The understanding that the spine is somehow involved in health and wellness as well as the practice of using manual manipulation as a source of healing dates back to the time of the ancient Greek philosophers. In fact, Hippocrates once said, “Get knowledge of the spine, for this is the requisite for many diseases.”
Modern chiropractic, however, marks its beginnings in the late 1800s when Daniel David Palmer, a self-educated teacher and healer, performed the first spinal manipulation on a patient. That patient was Harvey Lillard, a janitor who worked in Palmer’s building. Lillard was nearly totally deaf, and mentioned to Palmer that he lost his hearing many years ago when he was bending over and felt a “pop” in his upper back. Palmer, who was a practitioner of magnet therapy (a common therapy of the time) was quite knowledgeable in anatomy and very interested in how the spine interacts with the rest of the body’s systems. He felt strongly that the two events – the “popping” in Lillard’s back and his deafness – must somehow be related. He examined Lillard’s spine and found that one of his vertebra was misaligned. After applying slight pressure, Palmer returned Lillard’s vertebra to the correct position and an amazing event occurred – Lillard’s hearing was restored! This procedure has become known as a chiropractic adjustment.
Palmer soon discovered that spinal adjustments could correct misaligned vertebra, eliminate nerve interference and relieve patients’ pain. These misaligned vertebrae have been classified as chiropractic subluxations (versus allopathic subluxations). He began to use these “hand treatments” to treat a variety of ailments including sciatica, migraine headaches, stomach complaints, epilepsy and heart trouble. In 1898, he opened the Palmer School and Infirmary of Chiropractic and began teaching his chiropractic techniques to others.
The medical community did not immediately embrace Palmer’s chiropractic theories and techniques. The called him a “quack” and refused to acknowledge his accomplishments. At one point, Palmer was even indicted for practicing medicine without a license and spent time in jail for his offense.
While D. D. Palmer did not live to see his discoveries become accepted by the medical community, his son B.J. Palmer carried on his father’s devotion and advanced the practice of chiropractic by getting it recognized as a licensed profession and establishing the Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, one of the premier chiropractic college in the United States.
Today, chiropractors are licensed in every state with over 50,000 practicing chiropractors in this country alone. Chiropractic continues to gain wide acceptance by the medical, legal, and patient communities through is record of beneficial results and ongoing research. There is even an area of veterinary medicine that utilizes chiropractic techniques to treat animals.
While the practice of chiropractic has come a long way since it’s beginnings, its basic philosophies remain the same: the nervous system is involved in all bodily functions and a healthy nervous system, particularly a healthy spine, is one of the major keys to wellness. Disorders of the joints and muscles can cause interference in this delicate communications system and increases the risk of disease and other health problems. Only by recognizing and eliminating this interference, can health be restored. Chiropractic is now second only to medicine as the largest primary health care provider in the western world.