The American Chiropractic Assn. It is estimated that the country’s 77,000 or so chiropractors treat more than 35 million Americans each year.

I suspect most, if not all of these patients have no idea that the $ 15 billion chiropractic industry owes its existence to a ghost.

Daniel David Palmer, the “father” of chiropractic, who made the first adaptation of chiropractic in 1895, was an avid spiritualist. He claimed that the term and basic principles of chiropractic treatment were passed on to him during a session by a long-dead doctor.

“The knowledge and philosophy given to me by Dr. Jim Atkinson, an intelligent spiritual being, appealed to my sanity,” wrote Palmer in his treatise “The Chiropractor,” published in 1914 after his death in Los Angeles. Atkinson had died 50 years before Palmer’s revelation.

Before Palmer found out about the adjustment of the spine from a supernatural entity, he practiced what is known as “magnetic healing” for nine years, in which he diagnosed and cured diseases by manipulating a magnetic field surrounding the patient’s body.

I’m bringing up all of this because I saw a chiropractor the other day – my first visit as a patient after writing a series of columns questioning chiropractors’ qualifications to treat diabetes, which is a growing one in the industry Trend is.

My wife insisted that I drive after my car crashed as I drove downtown from Hollywood on 101. My car is in worse shape than I am. I got away from the accident with a stiff neck.

As I lay on my back in the chiropractor’s office, waiting for his healing touch, two thoughts occurred to me.

First: Why are chiropractors allowed to call themselves doctors? They are clearly not doctors as they lack both extensive training and the ability of a doctor to write prescriptions. However, it can be difficult for a layperson to distinguish between the two professions when they share a common (and highly respected) title.

Second, while the therapeutic benefits of a spinal adjustment seem undeniable – you leave a session feeling refreshed – why does basically physical therapy have to be wrapped up in so much pseudoscience and possible quackery?

Modern chiropractors mainly focus on the spine and look for “misalignments” that can affect joints, muscles, nerves and organs. The main idea is to rebalance the body and help it heal naturally.

In recent years, some chiropractors have sought to expand their practice by claiming expertise related to diabetes, neuropathy, and other chronic conditions.

My chiropractic session included an examination using something called a static surface electromyography device, also known as a surface EMG or static sEMG. This means that electrodes were held in certain places along my spine.

This made for an impressive looking display, with colored bars (green and blue good, red and black bad) assigned to different parts of my neck and back.

This advertisement in turn served as the basis for later discussions with the chiropractor and his assistant. The whole point was that I would need at least 12 more sessions at a cost of nearly $ 800 with a modest discount for paying the entire amount upfront.

Surface EMG technology has been around for some time. It is used to measure electrical activity. In the chiropractor’s office, I was told no fewer than three times that the technology was “used by NASA,” which was clearly intended to dispel my suspicions.

“I don’t trust him,” said Fred Lerner, Beverly Hills chiropractor and former chairman of the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners, the state regulatory agency. He told me he doesn’t use a surface EMG machine in his practice and that he should be careful of colleagues who do.

“You will have two different examiners and you will get two different results,” Lerner said. “The results are not reproducible.”

I spoke to David Marcarian, who helped develop surface EMG systems while working for NASA’s Ames Research Center and is now the president of a Seattle company called Precision Biometrics. He said his privately held company’s MyoVision device dominates the surface EMG machine market in chiropractic offices.

Marcarian acknowledged that because of his background as NASA researchers, some chiropractors claim that surface EMG machines play a prominent role in the space program. In fact, he said, NASA is only using the technology to test other diagnostic equipment, not astronaut wellbeing.

“The main reason static surface EMG has such a bad rap is because so many chiropractors are misusing the data,” Marcarian said. “Unscrupulous chiropractors use it to trick people into becoming patients.”

The main reason static surface EMG has such a bad rap is because so many chiropractors are misusing the data.

David Marcarian, who helped develop surface EMG systems at NASA

Regarding chiropractors who enjoy the eponymous benefits of a “doctor”, Robert Puleo, executive officer of the State Board of Chiropractic Examiners, told me that the practice dates back to 1922, when the state passed the Chiropractic Initiative Act.

It laid the foundation for regulating the industry and has been largely unchanged for nearly a century.

“It specifically allows them to call themselves doctors as long as they don’t claim to be doctors,” Puleo said.

This was apparently very important to early chiropractors whose beliefs were at odds with mainstream medicine.

DD Palmer, the founder of chiropractic, described the practice as “an educational, scientific, religious system” that “gives instruction in relation to both this world and the world to come”. In his 1914 memoir, he argued that chiropractors were allowed to treat patients for reasons of religious freedom.

“The United States Constitution and the California Personal Bylaws give me and anyone of the chiropractic faith the inalienable right to practice our religion without restriction or obstruction,” wrote Palmer.

Before the 1922 bill was passed, Puleo said, “California chiropractors have been jailed. They were charged with practicing medicine without a license. “

The right to call themselves a doctor is immediately legitimized for chiropractors as healthcare professionals.

Puleo said his office was “largely complaint-driven,” meaning it responds to patient complaints but is usually not on hand to look for violations of the law. “If we don’t get any complaints, there is not much we can do,” said Puleo.

He advised patients to contact chiropractors with their eyes open and watch out for any far-fetched claims. The board’s website allows individuals to search for government records to ensure that a chiropractor is licensed and to see if any disciplinary action has been taken.

I mentioned earlier that Palmer attributed the introduction to the basics of calling to a spirit. As such, it only seemed fair that I should allow the American Chiropractic Assn. addressing the otherworldly origins of the industry.

William Lauretti, an associate professor at New York Chiropractic College who serves as the association’s spokesman, admitted that “DD Palmer was an eccentric.”

Lauretti assured me, however, that consultations with supernatural beings “are not part of the modern day chiropractic profession”.

Good to know. When the chiropractor examining me called on Wednesday to book my next session, I declined. I said my throat feels better.

I didn’t mention that I’ve had the theme song Casper the Friendly Ghost on my mind for days.

David Lazarus’ column runs on Tuesdays and Fridays. He can also be seen daily on KTLA-TV Channel 5 and follows on Twitter @Davidlaz. Send your tips or feedback to david.lazarus@latimes.com.

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