Chiropractic History


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Various pieces of artwork evidence has been found that supports the claim that manipulation of the spine as a way of improving health dates right back to Ancient Greece and Egypt. There have even been quotes by Greek philosophers such as Hippocrates, stating the importance of the spine in terms of helping cure diseases. Despite this, the practicing of chiropractic treatment was not officially been seen as a profession until 1895.

It was work by Daniel David Palmer that lead to the current widespread belief that manipulating specific areas of the spine is beneficial to many. He used the knowledge he discovered to found the profession of chiropractic.

The story behind his discovery of chiropractic care is rather well known among the chiropractic community.

How Palmer discovered chiropractic

In September 1895, Palmer was working late and he noticed a loud fire engine drive by. Also in the building was the janitor, Harvey Lillard. Lillard did not react at all to the fire engine and as Palmer approached Lillard to talk to him, he realised that he was actually deaf.

After some time, Palmer started to understand Lillard and they could communicate well. Palmer found out that the janitor had been able to hear normally for the majority of his life, but one day he bent over and heard his back make a strange “popping” sound. After this, Lillard returned to standing position and discovered that he had lost the ability to hear. This, of course, lead to Palmer connecting the back noise and hearing loss.

As a result of hearing Lillard’s story, Palmer felt down Lillard’s spine and noticed that one of the vertebrae (small bones that make up the spine) was out of its usual position. After realising this, he managed to persuade Lillard to let him put the vertebrae back into its normal place. He did so using a common lever technique often employed in chiropractic, and consequently Lillard regained his hearing.

News of this amazing event soon spread and Palmer found himself inundated with numerous patients with varieties of problems. Palmer noted that many of the conditions that he was approached with were resolved using hand manipulations. He later called this practice ‘chiropractic’.

What happened after this?

There was a lot of controversy surrounding Palmer’s treatment as he was not legal to do so. Therefore in 1905 there was a conspiracy by members of the medical community that led to Palmer being fined $350 and sentenced to jail for 105 days, however he was released after 23 days when he paid the fine in full.

The following year, Palmer started the process of writing and publishing two books about chiropractic. After his death, his son, who was just a passionate about chiropractic treatment, continued Palmer’s work. Palmer’s son’s work led to chiropractic becoming a recognised alternative medical treatment.

Despite the success that Palmer’s son achieved in getting chiropractic recognised as a beneficial procedure; there is still a lot of controversy surrounding the safety of the treatment.


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