Chiropractic is something new under the sun, and to this day only about one out of every eight Americans has actually gone to a chiropractor. Perhaps the simplest method of getting some first-hand knowledge about chiropractic is to describe its rapid development since its start in 1895, pay a visit to a chiropractor of today, and then describe in detail what chiropractic is and does. From this it will become apparent that chiropractic, while it may appear at first to be an extremely simple healing art, is actually a very involved and precise science.
Long after the Civil War, practitioners gained medical knowledge by serving a term of apprenticeship with some local M.D. Many gained knowledge of medicine while sweeping out offices, cleaning the M.D.’s stalls, currying his horses, or driving the M.D. around the countryside on his house calls.
In most academic institutions in these years, attendance was required for a limited time. Only in rare instances was the period longer than one year. It was not until the 1880’s that laws were written stating that licensees in medicine must have graduated from a recognized medical college before obtaining admission to practice in a state. Many early medical doctors were of the itinerant type who traveled from town to town and peddled cure-alls or allegedly superior Indian herb cures. Some noted surgeons of the past were graduates of terms of a shorter duration than one year. One well-known surgeon actually attended a medical institution for the brief term of six months.
Back in 1895, Daniel David Palmer of Davenport, Iowa, was fifty years old and well recognized as an unusual man of parts. Born in 1845 in the little Ontario town of Port Perry, he had become interested in healing the sick while still a young man, and had emigrated to the United States where he practiced several of the numerous methods of healing then in vogue.
D. D. Palmer was an omnivorous reader and a diligent investigator of everything available that dealt with healing. He felt that far too many attempts to heal were conducted on a “by-guess-and-by-gosh” basis. If they appeared to work, well and good; if they didn’t, try something else.
Palmer felt that the healing arts up to this time were characterized by a singular unwillingness to search for a basic, underlying cause of disease. He set down his impressions in a penetrating analysis:
“In the dim ages of the past when man lived in rude huts and rocky caves, 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 were a creature of intelligence. In his desire to free him-self 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 rites and incantations, has gathered herbs, barks, and roots for medicinal uses. 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, 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?” That is a question that has intrigued many throughout the ages.
D. D. Palmer had plenty of companions in his search for the answer and has plenty to this day. Palmer’s personal search was conducted in many fields; for example, he investigated carefully the infant science of osteopathy, founded in 1874, which held that the cause of disease was in the circulation of the blood. Restore normal circulation of blood, said the osteopaths, and the body will cure itself. Although recognizing the importance of blood circulation, Palmer felt that this approach did not deal with the basic inherent forces of the body.
As was pointed out, the healing arts during the latter part of the nineteenth century were in a constant state of flux and confusion. So-called “magnetic healing” came into vogue, dealing with the “unseen forces” of the body. These were defined, not as magical or miraculous, but rather as subtle, invisible energies capable of being felt by others. An example cited by the proponents of this theory was the feeling of ease or lack of ease in the presence of certain people.
Utilizing these principles, with certain manual contacts on different parts of the body, Palmer practiced this art at Burlington, Iowa, and later at Davenport, Iowa.
His success was amazing, a fact which must have pleased him, for healing had its financial ups and downs in those daysat one time he had been forced to make his living by running a grocery store at What Cheer, Iowa.
There were good reasons for Palmer’s success with ills of mental origin. Palmer achieved a multitude of cures and patients flocked to him in droves.
Palmer’s appearance, too, was striking. He was a short, solidly built man, with jet-black hair and piercing black eyes, who literally exuded energy. His full ebon beard gave him a patriarchal impressiveness, and he was also somewhat of a dandy, wearing a broad-brimmed sombrero and driving a spanking pair of thoroughbred horses. To top it off, he was a remark-able personality,
Palmer maintained an elaborate office in a Davenport building which employed a Negro janitor named Harvey Lillard, who was quite deaf. He could not hear the noise of rigs in the street below and people had ‘ to shout at him in order to make themselves heard.
On September 18, 1895, Lillard was tidying up in Palmer’s office.
“How long have you been deaf, Harvey?” D. D. shouted.
“Over seventeen years,” replied Lillard.
This, to Palmer, was worth investigating, for people who have heard at some time in their lives do not go deaf without cause. “How did it happen?” he asked. “What brought it on, Harvey? Do you know?”
Lillard explained that one day, while he was at work, he had bent down in a stooped position. Suddenly he felt and also heard something in his back go “pop” and he went deaf almost instantly. He had not been able to hear since. –
“Did it hurt at the time?” asked Palmer. “Does it still hurt?”
The answer to both questions was “yes.”
“Let me look at your back,” Palmer then asked. Lillard took off his shirt. Palmer examined his back-bone and discovered a good sized protuberance that was obviously a misaligned vertebra.
Gently, Palmer felt the bump, asking as he did so, “Does that hurt, Harvey? Is that where you felt sore right after you heard the popping sound?”
Again the replies were in the affirmative.
“All right, Harvey,” Palmer finally said. “Do you mind if I attempt to treat this thing?”
Lillard said he didn’t mind.
D. D. told Lillard to lie face downward on the floor, and he complied. Then Palmer gave him a sharp thrust on the protruding bump using the spinal bony extensions as levers. Lillard got up and almost immediately he said that he could hear a little better than before.
Nevertheless, his hearing was still far from normal, while the bump remained pronounced. Over the next couple of days, Palmer continued to give a “hand treatment”Palmer’s first term for what he was doing and reduced the protuberance somewhat, while the man’s hearing continued to improve in striking parallel. Within less than a week, the lump was no longer noticeable and Lillard could hear as well as anybody else. Until the time of his death, he had no recurrence of his former deafness.
This was a simple and dramatic example of associating an effect with its cause and then, by eliminating the cause, doing away with the effect, or symptom. It was based on knowledge, inquiry, and experimentation. “There was nothing accidental about this,” Palmer wrote himself, “as it was accomplished with an object in view, and the result expected was obtained.” He recognized that he had discovered an important way to affect the inherent forces of the body through the nervous system.
It was not long before Palmer discovered he was getting much better results with his “hand treatments,” as he continued to dub his manipulation of spinal irregularities, than he had ever realized from his experiments with magnetic healing. He was successful in relieving a wide variety of ailments which had not responded previously to attempts to restore blood circulation or to magnetic healing. His practice grew phenomenally.
The origin of the word “chiropractic” is interesting. One of Palmer’s first and highly pleased “hand-treatment” patients was a minister, Rev. Samuel Weed, who was quite a student of Greek. Rev. Weed thought that a distinctive name should be created for what appeared to be a revolutionary and phenomenally successful method of healing, and he told Palmer so.
“What name would you suggest?” asked D. D.
“Why not simply combine the Greek words for `hand’ and `done by?’ ” suggested Rev. Weed. Palmer thought it was a good idea, and the word chiropractic -combining chiro and praktikoscame into existence.
In its early stages, however, chiropractic was as remote from the precise science it is today as Edison’s pioneer fiber-filament electric light bulbs were from the modern high-vacuum protected tungsten filaments. But the basic theory has always remained the same. On this foundation the science has grown steadily.
What is this basic chiropractic foundation?
Here we have a few of the fundamental principles of chiropractic as stated by its discoverer, David Daniel Palmer, in his book, The Science, Philosophy, and Art of Chiropractic:
“Chiropractic is founded upon the relationship of bones, nerves, and muscles.
“Chiropractic is founded upon the principle that functions receive their vital force through the nervous system. From this fundamental principle, other principles are formed which assist in creating the science and art of chiropractic.
“Displacement of any part of the skeletal frame may press against nerves, which are the channels of communication, intensifying or decreasing their carrying capacity, creating either too much or not enough functionating, an aberration known as disease. The nature of the affection depends upon the shape of the bone, the amount of pressure, age of patient, character of nerves impinged upon, and the individual make-up.
“Chiropractors adjust, by hand, all displacements of the 200 bones, more especially those of the vertebral column, for the purpose of removing nerve impingements which are the cause of deranged functions. The long bones and the vertebral processes are used as levers by which to adjust displacements of osseous tissue of the body. By so doing, normal transmission of nerve-force is restored.
“I think that there is some good in all methods; but when the chiropractor adjusts the bony framework to its normal position, all pliable tissue will respond and resume its proper position and consequently its usual functionshealth being the result.
“I have never felt it beneath my dignity to do anything to relieve human suffering.”
On the bedrock of Palmer’s fundamentals, chiropractic has progressed through the years. It has proven beyond doubt that interference with normal transmitsion of nerve impulses reduces the living organism’s inherent power to heal itself. Most of this interference occurs where the major nerve trunks emerge from the spinal cord through apertures, known as foramina, between the vertebrae of the spinal column. By manual manipulation, the doctor of chiropractic corrects the spinal structural derangement, known as “subluxation.” This, in turn, restores normal nerve integration and functioning, and the body’s inherent healing powers are enabled to restore health.
If this appears at first thought to be a startling theory, bear in mind that it is no more fantastic than the idea of germs as the cause of disease appeared to many medical men at the time it was first publicized by Pasteur. This is also true of many other developments which at first were widely ridiculed, but later gained universal acceptance. The incredibly complex nervous system, its association with the spine, and the mechanics of spinal subluxations and their correction is the subject of Chapter Five. It will suffice at this point, however, to note that in recent years, the medical profession itself has provided documentation of the theories first advanced by D. D. Palmer.
The famous Dr. Alexis Carrel wrote in his popular book, Man, the Unknown, of a mysterious something he called “Natural Health,” which he declared “comes from resistance to infectious and degenerative diseases, from equilibrium of the nervous system …”
The late Dr. George Crile, one of the greatest of modern medical scientists, wrote that an electrical conductivity flows between the brain and the body, and that when there is a normal flow a “living process” goes on; when there is no flow a “dead process” is in effect. The intermediate condition is a “partial flow” which causes a “disease process.” Dr. Crile declared that through laboratory experiments he had been able to locate interferences in the spine that cause “partial flow.”
Along the same lines, Dr. David Riesman, Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote recently, “Not only has the newer nerve physiology revealed electrical activities and chemical changes in nerves carrying impulses that were scarcely suspected a few years ago, but lately, by ingenious apparatus, electrical forces have been revealed in the brain. It would appear as if all vital processes were in the last analysis electrical.”
In the pages of the American Journal of Medical Science, Dr. H. T. Hyman gave as one of the reasons for the popularity of chiropractors “the failure of the medical profession to provide this type of service.” In Therapeutic Review, Dr. M. C. King wrote, “The sooner the medical profession recognizes the work of the chiropractor, the better.”
In the New York State Medical Journal, Dr. G. W. Hensen described the case of a patient who had been told at a medical hospital that he had a crushed vertebra. This patient went to a chiropractor. He was suffering severe pain in his back and in the back of his left leg and thigh. “It improved under treatment,” Dr. Hensen wrote, “and by June 15 (the patient had started chiropractic in April), the pain in the thigh and leg had disappeared and the pain in the back was less intense.”
Not long ago the noted medical writer Dr. William Brady devoted a full newspaper column to. a description of the way in which a chiropractor “friend” had quickly cured a patient of a knee ailment which had failed to improve after many months of medical treatment. Somewhat reprovingly, Dr. Brady addressed a few words directly to his own medical colleagues: “In short, fellows, here’s a darn chiropractor who deserves recognition as a healer, a physician, and if we regulars would rid our minds of a few of the quaint prejudices that linger and invite all healers to join in one big healers’ guild or association, it would be a great step for medicine, healing, or whatever you please to call the doctor business.”
Overseas, in British Medical and Surgery Journal, Osgood and Morrison have referred frankly to “brilliant and rapid … chiropractic cures.”
One of the most dramatic instances of very great medical interest in chiropractic occurred in Germany in 1953. Five thousand medical doctors were attending the German Therapy Week Convention at Karlsruhe, in Western Germany. One of the principal speakers was a medical doctor, Dr. Karl Sell, Chief of Staff at the famous Orthopedic Sanatarium for Athletes at Allgau, and also an investigator of non-medical methods of healing. Dr. Sell had made a thorough study of chiropractic, and he was enthusiastic about it. Among other things, he told the assembled M.D.’s that chiropractors possess specialized training which makes them experts on the anatomy of the body, the spinal column in particular. He reminded them of the devastating remark of the famous Swiss professor and doctor, Prof. Bircher-Brenner, who said bluntly, “Up to now I have not yet met one M.D. who could judge the spinal column half as well as a competent chiropractor.” Dr. Sell stated that chiropractic can and does cure by restoring the spinal vertebrae to their proper positions.
“The value of chiropractic,” Dr. Sell stressed, “is to be found not only in its curative powers, but also in its ability to keep health up to par. Every person, even when in seemingly good health, can benefit from regular chiropractic adjustments (repositionings of displaced vertebrae) since they will improve circulation, remove interference with the nervous system, and help him to enjoy life to a fuller extent.”
At the end of his talk, Dr. Sell recommended to the 5,000 physicians that their patients receive regular chiropractic care. The very next morning a long line of medical doctors was waiting at Dr. Sell’s door for personal chiropractic attention.