The first Chiropractic success was curing...deafness!
Harvey Lillard, janitor of the Ryan Building in Brady Street,
Davenport, Iowa USA, was not a happy man. 17 years before, while
working in a cramped, stooping position, he had felt something give
way in his spine. The immediate result was not only pain...he found
he had lost his hearing.
He mentioned his problem to Daniel David Palmer, who had an office in
the Ryan Building and was a keen student of anatomy and physiology.
Daniel Palmer had a theory. He surmised that the spine was the
highway along which ran the central nervous system. If that highway
should become in need of repair and in any way restrict the constant
traffic of brain impulses and orders carried by the central nervous
system, other symptoms seemingly unconnected to the spinal column
He examined Harvey Lillard and found that one of his vertebrae was
misaligned. On September 18th 1895, he gave Harvey Lillard the first
ever Chiropractic adjustment. Harvey's hearing returned...and
Chiropractic was born.
The years of struggle
Daniel Palmer was not the first pioneer to find the established
medical world ranged against him. In 1845, the American dentist Wells
first used nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to quell the pain of
dentistry. He, and the later exponents of anaesthetics such as
chloroform and ether, met sometimes violent opposition. In Vienna
Semmelweis's insistence on hygiene at childbirth was ridiculed in
1847, in spite of the fact that it reduced maternal mortality from
9.9% to 1.5%. Twenty years later, Lister used carbolic acid and
phenol sprays to reduce the risk of infection during surgery.
Surgeons who operated in swallow tail suits and prided themselves on
the bloodiness of their aprons, derided Lister, too. So Daniel Palmer
was in very good company. But he persevered and opened the first
school of Chiropractic in 1898. In spite of opposition from medical
profession, five of the first 15 graduates were medical doctors. It's
also worth noting that half the pupils were women, a tradition that
is still maintained today in most Chiropractic schools. Daniel Palmer
lived to see dozens of Chiropractic schools open up across America.
He died in 1913.
The years of progress
In spite of opposition, the march of Chiropractic went on unchecked.
Palmer's mantle was taken on by his son, B J Palmer, who refined the
techniques and took over the school. He also introduced into
Chiropractic the new tool of X-Rays, enabling more accurate diagnoses
of spinal misalignments.
In America, where Chiropractic was born and first flourished,
milestone followed milestone.
1913: Kansas was the first state to licence Chiropractors.
1941: The first standards were set up to accredit Chiropractic
schools in the USA.
1944: The GI Bill of Rights made grants available for returning
veterans to study Chiropractic.
1972: The US Congress voted to make Chiropractic available under
2002: The US Government voted to make Chiropractic Care available to armed forces and veterans
Today in America there are over 65,000 practising Chiropractors treating 20-25 million patients. One in 10 Americans sees a Chiropractor at least once a year.
Chiropractic has come a long way from that day in 1895 when Harvey
Lillard complained to Daniel Palmer about his deafness.