Chiropractic dates its origin to September 18, 1895, when Palmer claims to have manipulated a spinal bone of Harvey Lillard, a janitor where he had his office, and curing him of a 17-year-old deafness instantly. “Shortly after this relief from deafness, I had a case of heart trouble which was not improving. I examined the spine and found a displaced vertebra pressing against the nerves which innervate the heart. I adjusted the vertebra and gave immediate relief.” From these two instances of “cure,” Palmer concluded that other diseases were caused by the same “pressure on nerves.” In Palmer’s own words, “the science (knowledge) and art (adjusting) of Chiropractic were formed at that time.”
Palmer referred to the “displaced vertebrae” as “luxations.” Then, shortly after the turn of the century, one of his disciples began calling the alleged problem areas “subluxations.” The term subluxation soon became central to chiropractic theory and is still used by chiropractors today.
To base the entire profession of chiropractic on “subluxation” and to diagnose all the diseases and pains as pinched nerves in the spinal disks after practicing it on one or two patients is a paradigm of pseudoscience. When conventional medicine claims that penicillin kills bacteria, it can prove it in an overwhelming majority of cases. But when chiropractors claim that they can cure pain by manipulating the spine, the only “proof” they offer is word of mouth, claims of other practitioners, and in rare cases, patients who have been “cured” – probably due to other mechanisms such as the placebo effect.
In 1896, with the help of a local minister, Palmer coined the name
chiropractic from Greek words meaning “done by hand.” That same year, he incorporated his first school which was renamed Palmer Infirmary and Chiropractic Institute in 1902. Several years later, D.D. was jailed for practicing medicine without a license. His son B.J. took charge of the Institute, and refused to give his father access to school grounds after the latter’s release from prison. An arbitration committee resolved the dispute between father and son by allowing the son to purchase the school upon which he renamed it Palmer School and Infirmary of Chiropractic (or Palmer School of Chiropractic) in 1907.