History of Chiropractic
The actual profession of chiropractic - as a distinct form of health care dates back to 1890. However, some of the earliest
healers in the history of the world understood the relationship between health and the condition of the spine. Hippocrates
"Get knowledge of the spine, for this is the requisite for many diseases."
Chiropractic was founded in the 1890s by Daniel David (D.D.) Palmer in Davenport, Iowa. Palmer, a magnetic healer, hypothesized
that manual manipulation of the spine could cure disease. On September 18, 1895, D.D. Palmer was working late in his office when
a janitor, Harvey Lillard, began working nearby. A noisy fire engine passed by outside the window and Palmer was surprised to
see that Lillard didn't react at all.
He approached the man and tried to strike up a conversation. He soon realized Lillard
was deaf. Patiently, Palmer managed to communicate with the man, and learned that he had normal hearing for most of his life.
However, he had been over in a cramped, stooping position, and felt something "pop" in his back. When he stood up, he realized
he couldn't hear. Palmer deduced that the two events -- the popping in his back and the deafness -- had to be connected.
He ran his hand carefully down Lillard's spine and felt one of the vertebra was not in its normal position. "I reasoned that
if that vertebra was replaced, the man's hearing should be restored," he wrote in his notes afterwards. "With this object
in view, a half hour's talk persuaded Mr. Lillard to allow me to replace it. I racked it into position by using the spinous
process as a lever, and soon the man could hear as before."
Over the succeeding months, other patients came to Palmer with every conceivable problem, including flu, sciatica, migraine
headaches, stomach complaints, epilepsy and heart trouble.D.D. Palmer found each of these conditions responded well to the
adjustments which he was calling "hand treatments."
Later he coined the term chiropractic -- from the Greek words, Chiro,
meaning (hand) and practic, meaning (practice or operation). The medical community, afraid of his success and discouraged by
its own failure to heal diseases, joined the crusade and wrote letters to the editors of local papers, openly criticizing his
methods and accusing him of practicing medicine without a license.
Although initially keeping chiropractic a family secret, in 1898 Palmer began teaching it to a few students at his new Palmer
School of Chiropractic. One student, his son B.J. Palmer, became committed to promoting chiropractic, took over the Palmer
School in 1906, and rapidly expanded its enrollment.
Early chiropractors believed that all disease was caused by interruptions in the flow of innate intelligence, a vital nervous
energy or life force that represented God's presence in man; chiropractic leaders often invoked religious imagery and moral
Despite heavy opposition by organized medicine, by the 1930s chiropractic was the largest alternative healing profession in
the U.S. By the mid 1990s there was a growing scholarly interest in chiropractic, which helped efforts to improve service
quality and establish clinical guidelines that recommended manual therapies for acute low back pain. In recent decades
chiropractic gained legitimacy and greater acceptance by medical physicians and health plans, and enjoyed a strong political
base and sustained demand for services.