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The First Chiropractor Claimed The Treatment Was Inspired By A Ghost

And apparently made great honey.

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Rachael Funnell

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Rachael Funnell

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Rachael is a writer and digital content producer at IFLScience with a Zoology degree from the University of Southampton, UK, and a nose for novelty animal stories.

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chiropractor ghost

Daniel David Palmer, aka Old Dad Chiro. Image credit: Palmer College of Chiropractic, Public Domain

Old Dad Chiro was the name the father of chiropractic, Daniel David Palmer, gave himself. The Canadian was a successful beekeeper, spiritualist and practitioner of magnetic medicine, and actually credited the early ideas of chiropractic to the ghost of a dead doctor he chatted with on several occasions.

Chiropractic treatment isn’t a medical therapy, but is instead considered a type of complementary and alternative medicine in which a chiropractor uses their hands to relieve problems. While chiropractic is regulated with registered practitioners, it’s a controversial area of alternative medicine as spinal manipulation can sometimes have serious side effects including stroke, arterial dissection, and paralysis

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The practice today involves the manipulation of the body at the hands of a chiropractor, which has descended from Palmer’s understanding of magnetism. As a healer, he believed he could concentrate his magnetism to relieve an ailing organ by placing one hand above and one hand below it, and passing the healing energy from one side to the other.

As his school of though developed, Palmer later credited his leap of awareness in “the science of the chiropractic” to a channeled spirit: the ghost of a deceased doctor.

“My first knowledge of this old-new doctrine was received from Dr Jim Atkinson who, about fifty years ago, lived in Davenport, Iowa, and who tried during his life-time to promulgate the principles now known as Chiropractic,” Palmer wrote in The Chiropractor's Adjuster: The Science, Art and Philosophy of Chiropractic. “The intellectuality of that time was not ready for this advancement.”

As far as Palmer was concerned, Atkinson was an “intelligent spirit being” from the “otherworld” that he conversed with through inspiration and spiritual promptings, wrote Wiggins and Engel in a paper published to the Chiropractic Journal of Australia.

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Whether Atkinson ever existed or was a figment of Palmer’s imagination isn’t known for certain, but it figures that he would’ve been open to spiritual intervention as the husband of Abba Lord: a self-declared clairvoyant, psychometrist and psychic healer. However, as the paper continues, given that everyone was into spiritualism at the time, it’s perhaps an unfair argument against the alternative medicine on its own.

“If Palmer’s spiritualistic beliefs are justification for the criticisms about chiropractic, it could justifiably be argued that society should similarly be encouraged to rethink its support for germ theory or the use of telephones, as Pasteur and Edison were keen proponents of Spiritualism,” they argue. “In a similar vein, critics of Osteopathy would be justified in questioning its effectiveness based on AT Still’s beliefs about ‘psychic’ powers and ‘personal communications  with deceased spirits.’”

The idea behind modern chiropractic treatment has since moved far away from magnetism, and instead centers around the manipulation of joints to better align them when things have gone wrong. However, it’s important to remember that joints around the head and neck are also surrounded by vital blood vessels, which if mishandled by someone who isn’t adequately trained can have catastrophic consequences. You’re less likely to encounter the same problems with a telephone.


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  • History of medicine,

  • alternative medicine,

  • spirituality,

  • chiropractor,

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