February is Black History Month.
Here is a little about more about African American History in the Chiropractic profession and the story of Harvey J. Lillard, the man at the heart of the chiropractic story.
Harvey J. Lillard was the first patient in what became known as chiropractic medicine. The very first adjustment was performed on him, and restored his hearing. This non-invasive, holistic approach attracted interest in chiropractic techniques, and established a lasting profession. The founder of Chiropractic medicine was a man named Daniel David Palmer.
Dr. Palmer was not yet famous when he met Lillard. At that time he was a small-time entrepreneur in Davenport, Iowa who was trying to make a living with magnetic healing. Lillard owned the custodial company that took care of the building where Palmer was renting his office. Palmer heard Lillard’s story of how he lost most of his hearing. An incident that apparently was accompanied by a strange ‘popping’ noise in his spine.
Palmer came up with a theory that the deafness was related to Lillard’s spinal alignment, and offered to work with him to invent a treatment. The first adjustment was in 1895, and it cured Lillard’s hearing!
As miraculous as this sounds, it has been shown with subsequent case studies that chiropractric adjustments can and do improve hearing in patients with certain impingement or muscle strain issues. Although exact mechanisms have yet to be defined, it is believed chiropractic adjustments to various areas of the spinal column and locomotor system may have an effect on central auditory processing.
According to Lillard, “I was deaf 17 years and I expected to always remain so, for I had doctored a great deal without any benefit. I had long ago made up my mind to not take any more ear treatments, for it did me no good. Last January Dr. Palmer told me that my deafness came from an injury in my spine. This was new to me; but it is a fact that my back was injured at the time I went deaf. Dr. Palmer treated me on the spine; in two treatments I could hear quite well. That was eight months ago. My hearing remains good”. Harvey Lillard had a wife and daughter, and lived in Davenport Iowa until 1907 when they moved to Seattle, where he was a deputy sheriff until his death in 1925.
This amazing story is the foundation of chiropractic medicine; it was used to market and legitimize the technique, which rapidly grew across the country and into an established medical profession.