The writings of Hippocrates (460-370 B.C.), Galen (130-200 A.D.), and even ancient manuscripts of the Egyptians, Hindus, and Chinese reveal some principles common to chiropractic. Its place in modern health care is largely attributed to Dr. Daniel David Palmer, who founded the first chiropractic college in Davenport, Iowa, in 1895.
In the late 1800s, Dr. D.D. Palmer was a healer and a teacher trying to understand the cause and effect of disease. His first chiropractic adjustment was performed in 1895 on a man who was deaf. The loss of hearing was associated with his back "giving out" while working several years prior to meeting up with Dr. Palmer. Dr. Palmer was able to restore his hearing by realigning the man's spine.
The second such adjustment provided relief for another patient who was suffering from heart trouble. Dr. Palmer theorized that "if two diseases, so dissimilar as deafness and heart trouble, came from impingement, a pressure on nerves, were not other diseases due to a similar cause?"
He began developing his adjustment techniques and was soon getting results with many different conditions, from colic to ear infections to headaches. Dr. Palmer went on to found the Palmer School of Chiropractic in Iowa. Because of its success in healing, the new profession grew quickly.
All 50 states and many countries recognize chiropractic as a health-care profession. Today, there are more than 50,000 chiropractors in the United States alone, and there are 26 chiropractic colleges worldwide. Chiropractic is one of health care's fastest-growing fields simply because it's safe, natural, drugless, non-invasive, and effective.
A Brief History of Chiropractic's Discovery
By Daniel David Palmer
I was born on March 7, 1845, a few miles east of Toronto, Canada. My
ancestors were Scotch and Irish on my maternal and English and German on my
When my grandparents settled near the now beautiful city of Toronto, there
was but one log house, the beginning of that great city. That region was then
known as "away out west."
I came within one of never having a mamma. My mother was one of a pair of
twins one of which died. The one which lived only weighed one and a half
When a baby I was cradled in a piece of hemlock bark. My mother was as full
of superstition as an egg is full of meat, but my father was disposed to reason
on the subjects pertaining to life.
I was a magnetic healer for nine years previous to discovering the principles
which comprise the method known as Chiropractic. During this period much of that
which was necessary to complete the science was worked out. I had discovered
that many diseases were associated with derangements of the stomach, kidneys and
In the dim ages of the past when man lived in rude huts and rocky eaves, even
up to the present time, he resorted to charms, necromancy and witchcraft for the
relief of mental and physical suffering. His whole object was to find an
antidote, a specific for each and every ailment which could and would drive out
the intruder, as though the disorder was a creature of intelligence. In his
desire to free himself from affliction and prolong his existence, he has
searched the heavens above, he has gone into the deep blue sea, the bowels of
the earth and every portion thereof. He has tried animal and mineral poisons,
penetrated the dark forest with superstitious rite and with incantations, has
gathered herbs, barks and roots for medicinal use. In his frenzy for relief,
trusting that he might find a panacea, or at least a specific, he has
slaughtered man, beast and bird, making use of their various parts alive and
dead. He has made powders, ointments, pills, elixirs, decoctions, tinctures and
lotions of all known vegetables and crawling creatures which could be found,
giving therefor his reasons according to his knowledge.
One question was always uppermost in my mind in my search for the cause of
disease. I desired to know why one person was ailing and his associate, eating
at the same table, working in the same shop, at the same bench, was not. Why?
What difference was there in the two persons that caused one to have pneumonia,
catarrh, typhoid or rheumatism, while his partner, similarly situated, escaped?
Why? This question had worried thousands for centuries and was answered in
Harvey Lillard, a janitor, in the Ryan Block, where I had my office, had been
so deaf for 17 years that he could not hear the racket of a wagon on the street
or the ticking of a watch. I made inquiry as to the cause of his deafness and
was informed that when he was exerting himself in a cramped, stooping position,
he felt something give way in his back and immediately became deaf. An
examination 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's 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, so much so
that no Chiropractor has equaled it.
If no other discovery had been made, this, of itself, should have been hailed
with delight. It was the key which has ultimately unlocked the secrets of
functional metabolism; it is the entering wedge destined to split the
therapeutical log of superstition wide open, revealing its irrational and
Shortly after this relief from deafness, I had a case of heart trouble which
was not improving. I examined the spine and found a displaced vertebra pressing
against the nerves which innervate the heart. I adjusted the vertebra and gave
immediate relief -- nothing "accidental" or "crude" about this. Then I began to
reason if two diseases, so dissimilar as deafness and heart trouble, came from
impingement, a pressure on nerves, were not other disease due to a similar
cause? Thus the science (knowledge) and art (adjusting) of Chiropractic were
formed at that time. I then began a systematic investigation for the cause of
all diseases and have been amply rewarded.
I founded Chiropractic on Osteology, Neurology and Functions—bones, nerves
and the manifestations of impulses. I originated the art of adjusting vertebrae
and the knowledge of every principle which is included in the construction of
the science of Chiropractic.
The amount of nerve tension determines health or disease. In health there is
normal tension, known as tone, the normal activity, strength and excitability of
the various organs and functions as observed in a state of health. The kind of
disease depends upon what nerves are too tense or too slack.
Functions performed in a normal manner and amount result in health. Diseases
are conditions resulting from either an excess or deficiency of
The dualistic system -- spirit and body -- united by intellectual life -- the
soul -- is the basis of this science of biology, and nerve tension is the basis
of functional activity in health and disease.
Spirit soul and body compose the being, the source of mentality. Innate and
Educated, two. mentalities, look after the welfare of the body physically and
its surrounding environments.
Chiropractors correct abnormalities of the intellect as well as those of the
These discoveries and their development into a well-defined science are worth
more to the student, practitioner and those desiring health, than all the
therapeutical methods combined.
I am the originator, the Fountain Head of the essential principle that
disease is the result of too much or not enough functionating. I created the art
of adjusting vertebrae, using the spinous and transverse processes as levers,
and named the mental act of accumulating knowledge, the cumulative function,
corresponding to the physical vegetative function -- growth of intellectual and
physical -- together, with the science, art and philosophy -- Chiropractic. It
is now being followed, more or less, by 2,000 Chiropractors, and its use is
being attempted by several other methods. It was I who combined the science and
art and developed the principles thereof.
I have answered the time-worn question -- what is life?
Daniel David Palmer