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History of Chiropractic

Many people consider chiropractic to be a “new” healing art, when in fact for thousands of years there have been many forms of spinal manipulation that have been used in natural healing. The ancient Egyptian, Greek, & African healers along with many other cultures all have history of experimenting with spinal manipulation. Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine” (460-377 BC) made a connection between subluxation and disease by saying “get knowledge of the spine, for this is the requisite for many diseases.” Hippocrates believed that the physician’s duty was to remove any obstruction that would prevent the body from healing as only nature could truly heal. This is the premise of chiropractic today.

Thomas Edison’s now famous quote further relays the importance of the body healing itself and the doctor’s role to help the patient maintain normal structure and function and not to introduce foreign chemicals into the body. He stated “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause of the prevention of disease.”

While breakthroughs in modern medicine are extremely valuable in some cases they all too often are concerned with introducing foreign chemicals into the body in the form of drugs to treat symptoms of disease or resorting to surgery to cut out diseased tissue. The focus is rarely on prevention and treating the underlying causes of disease like poor diet and subluxation of the spine. Chiropractic stresses the ability of the body to heal itself and the Doctor of Chiropractic’s role is to remove subluxation so that the body can perform optimally.

Modern Chiropractic

Dr. Daniel David (DD) Palmer is considered to be the “Discoverer of Chiropractic.” Canadian born DD moved to the United States and studied health and healing from 1865-1895 and became a magnetic healer. On September 18th, 1895 Dr. Palmer made the now famous first chiropractic adjustment to the deaf janitor in his building Mr. Harvey Lillard in Davenport, Iowa. Lillard was explaining to DD that 17 years prior he was working in a cramped and stooped position when he heard something “pop” in his back and instantly his hearing was affected and had progressively become worse in one ear. Dr. Palmer examined Lillard’s back and found a painful and misaligned vertebra at the same spot Lillard had felt the “pop” years earlier. He suspected an obvious connection between the misaligned vertebra and Lillard’s impaired hearing and reasoned that if something went wrong in his back that caused the deafness, then correcting the misaligned vertebra should restore Lillard’s hearing.

Dr. Palmer used his hands and repositioned the vertebra with a gentle thrust and both Lillard and Dr. Palmer heard and felt the vertebra “pop” back into place. Lillard was amazed as he instantly heard sounds from the street below in his deaf ear. Palmer continued to work with Lillard’s spine and within a week Lillard reported that his hearing was back to normal. News of Dr. Palmer’s spine treatments spread quickly and soon he was proving his theory that misalignments of the spinal column did indeed cause abnormal nerve function and abnormal body functions by adjusting spines and curing diseases for people from near and far that had no previous success with medical intervention before seeing him.

While DD Palmer discovered chiropractic, it was his son Bartlett Joshua (BJ) Palmer who developed the art, philosophy, and science of chiropractic as we know it today. It was BJ who helped establish a school to train chiropractors and who fought to make chiropractic care available to those in need amongst constant controversy and threats from organized medicine. The medical community viewed chiropractors as a threat because of their success with many patients who had not responded to traditional medical care. Up to the mid 1900s many chiropractors were jailed in an effort to stifle the profession before too many people became aware of their successes, however these chiropractors believed so strongly in the care they were delivering and the results they were getting that they stood strong and refused to stop practicing, even though they were imprisoned. The public protested, the profession held strong and today has become the most well known and widely utilized forms of alternative health care in North America.