Treatment of the spine was still crude and misunderstood until Daniel David (D.D.) Palmer discovered the specific spinal adjustment. D.D. defined Chiropractic as, “The Philosophy, Art and Science of things natural. A system for adjusting the segments of the spinal column, by hand only, for the correction of the cause of Dis-ease.” He was also responsible for the earliest development of the philosophy of Chiropractic and provided the first definition for vertebral subluxation.
“I am not the first person to replace subluxated vertebrae, but I do claim to be the first person to replace displaced vertebrae by using the spinous and transverse processes as levers…and to develop the philosophy and science of chiropractic adjustments.” D.D. Palmer, Discoverer of Chiropractic I
D.D. Palmer was born in Ontario, Canada, in 1845, He moved to the United States when he was 20 years old. He spent the years after the Civil War teaching school, raising bees and selling sweet raspberries in the Iowa and Illinois river towns along the bluffs on either side of the Mississippi River.
In 1885, D.D. study with Paul Caster and learned the techniques of magnetic healing, a common therapy of the time. Two years later, he moved to Davenport and opened the Palmer Cure and Infirmary.
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 Lillard didn’t react at all. He approached the man and tried to strike up a conversation. He soon realized 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.