The First Chiropractic Adjustment, September 18th, 1895


The Father of Chiropractic
Dr. Daniel David “D.D.” Palmer

One question was always uppermost in my mind
in my search for the cause of disease. I desired to
know why one person was ailing and his associate,
eating at the same table, working in the same
shop, at the same bench, was not Why? What
difference was there in the two persons that caused
one to have pneumonia, catarrh, typhoid or
rheumatism, while his partner,similarly situated,
escaped? Why? This question had worried
thousands for centuries and was answered
on September 18th, 1895.


The First Chiropractic Patient
Mr. Harvey Lillard
1856 -1925


Dr. Bartlett Joshua “B.J.” Palmer

The First Chiropractic Adjustment was given by Daniel David “D.D.” Palmer to Harvey Lillard on September 18th, 1895, in Davenport, Iowa, on the 4th floor of the Ryan Building at the corner of Second and Brady Streets.

For nine years prior to the First Chiropractic Adjustment, Palmer was a magnetic healer, a hands on therapy which was also practiced by many medical practitioners of the era.

The First Chiropractic Patient was an African American man named, Harvey Lillard. Mr. Lillard was the owner/operator of the janitorial company that maintained the building where Palmer had his office.

Lillard had told Palmer that he had suffered from back pain and that he had lost most of his hearing. Lillard added that he could no longer hear sounds like the clip-clopping of the horses just outside the window, or the ticking of his watch. Palmer asked Lillard how he had lost his hearing. Lillard replied, that seventeen years prior, while bent over, in a stooped position, he heard something “pop” in his spine and immediately suffered a lost of most of his hearing.

A keen student of human anatomy and physiology, Palmer examined Lillard, and found a tender lump on the spine between his shoulders. He recognized the lump as a badly misaligned vertebra, and reasoned that since it had occurred when the man went deaf, restoring the vertebra to its proper position might also restore Lillard’s hearing. He presented his theory to Lillard and requested that he be allowed to try and realign the vertebra. Having known Palmer for years, and having seen the great number of people who sought his help, Lillard agreed to let him work on him.

Palmer reasoned that the body was controlled through the brain and nerve system by thousands of messages sent every second to control each structure and function within the body, and that pressure on the nerves could distort and block these messages as they traveled from the brain, to the spinal cord and on to the body. Palmer felt that Lillard’s hearing loss was due to a blockage of the spinal nerves which control the inner ear. Ultimately, this nerve blockage and bone misalignment “vertebral subluxations”, lessoned the body’s ability to function by disrupting communication over the nerve system. When Palmer corrected the misalignment by pushing the vertebrae back into place, the nerve pathways were reopened and thus Lillard’s hearing was restored.

After the adjustment Palmer sited, “There was nothing accidental about this, as it was accomplished with an object in view, and the result expected was obtained. There was nothing crude about this adjustment; it was specific.” Although the act of replacing vertebrae into their proper position had been practiced for thousands of years, Palmer was the first to articulate the connection between the interference these misaligned bones caused to the nerve system and interference to the functioning of the body.

Palmer was so impressed by his discovery that he asked a friend and patient, Rev. Samuel Weed, to help him name it. After careful study, Rev. Weed came up with the Greek words “cheiros” (hand), and “praktikus” (action) and together the words are interpreted as “done by hand” = Chiropractic.

Chiropractic was born. Palmer began checking other patients for evidence of misaligned vertebrae and adjusting them. He quickly discovered that many of their ailments were alleviated altogether, after his efforts to reposition the bones. From these observations, and from his own study and knowledge of health, Palmer concluded that good health is the normal, natural state of the body.

When Palmer first opened his office he rented three rooms in the Ryan Building. A few months after the First Chiropractic Adjustment, he added two more rooms. It was not long before he was using eight rooms. By 1892, his business had so increased that he was using eighteen rooms. These rooms were located on the second and third floors. He later exchanged the eighteen rooms for twenty on the front half of the fourth floor. Business continued to increase until he occupied the entire floor of forty rooms.

Palmer knew that he had found how to get the body to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery, but he did not want to share it with the world, rather he wanted to keep it as a family trade secret. His son, Bartlett Joshua “B.J.” Palmer, (1882-1961) decided on letting the world know about the discovery his father had made and tried to keep secret. B.J. talked his father into starting a school for people to learn the art of chiropractic.

Two years after the First Chiropractic Adjustment, Dr. David Daniel Palmer renamed his clinic the Palmer School & Infirmary of Chiropractic and accepted his first students. In 1898, he founded the Palmer School for Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa.

Since Dr. DD Palmer’s First Chiropractic Adjustment, the Art, Philosophy and Science of Chiropractic has grown and progressed significantly. Today, advanced chiropractic diagnostic procedures, sophisticated equipment, scientific research, and the growing acceptance among other health care professionals makes chiropractic the world’s fastest growing health care profession.

Today there are over 60,000 practicing Doctors of Chiropractic in the United States.

The Chiropractor’s Adjuster, published in 1910
D. D. Palmer’s Lifeline, by Joseph C. Keating Jr. Ph.D.

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