The Juice Man Cometh
JC Smith, MA, DC
Imagine yourself as a chiropractor before licensing laws were passed to protect you and your patients. There’s a knock at your office door and everyone inside freezes with fear. Like the runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad fleeing to the North during the Civil War, chiropractors felt the same terror before state laws legalized their type of care.
Your office has a doorman looking through a peephole when patients knock to be let in. The lookout makes sure they were not the undercover police who often posed as patients to make an arrest. Being busted was a routine event by the local authorities to appease the local medical society and to earn a few extra bucks for themselves.
From New York to Louisiana to California, chiropractors were routinely harassed, extorted, often ran out of town, and even beaten up by the local police. During the first half of the twentieth century, over 12,000 American chiropractors were arrested over 15,000 times, and some 3,300 were sent to jail for practicing medicine without a license.
This was a bogus charge—by no means did they practice medicine since they never used drugs and surgery. Their only offense was helping sick people get well with their healing hands. Their real misdeed was competing with the medical profession for patients. Everyone knew these arrests were a sham, but without legal protection in every state, chiropractors felt the wrath of the medical establishment.
Every so often the unofficial taxman from City Hall came calling. He was dubbed the Juice Man because he came to squeeze you for protection money. The local police were willing to look the other way as long as you could pay their extortion fee. When he finally comes knocking at your office door, he brings a couple of his thugs as enforcers.
Sometimes you can pay, but when you can’t, the Juice Man is troubled: just like the speakeasy during Prohibition, if he throws you in jail, you won’t be able to pay him in the future. So he has his thugs rough you up with a beating, leaving you with a few sore ribs, a swollen face, perhaps a black eye, and maybe a few days in the hospital—a clear warning to pay next time or else.
Few people understand how tough it was being a chiropractor. Not only did chiropractors have the strength and a special knack with their skilled hands to adjust their patients’ spines, but the foremost requirements to be a chiropractor were a strong backbone, a thick skin, and a resolute spirit—an inner strength to help sick people get well despite the medical foes and legal harassment.
For over a century an unwavering courage has been woven into the chiropractic character that remains an untold story of grit and survival. Certainly this profession has never been for the weak of mind or body—just ask the thousands of chiropractors who fought in this medical war. When the inevitable salvos began to fly, many who were less dedicated soon sought another line of work.
Chiropractors were not the only victims in this medical war. This warfare has also taken a toll on millions of innocent patients who were collateral damage of the medical fire. They were told by their local MDs, “Whatever you do, don’t go to a chiropractor.” Many were threatened, “Don’t come crawling back to me after that quack paralyzes you.”
Yet still they came, literally limping into chiropractic offices with frowns of hopelessness, seeking the proverbial “last resort” because traditional medicine had already failed them. Many had back surgeries that failed to help despite the promises of their spine surgeons.
Most felt torn like traitors who reluctantly changed sides in the medical war when their medical treatments failed them, but after they got relief from the chiropractor, their entire disposition changed from skepticism to support and then to anger.
Then they began to ask questions that every chiropractor has heard many times: Why didn’t my medical doctor refer me to you before he wanted me to have back surgery? Why did he let me suffer so long without telling me chiropractic might help me? These are all serious questions that this book will answer.
Indeed, the truth eventually has a way of overcoming propaganda, as it has for millions of patients over the past century who discovered chiropractic care, including those who waited in fear of the Juice Man.
Just like the chiropractors of yesteryear, maybe that anxious person today is you, living in apprehension of the proverbial Juice Man who takes on many different forms—the skeptical neighbor who condemns chiropractors although she’s never been to one; the biased MD who ridicules you just for asking about chiropractic care; the co-worker still in pain who had a back surgery but won’t admit it failed; or anyone who discourages you from seeking a chiropractor’s help.
The Medical War Against Chiropractors will show readers the history of the medical war on chiropractors, how the skepticism originated principally from just one man, why chiropractic is now considered the first choice for back pain, and, most of all, why it’s time to stop being afraid of the Juice Man.
 Russell W Gibbons, “Go to Jail for Chiro,” Journal of Chiropractic Humanities 4 (1994): 61–71.