From its discovery in 1895 to its current status, in which the World Federation of Chiropractic Meeting may be considered a prestigious international scientific conference, the evaluation of chiropractic can be viewed as a compression of the phases which medical and scientific evolution have followed over a much longer period. Chiropractic theory started primarily as a vitalistic philosophy justifying its treatment while the medical scientific community was rejecting vitalism. Both chiropractic and medical spine specialists went through a period of speculative theory in the first half of this century based upon either perceived neurological or pathological observations. There was a period of single-theory preoccupation by chiropractors (the subluxation) and medical specialists (disc herniation) which brought these professions into conflict. The past decade has led to greater scientific exploration by both professions, with more national scientific discussion of the causes and treatment of spinal problems. The next decade, however, appears likely to require greater emphasis on social research into clinical effectiveness of treatments, prevention of back pain, patient satisfaction and quality assurance. This evolution should be considered the normal maturation of a health care profession.
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