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Chiropractic History

The Spinal Adjustment is Not New!

The actual profession of Chiropractic – as a distinct form of health care – dates back to 1895. However, in the history of the world, the adjustment of the spine, its benefit to our nervous system and the overall relationship of our nervous system to our lives, was talked about and practiced by some of our greatest thinkers and physicians, as well as some of the oldest and greatest of our past civilizations.

Get knowledge of the human spine, for this is requisite for many diseases.” Hippocrates 400 B.C.

From Hippocrates (the father of medicine), Herodotus, Aristotle, Galen (the prince of physicians), Alcmaeon of Croton (the father of Ophthalmology) to the 19th century bone-setters of the British Isles, many notable people in history have recognized the importance of the nervous system in relation to disease and pathology. The wisdom of the vertebral adjustment to free impaired nerves has stood the test of time and remained alive today after 5000 years. In fact, today’s Chiropractors are merely only the present guardians of this ancient practice.

Archaeological studies have found significant documented proof of spinal adjusting procedures by ancient civilizations such as hieroglyphics, Greek papyrus records and ancient Chinese documents. These have all indicated spinal adjusting for the treatment of numerous ailments. Chinese Kung Fu documents date back to 2700 B.C. and Greek records date back to 1500 B.C.

Some of the many civilizations and tribal groups who developed spinal adjusting skills include the early American Indians, the early natives of Polynesia, the Japanese, the Asiatic Indians, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Syrians, the Hindus and the Tibetans. Research has also shown that other more recent Indian tribes practiced spinal adjusting as well. These more recent tribes include the Sioux, the Winnebago, the Creek, the Aztec, the Toltec, the Tarascan, the Zoltec, the Mayan and the South American Incas.
D.D. Palmer

The History of a Profession

Despite this history, treatment of the spine was still crude and misunderstood. The year was 1895 and a Canadian from Port Perry, Ontario named Daniel David Palmer was a practicing magnetic healer in Davenport, Iowa. It was during this year that he decided to treat a janitor named Harvey Lillard who had been deaf for 17 years. Palmer learned that Lillard lost his hearing following a back injury and, upon examination, noticed a “bump” on his spine. Palmer deduced that these events had to be connected and decided to abandon the usual magnetic treatment in favor of a new procedure he wanted to try.

After receiving Lillard’s permission, Palmer placed him on his treatment table and then, gently with his hands, “adjusted” the vertebra back into position. Within a few days, two major events happened. Lillard’s hearing was restored and Daniel David Palmer, (or D.D.), became the proud new founder and discoverer of a new profession. The new profession would be called chiropractic – from the Greek word cheir, meaning “hand,” and praktikos, meaning “effective practice.”

Harvey Lillard reported in the January 1897 issue of The Chiropractic:

Harvey Lillard“I was deaf 17 years and I expected to always remain so, for I had doctored a great deal without any benefit. I had long ago made up my mind to not take any more ear treatments, for it did me no good. Last January Dr. Palmer told me that my deafness came from an injury in my spine. This was new to me; but it is a fact that my back was injured at the time I went deaf. Dr. Palmer treated me on the spine; in two treatments I could hear quite well. That was eight months ago. My hearing remains good.” Harvey Lillard, 320 W. Eleventh Street, Davenport, Iowa, (Palmer 1897).

Read More About the History

Word of Palmer’s success in “curing” deafness traveled fast. Soon people with deafness from across the country were awaiting his miraculous treatment. Although he had some success in helping those with deafness, he soon realized that many other conditions were benefiting from the spine treatment. Over the succeeding months, patients came to Palmer with every conceivable problem, including flu, sciatica, migraine headaches, stomach complaints, epilepsy and heart trouble. Palmer found each of these conditions responded well to the spinal adjustments.

Although he never used drugs, under Palmer’s care, fevers broke, pain ended, infections healed, vision improved, stomach disorders disappeared, and of course, hearing returned. Often surprised at the effectiveness of his own adjustments, D.D. returned to his studies of anatomy and physiology to learn more about the vital connection between the spine and one’s health. Eventually, he realized spinal adjustments to correct vertebral misalignments, or Subluxations, were eliminating nerve interference that caused the patients’ complaints.

Although Chiropractic was proving to be a successful way of healing the body, it was not readily accepted. The medical community at the turn of the 20th century was afraid of Palmer’s success and began a crusade against Chiropractic. They wrote letters to the editors of local papers, openly criticizing his methods and accusing him of practicing medicine without a license. D.D. defended himself against these attacks by presenting arguments that he provided a unique service which they did not offer and pointed out the risks of the many medical procedures of that era. He also cautioned against introducing medicine into the body saying it was often unnecessary and even harmful.

In 1905, D.D. Palmer was indicted for practicing medicine without a license. He was sentenced to 105 days in jail and was required to pay a $350 fine. D.D. served his time and paid his fine but this didn’t keep him from adjusting. His patients (including his jailer) came to his jail cell to get their adjustments. D.D. continued to fight to promote Chiropractic publishing two books from 1906 to 1913, The Science of Chiropractic and The Chiropractors Adjuster. He adjusted patients until his death in Los Angeles in 1913.

D.D.’s son, Bartlett Joshua, was as equally enthusiastic about Chiropractic as his father and continued his father’s work. Bartlett, or B.J. as he was known, is credited with developing Chiropractic into a clearly defined and unique health care system D.D. Palmer was a genius but he had an abrasive personality, which was ill suited to the promotion of Chiropractic. His son B.J. was the marketer, educator and inventor that carried the Chiropractic torch for the next 60 years. B.J. built the Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport, which became the premier Chiropractic college in the world at that time.

BJ PalmerIn 1924, B.J. had the first radio station west of the Mississippi, WOC (or, Wonders of Chiropractic). In 1928 he also purchased WHO (With Hands Only) in Des Moines. He was a world traveler and writer, and drew an audience from all over the country on his 50,000 watt clear channel stations. B.J. Palmer was also a prolific author and dynamic speaker who spoke to audiences all over the world concerning Chiropractic. He was described as having zeal and being a brilliant salesman and missionary when it came to Chiropractic.

The practice of Chiropractic continued to be met with significant hostility from the medical community. Many chiropractors were jailed for “practicing medicine without a license.” B.J. did much to increase the acceptance of Chiropractic. He fought for the establishment of a separate licensing and regulatory board for Chiropractic, allowing it to be considered a separate entity from medical practice. He continued to develop the science, art and philosophy of the profession from what was little more than a loosely knit structure. B.J. advocated the scientific advancement of Chiropractic as the primary route to acceptance. Through his leadership, Chiropractic became the first health care profession to regularly use William Roentgen’s invention, the x-ray machine, which improved the science and accuracy of Chiropractic. By the time of B.J. Palmer’s death in 1961, he had literally educated enough Doctors of Chiropractic to place them throughout the free world.

Chiropractic and its leaders have changed and evolved through the years but the principles of this distinct healing method are still the same as they were over 100 years ago. Essentially, the body is a self-healing organism. The nervous system controls and coordinates every organ, cell and tissue of the body. The relationship between the spine and the nervous system is a predictor for one’s state of health. Find the interference – correct it and the body will always move back toward health.

Today, Chiropractic is licensed as a distinct health care profession in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and dozens of other countries throughout the world. There are over 35 Chiropractic colleges throughout the world including the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Today’s recognition and acceptance of Chiropractic is primarily based on the strength of the growing body of scientific research, which all started from B.J. Palmer’s commitment to make Chiropractic scientific. The positive results Chiropractic care has given to millions of satisfied people all over the world continue to add credence to what one man started over 100 years ago. Chiropractic is now the world’s third largest healthcare profession and the fastest growing.

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The History of Chiropractic | (405) 240-9577