research and hard data about chiropractic. There were only a handful of books in English published by mainstream publishers about the use of spinal manual therapy. (I had most of them on my bookshelf.)
Fortunately, the New Zealand commission did a thorough and balanced job in their analysis.
They looked at the scientific rationale for chiropractic, of course, along with reports from patients and the opinions of a variety of experts. They examined the foundational principles of chiropractic, its educational standards, the qualification of its practitioners, patient results, and the potential for harm.
When medical doctors who were on an anti-chiropractic mission testified, they were cross-examined so that their limited perspective, ignorance, and biases could be brought to light.
At New York Chiropractic College, all of us students (and faculty too) were eagerly awaiting the commission’s report.
When the report came out in 1979, it was a watershed moment for the profession. It was the first time a governmental body had weighed in, with objectivity, about the merits of chiropractic. I still have my printed copy of the report on my bookshelf.
Here are direct quotes of some of the commission’s findings:
“The case for the inclusion of chiropractors in the health care team is overwhelming.”
“Spinal manual therapy (as practiced by chiropractors) is safe and effective in the relief of pain of biomechanical origin.” [They referred to this class of problems as “Type M” disorders.]
“[In the case of “Type O” disorders (non-musculoskeletal problems of the internal organs)]: in the context of current neurophysiological thought, modification of visceral function by mechanical disturbance of the spine is a rational hypothesis.” [I’ve added the highlighting here.]
Now, 45 years later, these findings still resonate.
On the one hand, chiropractic has gained much more acceptance in the mainstream of healthcare. But there’s still a long way to go to expand on the New Zealand report’s recommendations.
Those in the allopathic medical world too often see chiropractic as a fringe after-thought, rather than as a cornerstone of basic patient care. And the research program to further develop chiropractic methods – particularly in the area of (non-musculoskeletal) problems of the internal organs – has been woefully underfunded.
Yet for me, those memories of important events of 45 years ago remind me of the basic values to which I’ve been committed over my professional life.
Upcoming: The next chapter of chiropractic history – The 1983 lawsuit: Wilks vs. AMA
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