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  • Writer's pictureSecond Opinion Magazine

History of Chiropractic

By Dr. Emily Smith, Smith & Prissel Chiropractic

As a child, I decided I wanted to be a chiropractor when I grew up. Honestly, I had no idea what it was, other than a glorified back rub, and I really didn’t understand how it worked. I did know I wasn’t allowed to go back “there” when my mom was getting adjusted, and that was likely enough motivation for me. My mind didn’t waiver, and after obtaining a Bachelors of Science degree at UWEC, I moved to Davenport, Iowa and attended Palmer College of Chiropractic. I graduated 18 years ago as a Doctor of Chiropractic, and have loved every minute.

The word ‘chiropractic’ is Greek in origin with ‘cheir’ meaning ‘hand’ and ‘praktos’ meaning ‘done.’ This name, ‘done by hand,’ was coined over 123 years ago by DD Palmer, the founder of chiropractic. Palmer studied human health and disease. He believed that the body had the ability to heal itself and if there was disease present, it must be due to an interference in the message traveling through the nervous system. A misalignment in the vertebrae of the spine seemed an obvious potential cause.

On September 18, 1895, Palmer performed the first chiropractic ‘adjustment’ on a man named Harvey Lillard, a janitor in the building where Palmer worked. But Lillard wasn’t suffering from issues that we would deem adjustment-worthy today, he had been deaf for 17 years after lifting something and feeling a shift in his upper back. Palmer had Lillard lay on a small wooden bench and, according to his own description, “wracked the bone into place.”  Immediately following, Lillard could hear the horse-drawn carriages on the cobblestone streets three floors below. Just like that, chiropractic had cured his deafness! Word got out and deaf people came from all around to be treated by Palmer, but unfortunately, no one else’s hearing was restored. Palmer quickly discovered that though their deafness was not ‘cured,’ other issues such as back pain and headaches did improve with this newly discovered form of treatment. His spirits were lifted.

Palmer continued to develop chiropractic as a form of healing, and in 1897 the first chiropractic school was formed, Palmer School of Cure. Palmer’s son BJ was one of the first students. He carried on his father’s legacy as the developer of chiropractic, making it a prominent part of health care. In 1907, BJ Palmer changed the school’s name to Palmer School of Chiropractic. He had poignant statements inscribed all around the school such as, “Every organ in your body is connected to the one under your hat,” and “The power that made the body heals the body.” Many of these can still be seen today.

Dr. BJ Palmer ran the school until his death in 1961, when it was taken over by his son, Dr. David Palmer, who changed the name to Palmer College of Chiropractic. Dr. Dave was considered the ‘educator’ in regards to the school. He was instrumental in establishing rigorous education standards as well as the business and financial stability necessary for the school to last for generations.

To this day, there is still truth in what DD Palmer discovered and sumized well over one hundred years ago: “There is a vast difference between treating effects and adjusting the cause.” I am proud to be a part of a profession that lives this truth through treating the causeof dis-ease within the body.

Dr. Emily Smith is a pediatric chiropractic specialist but treats patients of all ages at her Menomonie and Eau Claire (Smith & Prissel Chiropractic) offices. She focuses on whole body wellness as it relates to health, including the importance of good nutrition. She can be reached at or 715-833-3505

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