From Then to Now: The History of Chiropractic Care

How much do you know about the history of chiropractic care? Did you know that although the chiropractic profession is relatively new, chiropractic adjustments have been in use for ages? Whether you’re new to chiropractic or a longtime patient at Van Ness Chiropractic, there’s something to be learned through the history of chiropractic care. Knowing the context and framework for the origin of chiropractic care will add depth of understanding to your next appointment at Van Ness Chiropractic.

The History of Chiropractic Care

Ancient Hands-on Healing

Let’s start at the very beginning—chiropractic care has been around for thousands of years. While it has not always been researched or regulated, spinal adjustment for pain relief is not a new idea. In fact, Hippocrates, well-known as the Father of Modern Medicine, is credited to have stated: “Look well to the spine for the cause of disease.”

Though the most well-known, Hippocrates was likely not the first to begin looking to the spine for healing: historians have found ancient writings from China and Greece that date back to 2700 B.C. and 1500 B.C. These writings discuss manipulating the spine for the relief of back pain. Further evidence indicates that other ancient civilizations also turned to spinal adjustment, such as Japan, Egypt, Syria, Babylon, as well as the Mayans, Incas and other Native Americans.

The Modern Beginning of Chiropractic

The father of the chiropractic profession is Daniel David Palmer, or D.D. Palmer. D.D. Palmer had a background in magnetic healing and phrenology (diagnosing illnesses by bumps on one’s skull). With this unconventional yet medical background, D.D. Palmer began to experiment with spinal adjustments and started teaching others about his practices. He believed that health stemmed from “innate intelligence” which flowed from the brain to the rest of the body. From this premise, he thought that if one fixed any disruption to the innate intelligence, that would then fix any health problems.

In 1895, the first modern chiropractic patient was adjusted. His name was Harvey Lillard, he was a janitor, and he had been partially deaf for 17 years. The story goes that D.D. Palmer noticed a vertebra out of alignment in Lillard’s back and so he adjusted it right there where Lillard was working. The day after the spinal adjustment, Lillard reported that his hearing was improving.

D.D. Palmer continued his exploration into chiropractic care and decided upon a name for his new discovery. The word “chiropractic” is rooted in the Greek words cheir (“hand”) and praktos (“done”). D.D. Palmer chose this name because chiropractic care is care done by hands.

Two years after the first modern spinal adjustment, Palmer opened the first chiropractic school in 1897 and called it the Palmer School and Cure (later changed to Palmer School of Chiropractic). This school was started in Davenport, Iowa and remains there to this day. The chiropractic program itself was short, with little cost to enroll.

Developing Chiropractic Care

D.D. Palmer’s son, B. J. Palmer, enrolled in the program at Palmer School and carried on the family profession. Today, B.J. Palmer is credited with developing chiropractic care into the field that it is today. B.J. Palmer headed the school from 1906 until his death in 1961.

Before chiropractic was recognized and regulated, chiropractors could be fined or even thrown into jail for providing health care without a license. In 1913, the first law regarding licensing chiropractors was passed. Today, all of the states in the U.S. and many countries recognize chiropractors as health care professionals.

After B.J. Palmer’s death, his son David Daniel Palmer took over leadership of the school. In 1964, Dave Palmer renamed the school “Palmer College of Chiropractic” and had it designated as a non-profit institution. These changes prompted an increase in campus size and in the number of faculty and students.

Stepping into the rich tradition of chiropractic care, Dr. Van Ness received his doctorate of chiropractic in 1997 from Palmer College of Chiropractic. Drs. Van Ness, Parkin and Sabri all work with patients and other health care professionals to create plans that will improve patients’ lives. If you’d like to learn more about chiropractic care or schedule an appointment, reach out to us at or give us a call at 847-842-8070.


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