What is chiropractic?

Chiropractic is a health care profession that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system, the nervous system, and the effects of these disorders on general health. The spine protects the spinal cord, which together with the brain make up the central nervous system.  
Spinal dysfunction results in nerve signal interference and muscle tone imbalance. Chiropractic care is used most often to treat neuromusculoskeletal complaints, including but not limited to back pain, neck pain, pain in the joints of the arms or legs, and headaches.

Spinal Column and the Central Nervous System

The founder of chiropractic was the American, Daniel David Palmer (1844-1913). He based his theory on that of Hippocrates, the ‘father of medicine’, who believed that the causes of illness can be found in the spinal column. The spinal column protects the spinal cord which, together with the brain, forms the central nervous system. Palmer believed that problems that occur in the spinal column create blockages in the flow of the spinal cord’s nerve impulses and in its network of nerves.

By removing these blockages, the nerve impulses can do their work unimpeded. Organs and tissues can function properly again. Chiropractic works on the ability of the body to heal itself as long as the central nervous system is working properly. Palmer called this ability "innate intelligence". Blockages can be caused by a number of means. These may be accidents or falls, carrying heavy burdens, lifting objects wrongly, walking, standing or even hyperextension (stretching too far). Psychological tensions such as stress can also have a negative impact. Removing these blockages is usually done by adjusting the spinal column using specific chiropractic techniques.


Hippocrates developed his theory that health problems stemmed from problems in the spinal column in 400 BC.

100 years of chiropractic

In 1895, the American healer Daniel David Palmer treated his elderly servant who had become deaf as a result of an accident. During this accident, the patient heard a ‘crack’ and then suddenly could not hear anymore. Palmer applied a specific treatment to the upper part of the spinal column, and the servant suddenly regained his hearing. Palmer believed that he had found the cure to deafness, and deaf patients flocked to him for treatment. Unfortunately, the treatments were unsuccessful. However, Palmer did discover that there were particular connections between complaints and problem areas in the spinal column. His son, B.J. Palmer, continued his work at academic level, carried out significant scientific research and founded the first chiropractic training college in America. The first chiropractor in the Netherlands was in 1968. There are now more than 200 registered chiropractors in the country.


Chiropractic is a five year university study. The first two years are very similar to the study of medicine, and many of the subjects covered are shared. These include anatomy, neurology, physiology, biochemistry and biomechanics. Students then move on to the subjects that are specific to chiropractic such as X-ray diagnostics and chiropractic treatment techniques. After the training, a chiropractor is able to independently make a diagnosis.

The chiropractic training leads to the degree Master of Science (MSc.), and a further study to Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.). Post-graduate studies include radiology, neurology, pediatrics and sports medicine. At present, there are no studies for chiropractic in the Netherlands. Training has become available in Europe in recent years with courses being offered in Denmark, France and Great Britain. Courses can also be taken in America or Australia. Course requirements include a secondary school certificate in sciences. After graduation the chiropractor, in accordance with European guidelines, must complete one year’s internship in the country where he/she intends to work before being able to practice independently.