It all began with a man, Daniel David Palmer, in 1895. Palmer moved from Canada to the United States in 1880 to study (at the time a very popular method) magnetic healing. In the building where he held his office, he met the building’s janitor, Harvey Lillard, who had a rather large lump in his back. Palmer noticed that Lillard had a vertebra out of position. He asked Lillard what happened, and Lillard replied, “I moved the wrong way, and I heard a ‘pop’ in my back, and that’s when I lost my hearing.” Palmer had him lie face down on the floor and realigned his spine. The next day, Lillard told Palmer, “I can hear that rackets on the streets.” Palmer then decided to explore manipulation as an expansion of his magnetic healing practice. Spinal manipulation was not an unknown treatment in 1895, and Palmer never claimed to be the first to use manipulation for the cure of disease. He did claim, however, to be the first to use specific contacts as short-leverage points for making more specific spinal “adjustments.”
This experience led Palmer to open the first school of chiropractic within two years. The word “chiropractic” was coined by his friend and partner, Rev. Samuel Weed. Palmer’s first descriptions and underlying philosophy of chiropractic echoed Andrew Still‘s principles of osteopathy established a decade earlier. Both described the body as a self-regulating and healing organism with innate intelligence, in a world of universal intelligence. Both also knew that the brain was the power-house and main control center of the body, and that focusing on spinal manipulations (or subluxations/joint dysfunctions) would improve the patient’s over-all health. Palmer distinguished his work from osteopathy by noting that he was the first to use short-lever HVLA manipulative techniques using the spinous and transverse processes as mechanical levers. Soon after, osteopaths began an American wide campaign proclaimed that the idea of chiropractic was a stolen form osteopathy and demanded licensure to differentiate the two groups. Osetopaths soon were accepted by the AMA (American Medical Association), who then started administering pharmaceutical medication as the main source of healing the human body. A little back history on the AMA -in 1849, the AMA established a board to analyze quack remedies and nostrums and to enlighten the public about their nature and their dangers. Relationships were developed with pharmaceutical companies in an effort to curb the patent medicine crisis and consolidate the patient base around the medical doctor. After D.D. Palmer’s method of chiropractic started to be seen as treating people’s problems more than that of the tradition medicines, this board came after him. They called D. D. Palmer a “quack” and refused to acknowledge his accomplishments.
In 1907, the AMA passed a law that threw a Wisconsin chiropractor in jail due to practicing osteopathic medicine without a license. Eventually, even D.D. Palmer was prosecuted. At the time it was noted that Chiropractor’s were highly successful in helping many individuals who were not achieving results via medical treatment. In the book, The medical war against Chiropractors: The untold story from persecution to vindication, it is stated that the AMA of the time waged a shameless attack on any competition to their medical profession. This also included natural professions such as Naturopathy and Homeopathy. This resulted in the jailing of many Chiropractors who refused to stop practicing. While presenting themselves as a harmless and trustworthy organisation the AMA proceeded to refer to all Chiropractors as ‘dogs’ and ‘killers.’ It was obvious that their intent was to destroy the Chiropractic profession and also prohibited medical doctors from associating with Chiropractors. Statutes to practice chiropractic were not established until later, though many chiropractors defiantly opposed the medical statutes they regarded as an infringement of their rights and obligations to serve their patients.The first state law licensing chiropractors was passed in 1913, and by 1931, 39 states had given chiropractors legal recognition.
It was around this time that D.D. sold the school to his son, B.J. Palmer. D.D. had tried to be rather secretive with his methods of chiropractic, he was very reluctant to teach his son his methods. It’s safe to say they didn’t see eye to eye on how to carry out expanding the practice. B.J. greatly expanded the school and the general knowledge of chiropractic, opening several new school in Oklahoma, California, and Oregon. B.J. also worked to overcome chiropractic’s initial resistance to the use of medical technology, by accepting diagnostic technology such as spinal X-rays in 1910. B.J. Palmer believed that their chiropractic school was founded on “…a business, not a professional basis. We manufacture chiropractors. We teach them the idea and then we show them how to sell it”. The next 15 years saw the opening of 30 more chiropractic schools, including John Howard’s National School of Chiropractic (now the National University of Health Sciences) that moved to Chicago, Illinois. Each school attempted to develop its own identity, while B.J. Palmer continued to develop the philosophy behind his father’s discovery.
On November 2, 1963, the AMA Board of Regents created the “Committee on Quackery” with the goals of first containing, and then eliminating chiropractic. H. Doyle Taylor, the Director of the AMA Department of Investigation and Secretary of the Committee on Quackery, outlined the steps needed:
The AMA worked to spread information designed to discredit chiropractic through public media and the scientific literature. The longstanding feud between chiropractors and medical doctors continued for decades. The AMA labeled chiropractic an “unscientific cult” in 1966, and until 1980 held that it was unethical for medical doctors to associate with “unscientific practitioners”. Before 1980, the AMA Principles of Medical Ethics stated: “A physician should practice a method of healing founded on a scientific basis; and he should not voluntarily professionally associate with anyone who violates this principle.” In 1980 during a major revision of ethical rules replaced this by stating that a physician “shall be free to choose whom to serve, with whom to associate, and the environment in which to provide medical services.” Today, there are more than 70,000 active chiropractic licenses in the United States. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands officially recognize chiropractic as a health care profession. Many other countries also recognize and regulate chiropractic, including Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, Australia, Japan and Switzerland.
Unfortunately, after all of this ongoing debate practitioners from both sides of the divide forget to recognize who is most important – and that is the patient. The patients needs must be placed first and foremost, not a doctors belief! Chiropractors and medical doctors needs to work hand in hand to achieve the best outcome for their patients and view their health holistically. For Chiropractors reading this, keep your patients medical doctors fully informed and report back to them regarding diagnosis, treatment plans and prognosis.