Philosophy as it applies to chiropractic examines the fundamental nature of the practice with reflective thought.1,2 It is important to apply philosophy to chiropractic because it lends us a set of tools to critically appraise problems, concepts and structures within the institutions of chiropractic.1 However, what is usually referred to as “chiropractic philosophy” does the opposite of traditional philosophical study.1 instead of using philosophical tools to question and critically appraise chiropractic tenants chiropractic philosophy is used to hand down dogmas and doctorines.1 It is important for us as first year chiropractic to grasp this distinction early on in our education so we can learn to critically appraise any information we may come across. Throughout our learning and in our practice we must vigilantly seek out information on the scientific basis of treatments in order to be able to practice ethically and in an evidence informed manner. Critically questioning dogmas and doctrines of the chiropractic profession will lead to improved patient outcomes and growth of the profession.
In the past chiropractic has been resistant to critical examination of its philosophy and has turned away from those who question it. 1 This has delayed the growth of the philosophy of chiropractic and has split the profession into those who accept the dogmas and those who think critical reflection is necessary for growth.1 This divide in views on chiropractic philosophy commonly involves the ideas of metaphysics and vitalism.1,2,3 Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy which aims to question the an existing assumptions.1,3 Vitalism is a collection of theories that are based on the belief that the life of all living organisms are sustained by a vital force.2,3 Those that believed in vitalism as a viable metaphysical theory were resistant to critical questioning of its theories.1,3 This internal squabbling without understanding or application of philosophical concepts that could have been applied to facilitate meaningful debate has delayed the growth of the profession and made chiropractic appear unscientific to external parties.1
In my personal opinion it is our duty as chiropractors in this age of information and technology to be fully informed about all treatments that fall within our scope of practice. From an economic point of view, in today’s competitive marketplace we will struggle to survive if all we can our patients is adjustments when there is an array of modalities and rehabilitative techniques we can offer in conjunction with spinal manipulation to improve patient outcomes. From an ethical point of view we must be evidence informed to truly act in the interest of our patients. It is through understanding of philosophical mechanisms that we can effectively integrate all these aspects to logically challenge dogmas and evolve the profession.
All health care professions are increasingly recognising the importance of psychosocial factors as well as physical factors to a person’s health. Even though most people consider health care to be mainly based on scientific discoveries it is crucial that we do not forget about the value that information from fields like philosophy can provide. By developing the philosophy of chiropractic we can better understand chiropractic and critically appraise the tenants of the profession.1
1. Coulter, I. Chiropractic: A Philosophy For Alternative Health Care. 1999; Sep; 1-5
2. Chapman-Smith D. The Philosophy of Chiropractic. The Chiropractic Report. 2011 Sep; 25(5): 1-8.
3. Principles and practice of chiropractic (Reserve) / editor in chief, Scott Haldeman ; associate editor, Simon Dagenais ; section editors, Brain Budgell … [et al.] [monograph on the Internet]. [place unknown]: New York : McGrawHill, 2005; n.d. [cited 2017 Feb 21]. Available from: CMCC Library Catalogue (OPAC)