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History of Chiropractic


The first recorded spinal adjustment was described in an ancient text dating back to 2650 B.C. by travelers to Asia. Some of these findings show that Kong Fu writings describe adjustments as part of therapy. In 1500 B.C., the Greeks were recording their successes in lower back treatments. In one of Hippocrates many writings can be found a book called Manipulation and Importance of Good Health and another work called Setting Joints by Leverage. These works were written some time in the 500 B.C.'s. He wrote: “Get knowledge of the spine, for this is the requisite for many diseases.”

 Another famous Greek Physician, Claudius Galen, wrote early in the second century: "Look to the nervous system as the key to maximum health." Galen was made famous for treating a scholar named Eudemus. Galen adjusted Eudemus' neck which apparently cured a paralysis of the scholar's hand and arm. This account is most likely the first recorded using similar chiropractic principals for successful treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome, double crush syndrome and thoracic outlet syndrome, all similar conditions.

Why were these great works ignored for centuries? It can be traced back to the fall of the Roman Empire and the rampant destruction of the scholastic institutes of the time. Modern medicine was set back centuries by these acts. But all was not lost. Some of the techniques were handed down from generation to generation and there are recorded cases of European "bone setters" performing amazing acts of healing. In the Europe of the 1800's, medical doctors shunned the art of "Bone Setting." In 1867, a famous surgeon, Sir James Paget, recognized the evolving art in his article in the British Medical Journal entitled, Cases That Bone setting Cures. He describes the types of spinal manipulation known at the time. The modern history of chiropractic began, on September 18, 1895. It took place in the small office of Dr. Daniel David Palmer a teacher, magnetic healer and founder of modern chiropractic.-


The modern history of chiropractic began, on September 18, 1895. It took place in the small office of Dr. Daniel David Palmer a teacher, magnetic healer and founder of modern chiropractic. Palmer was born in Port Perry, Ontario Canada on March 7, 1845. When Palmer was 11 years old, his father's grocery business failed leaving the family with few options, they returned to the United States and started over. Daniel and his younger brother stayed behind. It is unclear if the two boys stayed with their grandparents or lived by themselves but we do know that they worked for Charles Frederick's match factory. We also know that they had completed the equivalent of 8th grade at age 11 and 9 respectively. But, with their parents gone, their education was put on hold. In 1865, Palmer and his brother packed up their meager belongings and left for Iowa to rejoin their family. They took on odd jobs to pay their way. In the years that followed, Palmer moved around the Midwest. He worked at a variety of professions such as teaching in a one-room classroom, bee keeping and running a grocery store. He was a self-educated man (as many were around the turn of the century) with a thrust for knowledge. This led him to the study of magnetic healing, a therapy practiced by many medical practitioners of the era and specifically to the works of Paul Caster. The theory behind magnetic healing is that a magnetic field surrounds the body and that minor illnesses could be cured by influencing this force. Even at this early stage, Daniel had recognized the need for drug free medicine Palmer opened his first medical practice in Burlington, Iowa in 1887. He later moved his office, which included a 14 room infirmary, to Davenport, Iowa. This is where he would make a discovery that would change the face of medicine. It was September 18, 1895 and at the time Dr. Palmer was trying to understand the cause and effect of disease. His patient, Harvey Lillard, was a janitor working in the same building as Dr. Palmer in Davenport, Iowa. Mr. Lillard had been bent over under the stairs, hurt his back and had complained of hearing problems as a result for over 17 years. He allowed Dr. Palmer to examine his spine to see if anything could be done. Dr. Palmer discovered a "lump" on Mr. Lillard's back and suspected that a vertebra might be out of "alignment" and "pinching" a nerve going to Mr. Lillard's ears. With an admittedly unrefined chiropractic technique, Dr. Palmer adjusted the vertebra with a gentle thrust. Lillard was excited to hear noises from the street below. After several such treatments, much of Mr. Lillard's hearing was completely restored. Chiropractic was born. To quote Dr. Palmer: "An examination (of Harvey Lillard) showed a vertebra racked from its normal position. I reasoned that if that 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. There was nothing accidental about this, as it was accomplished with an object in view, and the result expected was obtained. There was nothing crude about this adjustment; it was specific."

This dramatic beginning caused much excitement. Soon exaggerated claims surfaced from activists and chiropractic zealots. Even Dr. Palmer himself thought at first that he had discovered a cure for deafness. As these "miracle" stories became commonplace, the controversy surrounding chiropractic began. While it might have been reasonable for chiropractors and their patients to assume major diseases had been "cured", in many cases the problem was an error in the original diagnosis. The doctor making the diagnosis may have assumed the patient had a heart problem when in fact the pain in the patient's chest resulted from a rib sprain. One of Dr. Palmer's patients, a minister, is credited with creating the name "Chiropractic" for this new art and science of manipulation. He took the Greek words for "hand" (cheiros) and "done by" (praktos) and put them together to create Chiropractic, meaning "done by hand". Chiropractic healing grew in popularity over the next fifty years, some say due to the relentlessness of Dr Daniel's Son, Bartlett J. Palmer (B.J. Palmer). He owned several radio stations and is credited with the term broadcasting. His first station was WOC (Wonders of chiropractic). In 1928 he purchased WHO (With Hands Only) in Des Moines. Dr. B.J. Palmer helped build Palmer College in Davenport, Iowa with his father, into one of the largest chiropractic colleges in the United States. His involvement saved the school both financially and in respect. He helped build the school to the prominence necessary to have it and chiropractic accepted by the public and legislators. Unlike his father’s ruff and tuff approach to pushing the profession on the public, B.J. Palmer played the politician, slowly and methodically working his way into the "system". His patients included U.S Presidents and business leaders from all over the world. Ronald Reagan, Houdini, Herbert Hoover, Jack Dempsey and Harry Truman were guests in his home. His college grew from 24 students in 1906 to 3,100 in 1923. Today, there are over 30 chiropractic institutions throughout the world and at any given time more then 10,000 students. B.J. Palmer died in 1961, after insuring the success of chiropractic and dominance in the non-medicated health care field.


Many say if it was not for the efforts of Dr. B.J. Palmer the chiropractic profession would not have survived the attacks of the medical community. Many of the problems emerged from confusion among chiropractors themselves. In the early days of chiropractic, the graduating students simply left Palmer College and opened practice without the need for license. As a result, Dr Daniel Palmer and many other chiropractors were convicted of practicing medicine without a license. Dr. Palmer spent 23 days in jail and had to pay $350 in fines. While Daniel was on trial, his son B.J. took over the college and partnered his father. B.J.'s involvement not only saved the school, but helped build the profession to prominence. A year later another one of Palmers students, Dr Shegataro Morikubo, D.C., was arrested for practicing medicine and surgery without a license in Wisconsin. In a landmark decision the judge and jury agreed that Morikubo was not practicing medicine but instead some other form of healing called, Chiropractic.

Dr. David Palmer was the son of B.J. Palmer and grandson to the founder of chiropractor D.D. Palmer. He became president of Palmer School of chiropractic after his father's death in 1961. They call him the educator because of the sweeping changes he made to the school and to the way chiropractic has taught. He modernized the class rooms, converted the college to a not-for-profit status and created the Palmer College of Chiropractic international alumni association. Dr. Dave died in 1978.

The historic lawsuit of the Chiropractor Dr. Wilk vs. the AMA is recounted in his book Medicine, Monopolies, and Malice ,Wilk writes; “In the early 1960s, public popularity, the climate shifted quite suddenly.  An unexpected onslaught of published material maligning chiropractic started coming from a wide variety of sources.  This was both embarrassing and humiliating, and it chilled public recognition and acceptance of chiropractic as a legitimate healing profession.”  What Wilk was observing was the beginnings of a conspiracy orchestrated by the AMA against chiropractic.  That conspiracy tainted the image of chiropractic in the eyes of generation of patients and potential patients.  With perseverance and few resources, Wilk fought the medical establishment.  In 1987, he won.  U.S. District Court Judge Susan Getzendanner issued a permanent injunction against the AMA to stop the conspiracy.  The AMA fought the judge’s order through appeals, but finally in 1990, the Supreme Court refused to heat the case and Getzendanner’s order was upheld.  It is still in effect today.   


2650 B.C., First recorded manipulation found in Kong fu writings

1500 B.C., Greek history recorded, lower back manipulation

500 B.C., Hippocrates writes two works on manipulation and the nervous system

195, Galen discovered the relationship between the nervous system of the spine and healing

1100-1500, Gypsies in Europe use back walking to heal sick

1845, Daniel David Palmer was born to Thomas and Catherine.

1867, Sir James Paget, wrote in the British medical journal, Cases that bone setting can cure.

1887, Palmer Infirmary of Magnetic Healing, opens its doors.

1895, Palmer re-discovers that spinal manipulation can heal illness.

1896, Palmer founded the Palmer School of Magnetic Cure in Davenport, Iowa.

1902, first 15 students graduate from Palmer School of Magnetic Cure.

1904, Palmer changed Palmer School of Magnetic Cures name to Palmer School of Chiropractic.

1905, Palmer sold his half interest in Palmer School.

1906, Former member of Palmer School of Chiropractic, John Fitzalan Howard, D.C., stated his own school, National School of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa.

1906, Former member of Palmer School of Chiropractic, M.M. Stone, D.C., stared his own school, Texas College of Chiropractic in San Antonio, Texas.

1907, Shegataro Morikubo, wins land mark decision on licensing chiropractors.

1913, The State of Kansas was the first state to license chiropractors.

1913, Daniel David Palmer died.

1924, Palmer college started using x-rays in their curriculum.

1927, chiropractic is licensed by 39 states.

1941, John Nugent, D.C., establishes first accredited chiropractic criteria. Twelve Chiropractic schools join and are accredited.

1944, G.I. bill allowed veterans to study chiropractic after service.