Chiropractic started in 1895, with Daniel David Palmer of Iowa performing the first such therapy on Harvey Lillard, a partially deaf janitor. One day, Lillard did not have his shirt on as he worked in Palmer’s office. It is when Lillard bent over to empty the trash can that Palmer noticed that a vertebra was out of place. On seeking to learn more, Lillard explained that he had moved the wrong way when he heard a pop in his back and lost his hearing. Having been involved in other natural healing philosophies, Palmer told Lillard to lie face down on the floor, before making the adjustment. The following day, Lillard told Palmer that he could hear rackets on the street.
Two years later, this episode influenced Palmer to open a school of chiropractic. Coined by Rev. Samel Weed, the word ‘chiropractic’ has Greek roots. Although Palmer strived to meld science and metaphysics during his practice, the original philosophy of chiropractic had a lot to do with magnetism, naturalism, vitalism, spiritualism and a host of concepts that were not compliant with scientific trends. In 1896, Palmer came up with hidden descriptions and philosophies of chiropractic, all of which supported the principles of osteopathy that Andrew Still’s had created a decade earlier. The two had termed the body as a ‘machine’, meaning that its different parts could be skilfully controlled to achieve a cure without using drugs. Both went on to claim that human health could be improved through spinal manipulation on joint dysfunction/ subluxation. However, Palmer differentiated his methods, stating that he was the first chiropractor to employ short-lever manipulative techniques. He also noted the use of spinous and transverse processes as mechanical levers. Palmer proceeded to explain that the nervous system was central in bringing about the results associated with spinal manipulation in chiropractic.
For all the many similarities that chiropractic and osteopathy share, osteopathic practitioners were keen on setting the profession apart. They not only sought to seek licensure and have the profession regulated, but went ahead to describe chiropractic as an adulterated version of osteopathy. One of the consequences is that in 1907, a chiropractor based in Wisconsin was charged with practicing osteopathic medicine without the requisite license. The same offense would see many other chiropractors, including D.D. Palmer, going to jail. In their legal defense of their system of medicine, the Palmers included “Modernized Chiropractic”, the first chiropractic textbook that was published in 1906. The ironic part is that his book had been written by Longworthy, Smith, et al., “mixer” chiropractors that the Palmers treated with contempt. While chiropractors won their case in Wisconsin in 1907, there was a rise in successful prosecutions by state medical boards. As a result, chiropractors carried out political campaigns aimed at having separate licensing laws. They eventually succeeded in all states, starting in Kansas in 1913 and finishing in Louisiana in 1974.
With “mixers” adding other treatments to spinal adjustments and “straights” sticking to spinal adjustments as the sole method of treatment, there has been intense division in the profession. In 1975, the National Institutes of Health sponsored a conference that promoted further chiropractic research. Up until 1987 when the American Medical Association lost an antitrust case, they had boycotted chiropractic, describing it as an “unscientific cult”. Chiropractic has been recovering from that negative campaign for years.
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