Chiropractic History In Canada

Daniel David Palmer in Davenport, Iowa, founded chiropractic in 1895; in fact, the “Memorial” in the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC) was done so in his honour. Since Palmer’s first chiropractic adjustment, this profession has developed and grown to become one of the largest primary contact health care professions in North America.

CMCC welcomed many veterans returning from WWII when it officially opened on September 18, 1945. The founders of the CMCC envisioned their institution establishing a high standard of chiropractic education and they wanted to become a catalyst for the development of chiropractic in Canada. For 50 years the CMCC served all of Canada as the sole provider of chiropractic education. As a result, the majority of today’s practicing chiropractors in Canada are graduates are CMCC graduates. This chiropractic college is evidence-based and they have a patient-centred approach which attracts students from all around the world.

Daniel Palmer

Daniel Palmer educated himself in all the current science of that day, pseudo-science, as well as fads and built up a very successful practice.

In 1895 the janitor in Palmer`s building told Palmer how he had been deaf in one ear for 17 years after he had felt something “let go” at the top of his back. Palmer took that opportunity and examined him only to discover a bone out of place at that spot. After some convincing, the janitor allowed Palmer to “put the bone back in place” through a carefully analyzed manipulation. After two such manipulations the janitor could hear again and his hearing was normal for the remainder of his life.

After this success, Palmer went into seclusion for six months to carefully study the effects of manipulations on a wide variety of his patients. He truly felt he was on the edge of an amazing discovery so he was very secretive about what he was up to.

By 1900 Palmer proclaimed chiropractic as a profession and began to teach others his system of adjustments. Soon new chiropractors were spreading and before long they were in Canada.

While all this was going on, the field of health care was rapidly evolving. In the late 1800’s there were three main schools of health care; the physicians who worked with medicines and surgery, eclectics who worked with natural botanicals, and the manipulators, (mainly in the form of osteopaths but soon joined by the chiropractors).

Opposition Began

By 1912 physicians were the predominant field in health care that was supported by the US government. In fact, there was a rapid movement away from natural health care. Osteopathic health care was assimilated into mainstream medicine and to practice this field, one had to become an MD first then do further study to become an osteopath. This type of health care was not favoured therefore osteopathy became a dying profession in the US, though they are still present in Canada today. Only the persevering chiropractors remained, led by its discoverer and his entrepreneurial son, BJ Palmer.

The US government, in an effort to eliminate the weaker, profit-based medical schools, commissioned the Flexner Report (1912), describing the state of the schools in the US and making sweeping recommendations for reform. Meanwhile in 1915, the Ontario government issued a similar report, the Hodgins Commission, an investigation into the state of medical education in Ontario. This report noted “new avenues of healing which had not previously been dreamed of,” including “bone setting”, “manipulation” and “mechanotherapy”. Three chiropractors gave deputations to the commission, including BJ Palmer. Palmer was rather flamboyant and he, with the other two, espoused the fundamentalist philosophy that chiropractors “have no use for diagnosis”, “do not believe in bacteria” and believe “the analysis of blood and urine … has no value”. Naturally this commission reacted as expected and recommended that Ontario’s three chiropractic colleges be shut down.

Fortunately the commission did recognize the value in these methods and recommended they be added to the medical curriculum. It wasn't until 55 years later (1970) that the Ontario government saw that no action was taken by the medical schools and they chastised the medical profession for failing to incorporate manipulation into its curriculum. As further evidence of the mainstream medical opposition for any form of physical therapy, physiotherapists were not registered to practice in Ontario until 1933, (18 years after Hodgin’s recommendations).

Public support for chiropractic remained strong in Ontario (and in Canada) because it provided the most effective treatment for back pain. In 1925 the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons in an effort to limit the chiropractors’ role in health care, requested the government enact legislation to regulate the health practitioners out of their jurisdiction. As a result the “Drugless Practitioners Act” of 1925 was enacted to regulate chiropractors, optometrists and other new professions. Chiropractic was now legal but strictly limited.

During the next 30 years many chiropractic techniques were developed that are still used today. The success they had with their approach created countless loyal patients all across Canada and the US, in spite of medicine’s animosity.

Battle Heats Up In The Us

Unfortunately, over these 30 years the medical associations across the US started a program of having chiropractic practitioners arrested for “practicing medicine” without a license. For those in the field, it became an honour for a chiropractor to get arrested at least once in his career. The legal argument that no practice of medicine was going on, only the practice of chiropractic, stood up quite well in the courts but for 30 years there were countless chiropractors arrested and charged.

Advances In Ontario

It was during this era that a new chiropractic college, the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC) in Toronto, was founded in 1945, catering to men returning from the war with government subsidies for education in their pockets. It was instantly successful and has over its first 60 years out-grown two new campuses.

In 1959 the Ontario the College of Physicians and Surgeons published a report on “Osteopathy and Chiropractic” outlining a powerful offensive policy to give chiropractic in Ontario a knock back. This triggered several Royal Commissions throughout the 1960’s looking at the state of health care in Canada and chiropractic care in particular. Chiropractic was determined to be “a valid health service” by the Quebec Commission, which was accepted by the federal government’s Hall Royal Commission on Health Services in 1961. It wasn't until 1970 that chiropractic services were added to OHIP in Ontario with the government picking up 80 percent of the treatment fees. This OHIP legislation stated, “the potential therapeutic benefits of manipulation have been neglected by the medical profession.” This was a long overdue reprimand for the medical associations.

Since 1989 the chiropractic profession has made great strides towards widespread support within society and within the mainstream health science community. Nowadays there are chiropractic research positions at universities all across Canada getting government grants to support their work. It was an uphill battle but great advances have been made in getting mainstream medicine to accept chiropractic care. Interestingly, Worker’s Compensation Boards became incredible supporters of chiropractic care. They conducted their own research into the cost effectiveness of the chiropractic approach to the treatment of back and neck injuries.

The final piece of legislation affecting the chiropractic profession was passed in Ontario in 1991 as the “Regulated Health Professions Act”. This act replaced the Drugless Practitioners Act of 1925 in regulating chiropractors. This new statute authorized the use of the title “doctor” and granted the right to diagnose, which only four other professions had: optometry, dentistry, medicine and psychology (podiatry was later added). The College of Chiropractors of Ontario was established giving the profession the right of self-regulation under the same legal parameters as the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Even though the chiropractic care field has fought and won many battles in order to survive, there was one loss here in Ontario. OHIP revamped the schedule of allowable treatments and chiropractic was removed.  No matter, given the powerful forces at play behind the scenes, we can all be grateful that chiropractic care has survived the many battles it has had to fight.

For a more in depth look at what was truly going on behind the scenes there is the highly-acclaimed documentary “Doctored”. Doctored is thoroughly-researched and we at Chiro Med Rehab recommend that everyone watch this incredible documentary.

Chiro Med Rehab Centre is located at 10144 Yonge Street, just north of Major Mackenzie Drive in the heart of Richmond Hill. Visit Chiro Med online or call 905-918-0419.

March 7, 2014
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