The art and science of the chiropractor have often been maligned by the western health establishment. The historical animosity is mostly due to the fact that western medicine tends to employ a philosophy of reductionism, which states that the best way to understand how the human body works, how pathologies originate, and how to treat them can best be accomplished by reducing the body to its component parts. The body is classified into organ systems, then into individual organs, which are then divided into their component tissues, and finally individual cells themselves. Traditional western medicine seeks to localize the cause of pathology and then treat the disorder at the narrowest level of scope possible. This reductionism is in direct contrast to the holistic approach taken by the chiropractor. The chiropractor, much like the traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, realizes that the body can not be effectively reduced into component parts. The chiropractor views life as an emergent phenomenon that both encompasses and transcends its component parts. In recent years, many western science practitioners have begun to appreciate the holistic approach of the chiropractor and chiropractic treatments are starting to find their rightful place in the medical mainstream.
The chasm between holistic health care and traditional western medicine is narrowing. Just as physicians are beginning to appreciate the benefits of holistic approaches to health, some chiropractors are also employing some techniques and tools of conventional western medicine in their practice. Traditional spine manipulation techniques are combined with modern radiological diagnostic equipment to determine the most effective treatment for the patient. Chiropractors are also trained to recognize the symptoms of serious conditions, such as cancer, and when they detect such a disorder they refer the patient to a health care provider that specializes in that condition. Clearly, chiropractic practice is increasingly being seen more as a complement to traditional health care rather than a direct competitor.
The public has taken note of the changing relationship between the chiropractor and the physician. For this reason, many insurance policies now provide coverage for chiropractic treatments. Additionally, the United States Armed Forces now mandates that all servicemen and women must have access to a chiropractor while in active service. Many athletes also take advantage of chiropractic treatment, both professional and amateurs. The United States Olympic team keeps a number of chiropractors on staff and chiropractic care is now seen as an integral part of the modern athletic training regimen.
The increased acceptance of chiropractic along with other holistic therapies is not accidental. Scientific studies have shown that holistic techniques are highly effective at treating certain kinds of disorders, including some disorders that can not be easily treated using standard medical techniques. Holistic medicine, once viewed as a fringe pseudoscience, is enjoying an increasingly positive reputation among the general public as well as professional health care providers. Since chiropractic care is now more widely available than in days past, and since many insurance policies now cover the services of a chiropractor, the health care consumer finds that he or she has more options than before and is, therefore, able to take a more active role in planning his or her own health care.