The Subluxation – Historical Perspectives Part II

The Chiro.Org Blog

SOURCE:   Chiropractic Journal of Australia 2009 (Dec); 39 (4): 143–150

Rolf E. Peters, DC, MCSc, FICC, FACC, FPAC
Editor, Chiropractic Journal of Australia

Thanks to Dr. Rolf Peters, editor of the Chiropractic Journal of Australia for permission to republish this Full Text article, exclusively at Chiro.Org!

Subluxation is a term that has been used by the chiropractic profession since its early days. The term, meaning less than a luxation, has been used for millennia, similarly so has manipulation been the preferred intervention to overcome this problem.

This paper reviews some of the early uses of subluxation and manipulation identifying highlights, to help the reader appreciate that subluxation and manipulation, both spinal and general, are as old as civilisation itself.




D.D. Palmer stated that he manipulated the spine of Harvey Lillard on 18 September 1895 and restored his hearing after 17 years of deafness, and shortly thereafter gave immediate relief in a case of heart trouble. [1] With the advice of a patient, the Reverend Samuel Weed, they coined the word Chiropractic from the Greek words chiro and praxis, meaning done by hand on 14 January 1896. [2]

In 1905 D.D., with reference to himself in the third person, stated that

…he does not, nor ever has claimed that vertebrae may be displaced and replaced. He, however, is the first to draw the attention of the public to the difference between a complete luxation known to the medical world as such, and a subluxation as known to the chiropractor as a displacement of the articular processes.

He was the first to write lengthy articles, setting forth that 90 to 95 per cent of all diseases were caused by subluxation of vertebrae, and today no other person has placed such statements in the hands of the public unless copied from those written by D.D. Palmer

He was the first person to adjust, replace vertebrae by the unique method known as Chiropractic, using the spinous and transverse processes as handles.[3] (Emphasis added)

But, what are the facts?

This is just one of many articles @:

The Chiropractic Subluxation Page

The first mention of Subluxation thus far discovered in the published chiropractic literature appeared in October 1903 in the first issue of Backbone, a magazine published by Solon M. Langworthy’s American School of Chiropractic and Nature Cure, located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

In this issue Dr. Carroll W. Burtch stated: “the fact that the physician who possesses a thorough knowledge of the spinal and sympathetic nervous system can, knowing the nature and location of disease in a patient’s body, unhesitatingly place his finger on a spinal subluxation.” [4]

A little earlier, on 1 July 1903 D.D. wrote to his son B.J. Palmer, that at a class at Santa Barbara he had given an adjustment in the dorsal region which relieved a pinched nerve. [5] The term Pinched Nerve became the common acceptance of being the result of a subluxation. By 1909 D.D. Palmer had refined his thinking on what a subluxation does:

If he were to rewrite the above article, he would make two changes and bring it up to date, viz: Instead of the nerve being pinched in the intervertebral foramen, it is impinged just as it emerges from the intervertebral foramen. As we have had occasion to explain, the spinal nerve trunk divides immediately upon leaving the intervertebral foramen into four branches, two of these are somatic, i.e., they go to the framework of the body and its covering and not to the viscera. These are pressed against, impinged by the head of the rib and body of the vertebra being displaced. The ganglia lying close to and upon that joint, is impinged by its displacement. [6]

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