Chiropractic care is used around the world. It is the third most commonly practiced form of healing and it is supported by an ever growing wealth of scientific research and study. But how did it all begin?
Chiropractic has a long and colourful history with a fascinating narrative accentuated by some quite remarkable anecdotes of how discoveries and breakthroughs were made.
The ancient history of the birth of the practice features some of the most well-known figures and theorists of the time, but perhaps unsurprisingly it wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that the profession achieved its own intellectual place.
This can perhaps be put down to a number of things, as life expectancy lengthened people became more concerned about the aches and pains in their backs.
Maybe it was just an offshoot of the development of modern medicine and scientific thought. Most likely it was – to put it basically – a combination of these two factors, so let’s take a look at how we arrived at the discipline as it is today.
Although not necessarily descended directly from it, ancient cultures and religions placed particular interest upon the healthiness of a back. Indeed the Yogic tradition was claiming six or seven thousand years ago that it was the source of all health. However, it wasn’t until the great Hippocrates became interested around 500BC that the treatment of such conditions became of serious European interest outside of Greece.
It is worth noting, however, that the Greeks had, in a roundabout way, been examining the spine for a thousand years already. Scholars, as they existed in these centuries, took an interest, and Galen famously set the spine of a Roman acquaintance adding even further to his burgeon reputation in the ancient Mediterranean.
Then, just a few centuries later, much of this interest fell out of the picture of most medical thinkers. Likely this was one of the many repercussions of the fall of Rome, as Europe descended into the Dark Ages and physicians leaned towards ‘medicines’ and religious fervour to cure the ill.
In truth, medicine focussed upon the back was practiced largely by the superstitious poor, who would take turns stamping on the backs of the ill trying the cure them by what they called ‘bone setting’.
The birth of chiropractic care occurred many centuries later and thousands of miles distant in Davenport, Iowa where Daniel David Palmer had taken an interest in the workings of the spine. In his clinic he was trying to research the principles of disease when he started chatting to his janitor, a Mr Harvey Lillard, who it transpired has suffered nearly two decades of hearing problems after he felt something ‘pop’ one day.
Palmer inspected his back and felt something was out of place, his suspicion being that this had snared one of the nerves running up to Lillard’s earlobe. He made an adjustment and the long-standing problem was resolved.
In a time when miracle cures and snake oil were all the rage, word spread that Palmer had magically cured deafness and suddenly he was a national celebrity. Quick to reason that he hadn’t cured deafness, but that there was a huge potential for how treating the back could maybe assist in treating other conditions, before long he was treating, with some success, a wide range of people suffering all kind of ailments.
Such was the birth of the discipline that we know today.