How It Was Born

The word ‘Chiropractic’ comes from the Greek words chiros, (hand) and praktos, (done); done by hand. It was so named by its developer, Daniel David Palmer.

DD was born in Ontario, Canada in 1845 and moved south to Iowa in the USA in 1865 at the age of 20. He cut quite an entrepreneurial figure and after a 20 year period as a successful horticulturist and farmer turned his interests to natural healing. Within four years his magnetic healing practice had made him extremely wealthy.

A prolific reader of all things scientific, DD realized that although various forms of manipulation had been used for hundreds if not thousands of years, no one had developed a philosophical or scientific rationale to explain their effects. DD Palmer’s major contribution to the health field was therefore the codification of the philosophy, art and science of chiropractic, wrested from a background of systematic study in anatomy and physiology. The art of chiropractic began with the very first spinal adjustment and developed from it.

DD performed the initial chiropractic adjustment in September 1895 and later, in The Chiropractor’s Adjustment, he wrote the following account of that experience: “Harvey Lillard, a janitor in the Ryan Block, where I had my office, had been so deaf for 17 years that he could not hear the racket of a wagon on the street or the ticking of a watch. I made inquiry as to the cause of his deafness and was informed that when he was exerting himself in a cramped, stooping position, he felt something give in his back and immediately became deaf. An examination showed a vertebra racked from its normal position. I reasoned that if the vertebra was replaced, the man’s hearing should be restored. With this object in view, a half hour 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.

From that first adjustment, DD Palmer continued to develop chiropractic and in 1897 established the Palmer School of Cure, now known as the Palmer College of Chiropractic, in Davenport, Iowa where it remains to this day.

Since Palmer College opened, chiropractic has developed rapidly and there are now over 35 schools and colleges around the world and on every continent.

In A Short String

One day in 1878, while working in a stooped, cramped position, Harvey Lillard felt something “pop” in his neck. A few days later, he was almost completely deaf. Seventeen years passed in virtual silence. Then, on September 18, 1895, Lillard told the story to Daniel David Palmer, a magnetic healer who practiced in the Davenport, Iowa building where Lillard worked as a janitor. Palmer examined the deaf man’s spine and discovered a ‘bump’ in the area where Lillard had said he felt the pop. Reasoning that this bump was the result of one of the spine’s vertebrae moving out of line with the others, Palmer persuaded Lillard to let him try to restore it to the normal position. He had the janitor lie down on his stomach, and applied a quick thrust to the ‘bump’. There was another ‘pop’ and the bump was gone. In a few days, Lillard was able to hear once again.

Chiropractic was born. Palmer began checking other patients for evidence of misaligned vertebrae and adjusting them. He quickly discovered that many of their ailments were alleviated, and even eliminated altogether, after his efforts to re-position the bones. From these observations, and from his own study and knowledge of health, Palmer concluded that good health is the normal, natural state of the body. He also reasoned that the body’s own natural ability to fully express its good health was reduced by the interference to the passage of mental impulses to and from the brain; impulses that carried vital information regarding the proper functioning of the body and which were transmitted via the spinal cord.

If misaligned vertebrae could be returned to their normal positions, Palmer theorized, the free flow of information within the body could resume. Thus, the body’s former ability to maintain itself in a state of natural good health would be restored.

Further study and investigations of the discovery and its implications followed until Palmer had no doubt of the effectiveness of the correction.

With his son, B. J., who was equally convinced about the life-enhancing benefit of chiropractic, Palmer founded the first college designed to teach the philosophy, art, and science of the unique health care system.

For more than 100 years, through the brilliant work of individual chiropractors, over 40 chiropractic techniques have been developed. All seek to assess the spine for nerve interference and reduce it with manoeuvres called “adjustment”. Chiropractic has survived, thrived and grown into the largest drug-less health profession worldwide, as all of these techniques have shown to be more effective and safer than traditional medicine to decrease discomfort and pain, restoring musculoskeletal functions.