The literal translation for Chiropractic comes from the Greek words cheir (meaning ‘hand’) and praktos (meaning ‘done’), i.e. “Done by Hand”.

Daniel_David_PalmerThe Founder of Chiropractic

D.D. Palmer

D.D. Palmer was born in Pickering, Ontario.  When he was 22 he moved with his family to the United States.  His jobs included beekeeper, school teacher and grocery store owner.  He had a huge interest in the various philosophies of his day, specifically magnetic healing and spiritualism.  Palmer began to practice magnetic healing in the mid 1880′s.  Due to his passion as a reader of all things scientific,  he came to realize that for thousands of years various forms of manipulation had been used, however it seemed that no one developed a philosophical or scientific rationale that could explain their effects.  Based on his extensive study of anatomy and physiology, Palmer became a major contributor to the health field by the codification of the philosophy, art and science of chiropractic.

The First Chiropractic Adjustment

The first adjustment that Palmer performed was on a janitor in September 1985.  The janitor, Harvey Lillard, was partially deaf for 17 years prior to being adjusted by Palmer.  He believed he became deaf after he felt something “give” in his back.  Palmer examined his back, suspected a misplaced vertebra and gave an “adjustment”.  The janitors hearing improved.

After the experience with Harvey Lillard, Palmer stated: “I had a case of heart trouble which was not improving. By examining the spine he discovered a displaced vertebra was pressing against the nerves which innervate the heart.  He adjusted the vertebra and it gave immediate relief.  He then began to reason that if two unrelated diseases can be caused by an impingement, is it not possible that others can also have a similar cause.  This is where science (knowledge) and art (adjusting) of Chiropractic was formed.

Philosophy of Chiropractic

Palmers earlier descriptions and underlying philosophy of chiropractic was very similar to that of Andre Still’s principles of osteopathy which had been established a decade earlier.  Both men described what they believed to be our bodies were like machines that when parts were manipulated it could produce healing or a drugless cure.  Further they both professed that when spinal manipulation was used on joint dysfunction/subluxation it improved our overall health.  Palmer however noted that he was the first to use short-lever HVLA manipulative techniques, which uses the Spinous Process and Transverse Process as mechanical levers.  A clear distinction between the two however was that Palmer described the effects of chiropractic spinal manipulation as mediated to the nervous system whereas osteopathy believed it was attributed to the supremacy of the circulatory system.

The word “Chiropractic” was chosen by a friend and patient of D. D. Palmer, Rev. Samuel Weed.  He had been asked to helped Palmer come up with a name for this new discovery.  He suggested that the words cheiros and praktikos (meaning “done by hand”) was best to describe the treatment method, which created the term “chiropractic”.

Chiropractic Education and Licensing

Although, Palmer had originally wanted to keep this treatment a family secret he added it to his magnetic healing infirmary and started to teach other this method in 1896.  Amongst the first graduates were B.J. Palmer (D.D.’s son).   In 1897 Palmer established the Palmer School of Cure, which today is known as the Palmer College of Chiropractic, which is in Davenport, Iowa.  Since its inception chiropractic has been controversial in the medical orthodoxy.  Many being jailed for practicing without a license.  The argument of course being that chiropractic was separate and distinct from medicine.  In September 1899, Heinrich Matthey, a medical doctor in Davenport started a campaign demanding that health education could only be entrusted to doctors of medicine.  Osteopathic schools responded to this by developing a program of college inspection and accreditation.  D.D. Palmer however insisted that his techniques did not need the same courses or license as medicine, as his graduates were not prescribing drugs or drawing blood, etc.  He was later charged in 1901 for misrepresenting a course in chiropractic which was not a real science.  He was arrested 2 more times and was convicted for professing that he could cure disease without a license in medicine or osteopathy.

Dr. Solon Langworthy, one of Palmers first graduates had moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa and there he opened the second chiropractic school in 1903, the American School of Chiropractic Nature Cure (ASC & NC).  He however combined chiropractic with what would become naturopathic cures and osteopathy.  D. D. Palmer had been invited to become a partner but turned it down as he was not interested in mixing chiropractic with other cures.

Langworthy took a different route for chiropractic.  He provided a curriculum of study and improved classrooms.  He further narrowed the scope of chiropractic to focus treatment of the spine and nervous system.  He also began referring the brain as the “life force”.  He was the first person to refer the misalignment of the spine as a “subluxation”.  Langworthy published the first book of chiropractic, “Modernized Chiropractic – Special Philosophy – A Distinct System”, in 1906.  He was also responsible for bringing chiropractic into the scientic arena.

The first state law licensing chiropractors was passed in 1913 and then by 1931, chiropractors had been given legal recognition in 39 states.  Today there are over 60,000 active chiropractic licenses in the United States and 7,000 in Canada.

Chiropractic has come a long way since those first few years.  More and more people are recognizing the benefits and seeing amazing results by using chiropractic as part of a wellness plan.  We have a better understanding of  how having a healthy spine enables the whole body to function with optimal health.  Chiropractic is no longer used just for acute pain or injuries, but instead to see the body begin to heal itself in a variety of other issues.  Such as, allergies, fibromyalgia, headaches, carpal tunnel, arthritis, ear infections, just to name a few.

Interested in seeing a chiropractor??  Here are  20 things to know when seeing a chiropractor



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