Founder’s Day:   Chiropractic Turns 122 Today

The Chiro.Org Blog


Harvey Lillard (L)               D.D. Palmer (R)

The Story of Chiropractic

The year was 1895, the same year that x-rays were discovered. At that time, Health Care was provided by a diverse group of unregulated and unlicensed professions, including osteopaths, magnetic healers, and “medical” doctors.   In those days, most medical education consisted of working as an “apprentice” for a medical doctor, and learning the craft by observation.

D.D. Palmer, the Father of Chiropractic, was a magnetic healer, with a huge practice in Davenport, Iowa.   He had doubts about the “germ theory” as the complete explanation for the cause of all disease.

After all, if germs kill… shouldn’t we all be dead?

He asked himself:

how it was that 2 brothers could work in the same shop, eat the same food, sleep in the same bed, and that one would succumb to a disease while the other one would not”?

His theory evolved that it was not just the “seed” (or germ) which was the sole cause of dis-ease.   He felt that the “soil”, or the recuperative power of the body (which he later referred to as “innate intelligence”, and we now call homeostasis) was the missing component of the equation, which defines the continuum between health and “dis-ease”.

One day D.D. was talking with Harvey Lillard, the man who owned the janitor service in his building.   Harvey was deaf.   He mentioned to D.D. that years before, while lifting a heavy weight, he felt something “snap” at the base of his neck.   Shortly thereafter his hearing started to fade.

D.D. was intrigued, and asked Harvey if he could have permission examine his back.   What D.D. “felt” (we refer to this art as “palpation) was that one of the upper thoracic bones was sticking out much more than the one above or below it.   He explained to Harvey that he felt that this “bone out of place” \could be causing pressure on his spinal cord, and that this could be the reason that Harvey was now deaf.

He convinced him to lie down on the couch, and placed his hands on the transverse processes of the bone and, as D.D. explained, “wracked it back into position”.   When Harvey got up, he stated that he could hear a horse drawn cart down in the street!   This was the first thing he had heard clearly in 17 years!

Although DD thought he had found (one of) the causes for deafness, what he found (over a period of time) was that when he corrected mis-alignments in the spine (what he termed “subluxations”), where ever they happened to be, it improved the nerve supply, thus the function, of whatever tissues and organs that nerve supplied.

What an auspicious way for a profession to be born!   Our “no drugs, no surgery” approach has remained true to D.D.’s philosophy of the “seed and the soil”.   What a chiropractor accomplishes with the adjustment of the spine, is to remove the impediment to the brain’s control of the body.