What’s the History Behind Palmer College of Chiropractic? [Infographic]

It’s an exciting time to be a chiropractor. Growing demand for natural medicine has led major health plans to cover chiropractic care for more patients. Cutting-edge research is nudging the profession forward a little more each day.

For those who’ve studied chiropractic history, chiropractors have come a long way from their early struggles to gain acceptance within the medical community. “Chiropractic did not spring into existence fully grown, but has been evolving and unfolding for more than a century,” wrote chiropractic historian Joseph C. Keating, Jr. Palmer Davenport Campus

As the world’s first chiropractic school, Palmer College of Chiropractic has played an instrumental role in shaping that existence. Known as “The Fountainhead,” our inception is so deeply entwined with the founding of the chiropractic profession that it’s hard to talk about one without talking about the other.

 The First Chiropractic School

When chiropractic first took root during the early 19th century, medicine was teetering on the cusp of a new era of scientific investigation. Health care was “a smorgasbord of competing theories, practitioners, potions and schemes,” Keating wrote. But the days when anyone could open a practice and tout the latest cure-all were numbered, as the public became increasingly aware of “the incredible possibilities inherent in science, technology and social organization.”

D.D. Palmer had begun treating patients on the premise that the nervous system transmits natural healing power to the rest of the body. If an organ became diseased, he reasoned, its supply must be cut off. That led him to develop a treatment for correcting spinal misalignments, or subluxations. Palmer School and Cure

In 1895 he met Harvey Lillard, a janitor who had been deaf for nearly two decades. Palmer noticed a misalignment in the man’s spine and offered to treat it. Lillard agreed, unknowingly becoming one of the world’s first chiropractic patients.

“I had long ago made up my mind to not take any more ear treatments, for it did me no good,” he later told The Chiropractic. “Dr. Palmer treated me on the spine; in two treatments I could hear quite well. That was eight months ago. My hearing remains good.”

Two years later, Palmer opened the world’s first chiropractic school in Davenport, Iowa, and began teaching his techniques to others—including several allopathic and osteopathic doctors. The Fountainhead had sprung into existence.

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Leading the Chiropractic Profession

Since its inception, Palmer College of Chiropractic has remained at the forefront of chiropractic development. It’s not only the oldest chiropractic school but also the largest, with an annual enrollment of nearly 2,100 students.

Throughout the years Palmer has trained many of the most notable chiropractic doctors. Of the more than 60,000 licensed chiropractors in the United States, nearly a third are Palmer graduates. Our students have gone on to found all but two of the nation’s accredited colleges of chiropractic, and our faculty wrote many of the profession’s leading textbooks.

Some of our greatest milestones include:

  • Becoming the first chiropractic school to receive a grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish a formal research center.
  • Founding the world’s largest chiropractic research center, the Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research (PCCR).
  • Securing more than $35 million in external research grants for chiropractic research, making the PCCR the most highly funded research effort in chiropractic.
  • Participating in a landmark clinical trial funded by the largest single award for a chiropractic research project in the history of the profession.
  • Partnering with Gallup to produce the first-ever annual report on Americans’ perceptions of chiropractic.
  • Developing the largest clinic system in chiropractic education.

Since chiropractic’s beginning, Palmer has played a key role in propelling the profession forward—and we still do. With so many new discoveries on the horizon, it’s an exciting time to be a Palmer student.

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