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A Brief Look at the Early History of Chiropractic

27 MAR 2013
Career Path : Chiropractic

While the practice of chiropractic has been evolving for over a century, healers throughout history have intuitively understood the importance of the spine in determining overall health. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician who is considered the father of western medicine, declared “get knowledge of the spine, for this is the requisite for many diseases.”


A number of medical scholars during the time of the Renaissance spoke of “vital forces,” a natural capacity for the body to physically heal itself, thus resisting the onset of disease. This concept was applied and misunderstood until the late nineteenth century when Daniel David (D.D.) Palmer began to investigate the relationship of various nerve pathways to the spine.


After nine years of extensive clinical experience, Palmer sought to locate and explain inflammation in his patients, believing that to be intrinsic to all disease. His hypothesis that displacements of anatomic structures were the cause of these inflammations led him to experiment in 1895 with a janitor in the building where he practiced. Harvey Lillard communicated to Palmer that he lost his hearing after feeling a “pop” in his neck while bending over to complete a work task. When Palmer examined the janitor’s spine he discovered a bump in that same area and applied force. There was another “pop,” and within a few days, Lillard could hear again. Encouraged by this success, Palmer expanded and adapted his practice and with the help of a friend, derived from Greek terms the word “chiropractic,” meaning “done by hand.”


As patients began responding favorably to Palmer’s new profession, he returned to his anatomy and physiology studies to better understand the connection between the spine and physical wellbeing. He deduced the human body possesses an inborn intelligence that strives to maintain its optimal health by transmitting impulses through its nerve system. Even small vertebral misalignments could cause pressure on the spinal nerves to inhibit body function. Spinal adjustments that corrected misalignments, or subluxations, were eliminating the patients’ nerve interference and restoring the body’s ability to function. The dramatic improvements in the quality of his patients’ lives inspired the birth of the chiropractic career.


D.D. Palmer’s son, B.J., can be credited with substantially transforming the profession into a clearly defined healthcare system that could objectively identify vertebral subluxation and apply the associated corrective techniques. He was instrumental in establishing the licenced chiropractic profession.


The practice has developed sophisticated methods since these early days to correct with precision and efficiency vertebral subluxation caused by physical, emotional or chemical stresses. With healthcare demand perpetually on the rise, chiropractic today is one of the fastest-growing career fields and rated as one of the best jobs to have. Students in chiropractic school are committed to learning this natural, preventative approach to improve their patients’ quality of life.

Visit Sherman College of Chiropractic for more information on chiropractic school requirements.