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History of Chiropractic

The history of Chiropractic began in 1895 when Daniel David Palmer, a magnetic healer of Iowa, performed the first chiropractic adjustment on a partially deaf janitor, Harvey Lillard.

Lillard informed Palmer that while working in a cramped area seventeen years earlier, he felt a 'pop' in his back, and had been nearly deaf ever since. Palmer’s examination found a sore lump which he believed was a spinal misalignment and a possible cause of Lillard's poor hearing. Palmer claimed to have corrected the misalignment and that Lillard's hearing improved.

During the next few days, Palmer continued the hand treatments on Lillard's spine. Within a week, Lillard was able to hear as well as anybody and was telling anybody who would listen about Dr. Palmer's hand treatments.

D.D. Palmer asked a patient and friend, Rev. Samuel Weed, to help him name his discovery. He suggested combining the words cheiros and praktikos (meaning "done by hand") to describe Palmer's treatment method, creating the term "chiropractic." D.D. initially hoped to keep his discovery a family secret, but in 1896 he added a school to his magnetic healing infirmary, and began to teach others his method. It would become known as Palmer School of Chiropractic (PSC, now Palmer College of Chiropractic).

In September 1899, a medical doctor in Davenport named Heinrich Matthey started a campaign against drugless healers in Iowa, demanding changes to prevent drugless healers from practicing in the state. He claimed health education could no longer be entrusted to anyone but doctors of medicine. Osteopathic schools across the country responded by developing a program of college inspection and accreditation but D.D. Palmer, whose school had just graduated its 7th student, insisted that his techniques did not need the same courses or license as medicine, as his graduates did not prescribe drugs or evaluate blood or urine. In 1901, D.D. was charged with misrepresenting a course in chiropractic which was not a real science. He was forced to turn over his interests in The Palmer School of Chiropractic to his son, B.J. Palmer.

D.D. Palmer's student and son, B.J. Palmer, assumed control of the Palmer School in 1906, and promoted professionalism and formal training in chiropractic, expanding enrollment to a peak of above 1,000 students in the early 1920s. B.J. also worked to overcome chiropractic's initial resistance to the use of medical technology, by accepting diagnostic technology such as spinal X-rays (which he called spinography) in 1910.

The longstanding feud between chiropractors and medical doctors has continued for decades. Research to test chiropractic theories began in 1935 with the B.J. Palmer Research Clinic at the Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. The clinic was organized into two divisions—a medical division and a chiropractic division. The medical division contained all the standard medical tests of the time and was used to establish a medical diagnosis of a patient's condition before the patient received treatment. The chiropractic division administered the treatment which included passive therapies, chiropractic adjustments and physical rehabilitation for the various conditions diagnosed. Research continued in the B.J. Palmer research clinic until B.J. Palmer's death in 1961 and the results and findings of these patient cases were the substance of B.J. Palmer's publishing over this 30 year time-period.

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.

The Doctor of Chiropractic works with the spine and nerves. He was the first to recognize that spinal bones, twisted even slightly out of place, intrude on the major nerve trunks at the point where they pass through the small openings between the vertebrae, which causes pain and “dis-ease.”