The Introduction of Subluxation in Chiropractic

Let’s Celebrate 125 Years of Chiropractic 

This year, chiropractic medicine celebrates its 125th anniversary! Each month, we will dive into the many achievements and innovations from a specific decade in chiropractic history. Last month, we covered 1900-1910 and early X-ray technology use in chiropractics. This month, we will focus on the key highlights from 1910-1920. 

Issuing the First Chiropractic Licenses

Despite the fact that chiropractic medicine was in practice before 1910, it wasn’t until 1913 that the first state law passed licensing chiropractors to practice in Kansas. Although the law passed in that year, things weren’t set into motion until 1915 when both Kansas and North Dakota were granted chiropractic licenses,1 becoming the first two states where chiropractors could practice legally. 

The Introduction of Major Subluxation

As more chiropractors received their licenses to practice, the concept of subluxation became highly disputed. Some chiropractors believed that subluxation was the root cause of poor health, but that assumption was difficult to prove at the time. 

What is subluxation? 

In short, it is considered to be a problem in the musculoskeletal system that affects a person’s health. Subluxations can be removed from the body by manual adjustments that release nerve pressure. 

D.D. Palmer and his son, B.J. Palmer, emphasized the effects of subluxation, or vertebral misalignment.They practiced what they preached, but lacked significant evidence to prove the effects of subluxations on overall health.

According to Kenneth John Young in his article “Gimme that old time religion,” “D.D. Palmer felt that he had a sacred duty in relieving people’s subluxations: “Knowing that our physical health and the intellectual progress of Innate depend upon the proper alignment of the skeletal frame, we feel it our bounded duty to replace any displaced bones so that physical and spiritual health, happiness, and the full fruition of earthly life may be fully enjoyed.”3

Since there was little-to-no research into subluxations at this time, the Palmers tried to rationalize their interpretations of them in a “religion-like pattern3”—preaching one idea to the masses without much evidence to back it up. With that belief in mind, B.J. Palmer bought the first X-ray machine in an attempt to show critics that he could prove the impact of subluxations.3

A Contradiction: Chiropractic & X-Ray Technology

Chiropractic began as a “system of natural healing,4″ but the integration of X-ray technology for diagnosing subluxations contradicted many of the early chiropractic ideals. However, by using X-ray technology with chiropractic adjustments, chiropractors today can get a better understanding of the spine. Because of B.J. Palmer’s forward-thinking in bringing medical technology into chiropractic, X-ray machines have advanced dramatically—like Biokinemetrics’ ChiroSight Digital X-Ray System, which uses digital X-ray technology to provide instant reports of findings.  

The Death of the Father of Chiropractic

After pioneering the practice of chiropractic in the United States, D.D. Palmer passed away from typhoid fever on October 20,1913 at the age of 68. It had been almost 20 years since he performed his first chiropractic adjustment.5 He left behind a legacy in chiropractic, one that would impact the future in this field of medicine. His book, The Chiropractor, which covered topics like nerve vibrations, vertebral adjusting, and palpation and nerve tracing, was published posthumously in 1914. 

Without D.D. Palmer’s early innovations, chiropractic would not have become what it is today—a field of medicine with over 70,000 practicing chiropractors in the United States.6

Looking Ahead to Next Month

As we continue our journey through the last 125 years of chiropractic milestones, we will explore the highlights from 1920-1930. We will cover topics such as the neuro-calometer/thermography, Dr. Dunsworth and Meyer Distributing Co., and Women’s History Month. 

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1Brief History of Regulation. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2020 from

2Organization, Chiropractic Resource. SUBLUXATION – HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES, Retrieved January 31, 2020 from

3Young, Kenneth John. “Gimme That Old Time Religion: the Influence of the Healthcare Belief System of Chiropractic’s Early Leaders on the Development of x-Ray Imaging in the Profession.” Chiropractic & Manual Therapies, BioMed Central, 28 Oct. 2014. Retrieved January 31, 2020 from

4Young, Kenneth John, et al. “The Hangover: The Early and Lasting Effects of the Controversial Incorporation of X-Ray Technology into Chiropractic.” Health and History, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2016. Retrieved February 3, 2020 from

5Lazarus, D. (2017, June 30). Column: Chiropractic treatment, a $15-billion industry, has its roots in a ghost story. Retrieved January 31, 2020 from

6News & Publications – Key Facts About the Chiropractic Profession. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2020 from

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