There is some proof that the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (ca. 460 B.C.-ca. 370 B.C.) believed the condition of the spine was instrumental to overall health by his advice to students: “Get knowledge of the spine, for this is the requisite for many diseases.”
However, chiropractic as a stand-alone faction of health care had its beginnings when Daniel David Palmer, a practitioner of magnetic healing in Davenport, Iowa, performed a spinal adjustment on Harvey Lillard after learning that Mr. Lillard had lost his hearing one day when he stood up after crouching in a stooped position for a lengthy time and heard a loud popping sound in his back. Mr. Palmer concluded that the popping and the deafness were related and, after examining Mr. Lillard’s spine, found that a vertebra was not positioned correctly. Mr. Palmer eased the vertebra into place and a few days later Mr. Lillard reported that his hearing had improved.
As word of his success with Mr. Lillard spread through the community, other people began to come to Mr. Palmer for help with medical problems that included migraine headaches, stomach problems, epilepsy, sciatica, flu, and heart problems. Every case was helped by a spinal adjustment, or, as he called his technique, “hand treatments.” He coined the word chiropractic from the Greek chiro (hand) and practic (operation or practice). Daniel Palmer changed the clinic name to The Palmer School & Infirmary of Chiropractic and accepted his first students in 1898.
Somewhat surprised at how well vision improved, pain eased, fevers broke, infections cleared, hearing returned, and intestinal problems disappeared without the use of any drugs, Mr. Palmer studied physiology and anatomy in an attempt to understand the connection between the spine and health.
In 1902, Mr. Palmer’s son, B.J. Palmer, graduated from the school and partnered with his father. Although chiropractic adjustments proved to be highly effective, early practitioners were often called charlatans and quacks by the medical community. Mr. Palmer himself was briefly jailed in 1905 for practicing medicine without a license.
The chiropractic profession has witnessed amazing advancements since the Palmers first opened their practice, but the basic tenet remains the same: use spinal adjustment techniques, without the addition of drugs, to heal the patient.
Dr. Randy Meltzer is a chiropractor and naturopathic physician who has been practicing at the Meltzer Natural Health Care Center in New York City for the past 30 years.