Nearly 100 years of professional care for Californians
For nearly a century, the Department of Consumer Affairs’ California Board of Chiropractic Examiners (BCE) has been making sure our state’s chiropractors are educated and licensed to provide safe, professional care. Find out more about these professionals, their licensure, and their licensing board.
ONE MAN’S IDEA
More than 70,000 licensed U.S. chiropractors—sometimes called “doctors of chiropractic”—care for patients with health problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. They use spinal adjustments and manipulation as well as other clinical interventions to manage patients’ health concerns, such as back and neck pain. But these tens of thousands of professionals can trace their health care practice back to just one man.
Daniel David “D.D.” Palmer is considered the founder and developer of chiropractic. Born in Canada in 1845, Palmer came to the United States as a young adult. He held various jobs, but always maintained a passionate interest and study of holistic and naturopathic health philosophies.
According to the American Chiropractic Association, Palmer discovered through his study that, although various forms of body and spinal manipulation had been used to improve health throughout the ages, no one had developed an actual system to outline and govern this particular health practice. Palmer named the system “chiropractic” (from the Greek words “cheir” [hand] and “praktos” [done], meaning “done by hand”) and performed the first spinal adjustment in 1895 on a janitor who had lost his hearing following a back injury. The individual reported improved hearing following Palmer’s spinal adjustment, and this success helped fuel public interest in chiropractic services.
Palmer continued to develop chiropractic practices and in 1897 established the first school—Iowa’s Palmer College of Chiropractic, which still is in operation today.
JOURNEY TO LICENSURE
Kansas became the first state to license chiropractors in 1913, but California’s road to licensure took a bit longer, with a couple of twists and turns along the way.
In 1907, a California chiropractor named C.D. Greenall was arrested and fined for practicing medicine without a license. His arraignment and overall legal case was spearheaded by a young attorney named Philaletha S. Michelson, who took on Greenall’s cause in an effort to establish chiropractors’ right to treat patients through their holistic system. With Michelson at his side, Greenall and his case went all the way to the California Supreme Court, where they won in 1908, and Greenall’s citation and fine were invalidated.
Greenall and Michelson’s test case helped lay the groundwork for 1922’s statewide Proposition 16, which let Californians decide whether chiropractors should be licensed as their own practice and profession through a state oversight board. The initiative proposed:
- The creation of the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners (BCE) with members appointed by the governor and paid for by licensure fees.
- The prohibition of the practice of chiropractic without a degree from a Board-approved institution and a license issued by the Board.
- Empowering the Board to approve chiropractic schools and colleges meeting specified minimum educational requirements.
- The ability for the Board to revoke a chiropractic license.
The proposition passed by a resounding 59.5%.
Every state now licenses and recognizes chiropractic as a health care profession.
BCE IN ACTION
Today’s BCE oversees California’s approximately 14,000 licensees and 19 chiropractic schools and colleges throughout the United States. BCE’s major duties include:
- Setting educational standards—The Board’s requirements, including its regulation of continuing education, prepare individuals to become licensed chiropractors.
- Evaluating licensure applications—To be licensed, applicants must complete educational requirements, pass a national licensing examination as well as the California Law and Professional Practice Exam, and be cleared of any convictions through a background check.
- Enforcing chiropractic standards—The Board is responsible for investigating complaints and taking any disciplinary actions.
The mission of the Board of Chiropractic Examiners is to protect the health, welfare, and safety of the public through licensure, education, and enforcement in chiropractic care. For more information on BCE and the chiropractic profession, please visit www.chiro.ca.gov; to check a chiropractor’s license, visit search.dca.ca.gov.