THE BIRTH OF CHIROPRACTIC 9/18/1895

On September 18, 1895, D.D. Palmer was working late in his office when a janitor, Harvey Lillard, began working nearby. A noisy fire engine passed by outside the window and Palmer was surprised to see that Mr. Lillard didn’t react at all. He approached the man and tried to strike up a conversation. He soon realized Mr. Lillard was deaf.

Patiently, Palmer managed to communicate with the man, and learned that he had normal hearing for most of his life. However, he had been over in a cramped, stooping position, and felt something “pop” in his back. When he stood up, he realized he couldn’t hear. Palmer deduced that the two events — the popping in his back and the deafness — had to be connected.

He ran his hand carefully down Lillard’s spine and felt one of the vertebra was not in its normal position. “I reasoned that if that vertebra was replaced, the man’s hearing should be restored,” he wrote in his notes afterward. “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.”

Harvey Lillard reported in the January 1897 issue of The Chiropractic that:

”I was deaf 17 years and I expected to always remain so, for I had doctored a great deal without any benefit. I had long ago made up my mind to not take any more ear treatments, for it did me no good. Last January Dr. Palmer told me that my deafness came from an injury in my spine. This was new to me; but it is a fact that my back was injured at the time I went deaf. Dr. Palmer treated me on the spine; in two treatments I could hear quite well. That was eight months ago. My hearing remains good.” Harvey Lillard, 320 W. Eleventh St., Davenport, Iowa, (Palmer 1897).

Word of Palmer’s success in “curing” deafness traveled fast. Soon people with deafness from across the country were awaiting his miraculous treatment. Although he had some success in helping those with deafness he soon realized that many other conditions were benefiting from the same treatment. Over the succeeding months, patients came to Palmer with every conceivable problem, including flu, sciatica, migraine headaches, stomach complaints, epilepsy and heart trouble.


D.D. Palmer found each of these conditions responded well to the adjustments which he was calling “hand treatments.” Later with the help of Reverend Samuel Weed they coined the term chiropractic — from the Greek words, Chiro, meaning (hand) and practic, meaning (practice or operation). He renamed his clinic the Palmer School and Infirmary of Chiropractic. In 1898, he accepted his first students.

Although he never used drugs, under Palmer’s care fevers broke, pain ended, infections healed, vision improved, stomach disorders disappeared, and of course, hearing returned.

Often surprised at the effectiveness of his adjustments, D.D. Palmer returned to his studies of anatomy and physiology to learn more about the vital connection between the spine and one’s health.

He realized spinal adjustments to correct vertebral misalignments, or subluxations, was eliminating nerve interference that caused the patients’ complaints.
D.D.’s son, Bartlett Joshua, was equally as enthusiastic about chiropractic as his father and continued his father’s work. Bartlett — or B.J. as he is now known — is credited with developing chiropractic into a clearly defined and unique health care system.

In 1902, B.J. graduated from the Palmer school started by D.D., and before long — with his wife and fellow graduate Mabel — was helping patients and taking on more and more responsibility for the school and the clinic. He also was instrumental in getting chiropractic recognized as a licensed profession.
B.J. advocated the scientific advancement of chiropractic as the primary route to its acceptance. Through his leadership chiropractic became the first health care profession to regularly use Wilhelm Roentgen’s invention, the x-ray machine, which improved the science and accuracy of chiropractic. That’s right! Chiropractic was the first profession to use x-ray!


Chiropractic and its leaders have changed and evolved through the years but the principles of this distinct healing method are still the same as they were 100 years ago. Essentially, the body is a self-healing organism. The nervous system controls and coordinates every organ and tissue of the body. The relationship between the spine and the nerve system is a predictor for the state of health. Find the interference – correct it and the body will always move back toward health.

Today Chiropractic is licensed as a distinct healthcare profession in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and dozens of other countries throughout the world. There are over 35 Chiropractic colleges throughout the world including the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.


Today’s recognition and acceptance of chiropractic is primarily based on the strength of the growing body of scientific research, which all started from D.D. Palmer’s discovery and his son B.J. Palmer’s commitment to make Chiropractic Scientific. The positive results chiropractic care has given to millions of satisfied people continues to add credence to what one man started over 100 years ago. Chiropractic is now the world’s third largest healthcare profession and the fastest growing.

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