Origins of Chiropractic

Ever wondered about the Origins of Chiropractic?

“Chiropractic” comes from the Greek word Chiropraktikos, meaning “effective treatment by hand.

Before chiropractors there were bonesetters. The earliest reference to bonesetting credits 16th Century Friar Thomas Moulton of the order of St. Augustine who wrote the Compleat Bonesetter, a guide about setting bones, which stated “…the use of manipulation as a method of setting fractures, reducing dislocations, and restoring mobility to an injured or diseased joint.”

In the 18th century many of the bonesetters where women, with Lavinia Fenton (who married the Duke of Bolton) and her sister Sally Mapp (aka Crazy Sally) being two of the most notorious and sought-after bonesetters for their extraordinary skills. It is believed that they learned their skills from their father who was also a famous early 18th century bonesetter.

“Chiropractic” comes from the Greek word Chiropraktikos, meaning “effective treatment by hand.”

D. D. Palmer, a teacher and grocer turned magnetic healer, opened his office of magnetic healing in Davenport, Iowa in 1886. On September 18, 1895, he helped a janitor, Harvey Lillard, regain his hearing by manual manipulation. Even though there are conflicting stories as to how the “treatment” came about, this date is considered the birth of Chiropractic. A decade earlier Andrew Still, founder of the American School of Osteopathy wrote Principles of Osteopathy, where he described the body as “a machine whose parts could be manipulated to produce a drugless cure.”The difference between these two men was that while Palmer concentrated on reducing “heat” from friction of the misaligned parts, Still claimed to enhance the flow of blood.

Palmer was arrested a couple of times for practicing medicine without a license and was convicted of claiming he could cure without a license in medicine or osteopathy. B.J. Palmer, his son, took over the Palmer School in 1906, when his father left the state after his conviction and where BJ began promoting Chiropractic formal training. While bonesetting is considered as providing modern Chiropractic with the method, magnetic healing provided the theory.

Dr Solon Langworthy started an official curriculum composed of several different subjects and narrowed the field to the treatment of the spine and nervous system. He was also the first to coin the term “subluxation”, which in layman’s terms simply means a joint out of place. He was also the first to publish a book on Chiropractic, “Modernized Chiropractic — Special Philosophy — A Distinct System”, in 1906.

The profession became split between two “schools of thought” – mixers and straights. Mixers were those that combined spinal adjustments with treatments of other areas, while the straights’ practice only involved the spinal column.

In spite of the AMA’s efforts in 1963, to eliminate Chiropractic it wasn’t until 1970 that serious research to test chiropractic theories was begun and, by the mid 1990’s scholarly interest had grown sufficiently to warrant establishing clinical guidelines positioning Chiropractic as a legitimate medical approach.

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