Yearly Archives: 2015

DD Palmer’s Quote to John Howard

DD Palmer wrote four letters to his student John Howard in 1906. One of these letters has a DD Palmer quote that is still used today. Palmer gave Howard his blessing. But not really.

Howard graduated from PSC in 1905 and then joined the faculty. DD Palmer’s letters encouraged Howard to start teaching. He opened the National School in 1906. The location was the Ryan Block. DD practiced, taught, and lived in that building from 1888-1902. The P.S.C. moved in 1905.

A Troubled Time for DD

The Ryan Block.

The Ryan Block.

The letters were written during one of DD’s most difficult times. His wife of 22 years just died. He married his fifth wife. His grandson was born. He lost at trial and went to prison for practicing medicine without a license.

After jail DD and BJ went through arbitration to protect the school. DD signed the school over to Mabel and left BJ in charge. The whole incident created a rift between DD, BJ, and their wives. DD moved to Medford, Oklahoma, where he opened a grocery store. He wrote the letters to Howard from Oklahoma. He was growing in his anger towards BJ.

Special issue of The Chiropractor

Special issue of The Chiropractor

The Qualified Endorsement

DD Palmer wrote to Howard, “Why should I not approve of your teaching the Science of Chiropractic…In practice and as a teacher I consider you more and better qualified than BJ and I think I know you both.”

I could write a book on the BJ bashing from this time period. That is not relevant to my main point. What matters is DD Palmer’s next quote.

He qualified his endorsement in capital letters, “I AM PLEASED TO LEARN THAT YOU ARE NOT MIXING.”

DD is plainly stating, Yes, I endorse you Howard, as long as you don’t mix chiropractic with any other therapies or the practice of medicine. That is what he meant by mixing.

As early as 1902 DD wrote of the problems with mixing other methods with chiropractic (see Zarbuck). Years later he would write, “No thank you, I do not mix, I give Chiropractic straight. If it were mixed with all the methods offered, it would soon lose its identity.”

I am NOT bringing this up to reignite old flames or even to choose sides in an old battle. I bring it up to point out how our history has been distorted. Those distortions have had consequences.

DD Palmer’s Quote Misquoted

As early as the 1920s, leaders from National were using selections from these letters in their advertising. They were trying to demonstrate that Howard was the rightful heir to the chiropractic kingdom, not BJ. And that meme still floats around today! Here’s why.

Several historians have either ignored this particular quote or twisted it. When history is misrepresented students get a skewed picture of what is real. A problem indeed.

For just one example, I will tell you about Beideman. He is my favorite offender because he didn’t just ignore the quote he created a unique and strange interpretation. Check this out:

NCC 1938 in Chicago

NCC 1938 in Chicago

“Those familiar with the history of chiropractic are aware that classifying all chiropractors into one of two groups (“Straights” or “Mixers”) completely politicized the entire profession early on. It may interest historians to note that D.D.’s 1906 usage of those words bore no resemblance to their more modern connotation.

It seems as though chiropractic’s discoverer used the terms straight chiropractic to mean straight truthfulness. This was in contradiction to his use of the words mixer or mixing when referring to things which were not factual.”

He created his own definition of mixing – lying. That is just incorrect.

Beideman was the official National historian. He was clearly enamored by his topic. Unfortunately, this clouded his writing and distorted history in one book and several articles. His 1996 article on The Howard Encyclopedia is another example! (Reprinted with permission by the AHC.)

Howard’s Background

Howard’s 1910 Encyclopedia was a compendium of every natural method of the day. The book also includes his writings on chiropractic and philosophy.

Howard’s embrace of all things natural started long before he sought out chiropractic.

Between 1895-1898, Howard was on a Mormon mission trip to Europe. While there he studied Kneip’s hydrotherapy. When he returned he opened the Salt Lake Sanitarium with Drs. Gowens and Miller. Howard was in charge of treatment. The facility was fully integrated with medical doctors.

Howard was one of the first in the middle chiropractic paradigm. His students would lead the medical chiropractic paradigm.

History in the Making

It is unfortunate that some of our historical accounts are jaded, distorted, and incorrect. It will take time and patience for us to right these wrongs and learn from the past. Historians of chiropractic have helped to define chiropractic. We need to hold them accountable to that important job.

My intention with these blog posts is to bring up glitches in our historical accounting. To tell stories that shed new light on why things happened the way they did. And, to interpret meaning in more complex ways.

Ideally, these posts will help you to better understand the history of ideas in chiropractic. Knowing the history of ideas and being able to situate the context of DD Palmer’s quotes will make you better at what you do. It may even help to weave the profession together around common understanding.


DD Palmer’s Chiropractic Ideas

My favorite story from the early days of DD Palmer’s chiropractic comes from 1902.

BJ Palmer was practicing in Manistique, Michigan. BJ got a telegram from his dad asking him to return home. When BJ arrived, DD had sold almost everything. He was leaving for California. DD told his son to gather up $200 and meet him there.

This was an extraordinary situation. Palmer had a busy practice, a school, and 42 rooms on the top floor of the Ryan block. I always knew about this story. The facts did not make sense until I studied Rolf Peters’ book and got a copy of the ad.

Postcard from BJ Palmer to DD Palmer in 1903.

Postcard from BJ Palmer to DD Palmer in 1903.

DD Palmer’s Only Full-page Ad

The circumstances were strange. DD skipped town with loads of debt. Back rent was due and he had patients to care for. Weirder still was that the day he left town on July 14, 1902, he published his first full page ad in the newspaper.

DD also included a short article for the paper. The article explained why he decided to post the ad. I got copies of both from the Davenport Library.  The article explains that BJ’s ad from May had done so well that he decided to run his own.

The ad itself is amazing. It described the basics of DD Palmer’s chiropractic paradigm for the first time.

DD Palmer's Chiropractic writings June 14, 1902.

DD Palmer's Chiropractic writings June 14, 1902.

DD Palmer’s Chiropractic Year

Because of this ad and some other writings from earlier in the year, I declare that 1902 was DD Palmer’s chiropractic year.

He uses the term luxation more than ever. (He didn’t start using the new term subluxation until 1903.) He also described the importance of the IVF and how nerve pressure leads to disease. Health is when the body is at ease. This is when the nerves are free to act naturally or as nature intended.

There were several other ideas that he described at this time including “our philosophy of treatment” and his first use of innate intelligence. He even described the main principle as: take off the pressure.

The Chiropractic Paradigm

The chiropractic paradigm is like any paradigm. It has a distinct theory that is brought forth or enacted by a practice or method. His writings from 1902 form the foundation of DD Palmer’s chiropractic paradigm.

DD Palmer’s chiropractic paradigm can be described like this:

The body is self-healing and self-organizing. This self-organizing, coordinating, and otherwise normally functioning process is the work of the Innate Intelligence.

Innate Intelligence operates over the nervous system. Subluxations create dis-ease because the nerves are mechanically deranged. This causes pressure. Pressure leads to abnormal function. The chiropractic adjustment replaces the displaced vertebra. (DD wrote that chiropractors work with all 300 articulations but primarily the spine.)

The analysis and ultimately the adjustment combine as the method. The method brings forth the paradigm.

It is important to understand DD Palmer’s chiropractic paradigm for many reasons. One reason is that it gives us a frame of reference to understand the paradigms that branched from it. I call these the middle chiropractic paradigm and the medical chiropractic paradigm. I will write about those in future blog posts.

The Story Continues

The rest of this story is even more compelling. DD wrote an article in 1905 titled Insanity. This article explains his reasons for heading west. Thomas Storey, one of the graduates from his school disappeared. Storey’s wife contacted DD for help.

Storey was spotted on the West Coast and had some form of amnesia. Palmer found him and adjusted his atlas. His insanity was cured.

And then of course there is BJ Palmer’s part of the story. (For the details, you should really get Rolf Peters’ book!)

BJ decided to stay and save the Palmer name. He ran his own ad series in August.

BJ Palmer in his new automobile.

BJ Palmer in his new automobile.

Those ads boosted his practice and the school. He paid off the debt, bought an automobile, and launched his career. The final ad in the series includes some of BJ’s first important chiropractic ideas.


DD Palmer’s Books Were Inspired by Conflict

DD Palmer’s books were primarily a response to his critics, students, and colleagues. His three books were published in 1906, 1910, and 1914. Each of DD Palmer’s books represent distinct sets of ideas and conflicts. In fact, all were inspired by conflict.

One of the reasons I haven’t blogged in a while is because my time has been filled with studying DD’s collected works and the ideas that grew from them.

I decided that instead of waiting until the new program is launched I would just start blogging about my latest findings. A few ideas at a time.

DD rides the moose in 1899.

DD rides the moose in 1899.

Volume 1 of DD Palmer’s Books

I knew that BJ Palmer published Volume 1 of the chiropractic greenbooks after he and DD split their partnership. BJ kept both of their names on it as coauthors. They announced the book in January 1906, so they obviously started it together. According to Faulkner and Foley the two foremost scholars on Volume 1, DD was fully behind the book until the trial and all that ensued thereafter. He announced that he was leaving chiropractic and so BJ went ahead with the book, which was what his father originally wanted.

How much of the book was actually written by DD Palmer? That was my question. (Or one of them!)

In order to figure out this puzzle I read everything DD Palmer wrote prior to May 1906 when he split with BJ and headed to Oklahoma. Then I read a first edition of Volume 1. Thankfully google books has one available.  The later editions were published in 1910 and 1917. Those do not have DD’s name listed as author! BJ edited those editions and added new content.

What I discovered was pretty amazing. They hired a college professor to arrange the book. He took most of DD’s writings from their journal The Chiropractor. DD wrote articles in every issue from December 1904 until April 1906 when he was jailed for 23 days. I determined that most of the content in the book was indeed written by DD. Some of it was written as far back as 1899. Articles from other authors were used as well.

Authors of Volume 1

  • Numbers of Chapters Written

Some of DD’s Main Chapters

  • Chiropractic Rays of Light
  • Chiropractic Versus Therapeutics
  • Innate Intelligence
  • Luxations of the Bones Cause Disease
  • The Body is Heat By Nerves
  • Chiropractic Versus Osteopathy

Inspired by Conflict

DD really started writing in 1905. We can attribute his burst of scholarship to conflict. That was the year AP Davis published his first book on a new method called Neuropathy. Davis, an 1898 graduate from Palmer’s school, combined osteopathy, chiropractic, and several other methods. Historian Gaucher-Peslherbe wrote, “It got Palmer back to work again.”

DD did not want Davis’ theories to be the published word on his child, chiropractic. All of DD Palmer’s books were inspired by similar events and conflicts.

As you can see from two of the chapters above, he also wrote about chiropractic versus therapeutics and osteopathy. Conflict.

Davis demonstrating chest and spinal cord extention in 1909.

Davis demonstrating chest and spinal cord extention in 1909.

A Preview

In 1909, DD was settled in Portland, Oregon. He started a new journal called The Chiropractor Adjuster. His goal was to adjust the misconceptions about chiropractic in the field.  Several of the issues are preserved in the Palmer archives. Like all of DD Palmer’s books, the 1910 book was a collection of writings.

What I found amazing was that even though the 1910 book goes on to criticize many of the chiropractors of the day, the main person DD attacked during 1909 was his son. There were many reasons for this conflict. The criticisms were aimed at BJ’s first two books: Volumes 2 and 3. The books were published in 1907 and 1908. Perhaps DD got them from BJ’s students who lived in Portland.

From my reading of these criticisms it seems that DD was angry. So angry in fact, that he obviously misunderstood several of BJ’s new theories including Intellectual Adaptation and recoil.

Both Palmers developed new ideas because of this conflict. DD developed his theory of impingement in 1909. BJ introduced his theory of cord pressures in 1910.

More to Come

I will follow up very soon with more blog posts on the conflicts that inspired DD Palmer’s books. Again, my plan is to share a bit of what I am learning as I go. I hope you find this useful and helpful. Please feel free to comment and share it.

I have heard people say that these historical events are not relevant anymore or don’t matter for various reasons. They are relevant because the foundation of the chiropractic paradigm was established in these writings. DD was forced to refine and develop his ideas in significant ways. And of course, the history of chiropractic has been shaped by conflict ever since. If we are ever to move forward as a profession we need to learn from history.

DD Palmer second issue of The Chiropractor Adjuster. A source for one of DD Palmer's books.

DD Palmer second issue of The Chiropractor Adjuster. A source for one of DD Palmer's books.


2015 Speaking Schedule

Live Lectures for 2015

Simon Senzon will lecture at lyceum, Yale, NY Council, and IRAPS

The first one is Sherman’s Lyceum. The talk is on Friday, May 1st at 4pm. The topic is Ratledge and Drain: Chiropractic Philosophers Extraordinaire! Please come.

In early June, I will have the honor speak on the campus of Yale at the second annual conference of the Society for Consciousness Studies. The talk will be a tribute Eugene Taylor, one of my instructors in graduate school. Professor Taylor authored Shadow Culture and taught at Yale for many years. He helped me to understand the emergence of chiropractic’s philosophy in the context of American history and the history of ideas. I published several papers originally written for his courses such as A History of the Mental Impulse and BJ Palmer’s Model of Consciousness.

This fall I will speak at the NY Chiropractic Council Convention on Friday, October 17th.

On October 10th, I will give the keynote address at IRAPS (International Research and Philosophy Symposium). The topic is The Future of Subluxation.

Please consider submitting an abstract to present a paper at IRAPS. It is always so rewarding to share the stage with passionate leaders who value intellectual rigor in philosophy and science. Abstracts for IRAPS are due May 1st.

My time has been filled lately with recording hours of new online courses. Stay tuned.


Alf Breig Revisited

Alf Breig’s classic textbook, Adverse Mechanical Tension in the Central Nervous System is one of those rare books that stands the test of time for many reasons. Not only did it lay new ground in our understanding of the structures of the spinal cord and nerve roots but it has impacted the chiropractic profession in many ways.

The New Edition

I have studied the 1978 book for almost two decades. I even utilized it in my recent talk at Sherman’s IRAPS in October, 2014.* The book is still groundbreaking and nearly impossible to find. (Used copies range from $500-$800 on Amazon.) I have dreamed of making it available to the next generation of chiropractors.

Thanks to the wonderful compilation of his work by Michael Shacklock, Breig’s contributions are now easily available. Shacklock included 80% of Breig’s 1978 book and combined it with the best of Breig’s 1960 book on the biomechanics of the central nervous system. Also thanks to Shacklock, the book is now available at

I am impressed by the quality of Biomechanics of the Nervous System: Breig Revisited. The images from Breig’s original texts were reproduced on glossy paper and are worth the price of the book.

Images include photographs of cadaver spinal cords in flexion and extension (showing the stretching of nerve roots and meninges), diagrams of force dynamics through the cord, and histograms of the meningeal collagen fibers in relaxed and tense states (reproduced as the cover’s background).

Alf Breig and Chiropractic

Breig’s clinical and experimental work on the biomechanics of the central nervous system are typified by his observations that postural flexion and extension lengthen and slacken the spinal cord by 5-7cm. This fact was most recently referenced in relation to the dangers of forward head carriage (with texting),** but its greatest impact on the profession relates to theories about the ideal spine’s cervical lordosis and also the role of the stress response on the structures of the spine (by both Ward and Epstein).

Several chiropractic techniques such as Spinal Column Stressology, Chiropractic Biophysics, and Network Spinal Analysis base some of their models on Breig’s concept of Adverse Mechanical Cord Tension. Epstein’s model of vertebral subluxation includes the facilitated subluxation and also an extension of Panjabi’s spinal subsystems to include the meninges as passive transducers of force.

Breig’s book is referenced in a wide range of vertebral subluxation based case studies on SOT and asthma, Torque Release and cocaine addiction, as well as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in the chiropractic care of children and in relation to cervical kyphosis.

Breig’s work is also cited in literature reviews such as the compendium of references supporting Applied Kinesiology and listed in the references to Peter Rome’s Neurovertebral Influence Upon the Autonomic Nervous System: Some of the Somato-Autonomic Evidence to Date.

Philosophy of Chiropractic and Breig

The philosophy of chiropractic has always included a mix of theory, hypothesis, and philosophy. Two of the most important philosophy texts from the last century were Drain’s Chiropractic Thoughts and Stephenson’s Chiropractic Textbook. Both books explore theories of spinal cord tension and pressure.

Kent made the connection between Stephenson’s observations that cord tensions and pressures (see image) may lead to impingement of the cord and Breig’s theory of adverse mechanical tension. Breig demonstrated that stretching the tissues of the cord reduces transmission.

But the real philosophical element has to do with dynamic forces. How the innate intelligence adapts to the forces from the environment is central to the philosophy of chiropractic and distinguishes the chiropractic paradigm. (I wrote a bit about this in relation to the art of chiropractic last year.)

Breig described the transmission of forces along the pons-cord tract in relation to Saint-Venant’s Principle, which explains force dynamics along an elastic cylinder. When stress or load is distributed along a cylinder the distribution gets weaker the farther apart the distances get. For example, pulling (flexion) of the cervical spine stretches the dura of the lumbar spine. Extension relaxes the pons-cord tract.

Note the similarity of cord tension (lower right) to the images on Breig's cover.

Note the similarity of cord tension (lower right) to the images on Breig's cover.

Breig even suggested that a branch of medicine was being established with his work. He referred to it as, histodynamics, which deals with “the effects produced on cell elements by the action of dynamic forces.”

In my presentation at IRAPS, I discussed a paper written by Donald Epstein, Dan Lemberger, and myself (in review), describing the research of mathematical engineers at UC Irvine. The researchers explored the Network Wave using surface electromyography and have suggested that the Breig neurosurgery paradigm offers a viable explanation for understanding the oscillation of vertebra. They suggest that a feedback loop is created due to the mechanoreceptor signals at dural attachments in the cervical and sacral spine.

In the paper we suggest that there is an endogenous reorganizational system on the edge between the stress system (spinal cord flexion) and the relaxation system (spinal cord extension). The reorganizational system is congruent with the philosophy of chiropractic’s perspectives on adaptation, innate forces, and innate expression. Breig’s model is central to understanding this system. In fact, Breig’s work applies to just about any chiropractic theory, model, or technique!


*IRAPS 2015 call for abstracts has been announced. Please submit your abstract now to the only peer-reviewed conference on the philosophy and science of chiropractic.

**The article by Fishman suggests that Breig was a Nobel Laureate. He was not.