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Happy 124th Birthday to the Chiropractic Profession!

In September 1895, Daniel David Palmer, known by most as D.D. Palmer, gave what was considered the first chiropractic adjustment. The 18th of September has generally been accepted as the actual birthday of chiropractic by the profession itself.

After the first adjustment, D.D. Palmer coined the term “chiropractic,” from which he combined the Greek words cheir (meaning ‘hand’) and praktos (meaning ‘done’), i.e. “Done by Hand.”

Here is D.D. Palmer describing the first chiropractic adjustment in his own words:

“Harvey Lillard, a janitor, in the Ryan Block, where I had my office, had been so deaf for 17 years that he could not hear the racket of a wagon on the street or the ticking of a watch. I made inquiry as to the cause of his deafness and was informed that when he was exerting himself in a cramped, stooping position, he felt something give way in his back and immediately became deaf. An examination showed a vertebra racked from its normal position. I reasoned that if that vertebra was replaced, the man’s hearing should be restored. With this object in view, a half‑hour’s talk persuaded Mr. Lillard to allow me to replace it. I racked it into position by using the spinous process as a lever and soon the man could hear as before. There was nothing ‘accidental’ about this, as it was accomplished with an object in view, and the result expected was obtained. There was nothing ‘crude’ about this adjustment; it was specific, so much so that no Chiropractor has equaled it.” ¹

Harvey Lillard’s daughter refuted this claim later in her life, stating that her father told her a different version. He had been telling a joke, and D.D. Palmer thought it was so funny that he slapped Lillard “heartily” on the back. A few days later, Lillard told Palmer that his hearing had improved since the hearty slap, and Palmer apparently chose to pursue adjusting the vertebrae of the spine as a means to restore nervous system communication between the brain and body.

Here’s my take.

It is highly unlikely that D.D. Palmer slapped Harvey Lillard so hard in the back that he restored a vertebra’s proper position. Not impossible, but it seems to me as if D.D. Palmer had to have slapped the hell out of him… with a lot of force… and with a closed fist.

Maybe he did, but…

The region of the spine that most likely to have any effect on hearing whatsoever is the upper cervical spine, not the upper thoracic spine where D.D. Palmer supposedly, inadvertently, heartily slapped Harvey Lillard. Again, it is not impossible for this to happen the way Harvey Lillard’s daughter claims her father explained it to her as a child, but it is highly unlikely. This scenario is nothing more than hearsay, and hearsay is inadmissible in court.

So, that’s D.D. Palmer’s story and I’m sticking to it!


  1. Palmer DD. The Chiropractor’s Adjuster. Portland Printing House Company, 1910:18.

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