History & Origin

Ancient Bodywork

The origin of tissue manipulation is lost in antiquity.  However, since the beginning of recorded time, there are records of its existence. The ancient Chinese Kong Fou Document of 2700 B.C. refers to tissue manipulation. A later Greek papyrus dating to at least 1500 B.C. gives instruction on the maneuvering of the lower extremities in the treatment of low back conditions.

Throughout time, continents, countries and cultures there are references indicating the ancient Japanese, Indians of Asia, Egyptians, Babylonians, Syria, Hindus and Tibetans engaged in the practice of tissue manipulation. The Book of Esther written in 474 B.C. refers to appropriate food and “massage procedures” with myrrh and balsam oil.

Hippocrates, the celebrated Greek physician known today as the “Father of Medicine,” lived from 460 to 357 B.C. and recognized the importance of spinal manipulation. He wrote at least 70 books on healing, including, Manipulation and Importance to Good Health and On Setting Joints by Leverage. He emphasized the importance of the spine when he said, “Get knowledge of the spine, for this is the requisite for many diseases.”   He strongly believed in the healing power of Nature and the natural recuperative power of the body. He stressed the importance of rest, fresh air, sunlight, proper diet, exercise in moderation, cleanliness and tissue manipulation.

Another Greek physician living from 130 to 200 A.D. was Claudius Galen who wrote 500 books during his life.  He was given the title, “Prince of Physicians” after he corrected a paralysis of the right hand of Eudemus, a prominent Roman scholar.  He did this by adjusting the neck vertebrae.  Galen, like Hippocrates, recognized the importance of the nervous system and the spine as the key to maximum health.

“Back Walking”

“Back walking” seems to be practiced among a number of indigenous peoples.  Ancient America Indian hieroglyphics demonstrated this as did early natives of the Polynesian islands where children would walk on the backs of ailing adults. Other Indian tribes that used “manipulative therapy” include: Sioux, Winnebago, Creek of North America; Aztec, Toltec, Tarascan, Zoltec and Mayan Indians of Mexico and Central America; the Incas of South America.

Documentation of manipulative therapy among the native of Tahiti can be found in the ship’s log of Captain James Cook, famous English navigator, explorer and cartographer of the late 1700s.  Cook’s health was affected by a number of factors: stress over his responsibilities for his crew and his ships and by his damp and leaking living quarters which triggered crippling rheumatism.  His records indicated he spoke of his rheumatic pains to the Tahitian chief who said he could fix it.   Ceremoniously, twelve large, muscular women were sent out to Cook’s ship.  There they made him lie on a mattress and blankets on the floor of the cabin.  They pummeled and squeezed him until his joints crackled and his flesh felt like “abused blubber” in Cook’s words.  After minutes of these manipulations, they released him.  To his amazement, he felt immediately better.  They asked, “More?” and the captain agreed.  After three more such treatments, he declared his pains vanished. *

The official beginning of the chiropractic profession dates to 1895.

In this year Daniel David Palmer restored the hearing of Harvey Lillard by manually adjusting his neck.  Palmer felt he was on to something and two years later in 1897 he began the Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa.  To this day, it continues to train doctors.

(*Excerpted from “Everything You Should Know About Chiropractic” by Chester A. Wilk, D.C.)