Green Books

Palmer Chiropractic Green Books: The Definitive Guide by Timothy Faulkner, Joseph Foley, and Simon Senzon, is now available in color paperback and premium color hardcover editions.

We decided that it was time for the chiropractic profession to have a definitive guide to the chiropractic Green Books. There are far too many myths about chiropractic’s original paradigm, the Palmers, and the Green Books. This book was designed to update the chiropractic profession about the foundation of chiropractic research, theory, and practice. The Green Books represent chiropractic’s most fundamental application. Reading The Definitive Guide is the place to start.

Writing this book was a labor of love. Please order your copy today (and then order five more to gift to students).

Please read the Introduction to the book below:

The Green Books embody the chiropractic profession’s fundamental elements. The first of the books were written by D.D. Palmer, the founder of chiropractic, and his son B.J. Palmer, often referred to as the developer of chiropractic. The entire series includes more than 40 books published between 1906 and 1966. Most of the books were written by B.J. and over a dozen were written by faculty of the Palmer School of Chiropractic (PSC) as teaching texts. The books themselves cover the original chiropractic paradigm, various topics viewed from the chiropractic perspective, the development of theory and ideas from the first chiropractic school, as well as a unique historical account of chiropractic events, scientific research, and the evolution of clinical methodologies over the profession’s first 60 years.

Few material items in the chiropractic profession stir up more passion and emotion than the Palmer Green Books. Some consider the books as the “alpha and omega” of the profession, with the very essence of chiropractic written within their pages. Others in the profession would like to see the Green Books burned and the Palmer ideas abandoned.

For the chiropractor who chooses to practice chiropractic as it was originally developed, the Green Books are akin to sacred texts. The Green Books are original source material containing the words of the founder and the developer. For many in the profession the Green Books define what chiropractic is and what chiropractic is not. Answers to countless questions may be found within the more than 20,000 written pages. For those looking to learn about the science, art, and philosophy of chiropractic, there is but one source, the Palmer Green Books.

The Definitive Guide was written as a comprehensive introduction to the Green Books. We hope it will appeal to anyone interested in the history, philosophy, science, or art of chiropractic. It could be read by chiropractic patients and practice members to better understand the foundations of chiropractic theory. It might also be read by historians, scholars, and health care providers interested in chiropractic. Specifically, we wrote Palmer Chiropractic Green Books: The Definitive Guide for practicing chiropractors, Green Book collectors, and the chiropractors of the future.

The Overview

Few chiropractors have read any Green Books. Of those few, an even smaller number have read more than two or three of the books. The most commonly read Green Books are probably D.D. Palmer’s two books, B.J. Palmer’s Subluxation Specific Adjustment Specific and his Bigness of the Fellow Within, and Ralph Stephenson’s Chiropractic Textbook. Of the D.D. Palmer books it seems common for most readers to skim or selectively read passages, especially of his 1910 book, which takes a commitment to read from cover to cover. For these reasons we decided to create not only an introduction to every Green Book for beginners and collectors alike but an overview of the books. By discussing how the books developed, why they were written, and the central theories in each book, it is our hope that The Definitive Guide will become a resource for generations of chiropractors.

The first fifteen chapters are about the content of the books. Most chapters cover at least two books. Some chapters include up to eight books. Chapter One was written as a collaboration by all three authors: Faulkner, Foley, and Senzon. It provides a historical context for the books, how the chiropractic paradigm emerged, what the first teaching methods were like, and also some early conflicts in the profession, including the clash between D.D. Palmer and B.J. Palmer. The chapter also covers the legal pressures on the young profession and the emergence of the Chiropractic Book Series.

Chapters Two through Thirteen were written by Senzon, with historical and editorial insights from Faulkner and Foley. These chapters were developed to provide the modern reader with an accurate understanding of what is in Volumes 1-39 with an emphasis on the philosophical and theoretical developments. The goal was to provide an overview not a critique. So, we’ve glossed over things like typographical or other perceived errors. Our plan was to share what the books are about. Future works might take a more critical stance and examine the many theories against current insights from philosophy and science. However, some of the chapters do offer limited critiques, contexts, and philosophical perspectives. This was necessary in order to demonstrate the relevance of the texts for today’s chiropractor.

Since the focus of the book is the Green Books themselves, we chose to highlight any mention of the Green Books in advertisements, and reference within the books to the other volumes. We also highlighted quotes about the writing process and the development of the series.

Overall, the use of quotes is designed to assist the reader to understand the writing styles and learn important concepts from the authors themselves. We included many extended quotes so that the reader might develop a feel for the writings and to make sure the quotes are viewed in context. In that regard, in Vol. 38, B.J. Palmer writes:

“It is unfair and unjust to any author for any reader to take any section or sentence out of pretext, text, or context, and misinterpret the author’s overall premises of his book, in the light of what ONE SENTENCE might imply. Any book must be studied in its ENTIRETY and OVER-ALL elucidation of problems it solves.”

In a few instances, we abridged quotes with “…” to jump from one statement to another. This was done purely for aesthetics. Keeping such full quotes would have required unnecessary explanations in order to add the proper context. Readers may go to the original in such instances and read the complete text.

Unfortunately, the improper use of quotes is common in the chiropractic literature, often leading to misunderstandings about the history of ideas in chiropractic. This is another reason why a thorough study of the Green Books is essential so that the development of ideas in chiropractic might be more fully understood.

Also, please note that some of the language and writing style in the Green Books is unique. For example, D.D. and B.J. Palmer used shortened words, like “thot” replacing “thought.” This was a linguistic style from the early twentieth century. Additionally, both D.D. and B.J. Palmer had their own way with words. By providing extended quotes, we hope the reader might come to understand the complexity of the ideas and also develop an appreciation for the texts in a new way. Becoming acquainted with the unorthodox writing styles of the Palmers will better prepare readers for a more thorough reading of the Green Books.

In addition to the emphasis on theory and the books themselves, we highlighted writings about the history and research. This focus of The Definitive Guide is important because it offers a counterbalance to trends in the current chiropractic literature that is often divorced from historical fact. For example, several of the Green Books demonstrate a robust attempt to research and document the vertebral subluxation, written from first-person accounts. Some peer-reviewed literature today takes the stance that either the subluxation was never researched or that any research from earlier eras should be dismissed. We hope that by providing a more in-depth perspective on these topics the reader might judge the value of chiropractic science based on historical fact.

We have opted not to cite references throughout the text. A list of references is included at the end of the book. This was an aesthetic choice designed for the general readers and chiropractic students. We feel this way of learning about the Green Books, without being distracted by an overabundance of numbered endnotes or author’s names in parenthesis, will assist the new student of the books to focus on the ideas themselves. In that regard, we have also opted to leave out page numbers alongside each quote. All quotations are associated with each volume’s section or chapter. We expect that scholars and historians will study the references, especially if they have a question about any assertions made in the book.

The overall emphasis of the first part of the book is the chronological development of ideas throughout the Green Books. In this regard, an effort was made to limit repetition. This could be misleading for the reader who hopes to get a complete overview of each book. Many of the Green Books include the same basic definitions of terms like vertebral subluxation and Innate Intelligence. Some books even repeat chapters and passages from previous books. However, each book is unique in its overall focus and development of ideas. Please assume that the core ideas are congruent throughout the books unless we refer to a distinct change from one book to another, such as the shift to an upper cervical model of vertebral subluxation or years later to a full spine analysis. So, even if one of the central concepts from the chiropractic paradigm is not mentioned in regards to a particular volume, that does not mean the book skips the topic. By emphasizing the unique contribution from each book, rather than repeating identical definitions, The Definitive Guide explores the evolution of the ideas while offering an overview of the books. In order to acquire a complete understanding of any Green Book, it is essential to go to the source and read it.

The Writings

Chapter Two is about D.D. Palmer’s first writings on chiropractic, with an emphasis on his writings between 1902 and 1906. D.D. Palmer’s writings from this period laid the foundation of the chiropractic paradigm and also comprised the core chapters of Vol. 1 of the Green Book Series. Chapter Two also includes some of the historical background of his early writings, a few references to his pre-1900 writings, as well as discussions of his earliest thoughts on disease, structure and function, mixing chiropractic, vertebral subluxation, Innate Intelligence, Educated Intelligence, and Universal Intelligence. Some of these early articles were also included in D.D. Palmer’s 1910 book.

Chapter Three includes an overview of 1906-1910. This includes an historical account of how Vol. 1 ultimately got published without D.D. Palmer’s final approval, even though he was listed as the primary author.

The chapter explores his 1906 theories about displaced articular surfaces and disease. The chapter also includes a chronological look at his Portland writings between 1908 and 1910, which were all included in his 1910 book. The examination of those writings emphasizes his critiques of other chiropractors, his theory of impingement, as well as his new thoughts on Innate. For example, in September 1909 he critiqued his own essay on Innate Intelligence originally written in 1903 and updated his theory. The chapter also includes a brief discussion of his 1910 book. This section emphasizes his theories that had not been significantly written about prior to 1910 such as tone and neuroskeleton.

Chapter Four is about D.D. Palmer’s final book, The Chiropractor, published posthumously in 1914. Since the book was a compilation of his final lectures from 1912 and 1913, the chapter explores the lectures as one body of thought. Thus, rather than viewing the book as a cohesive text, the ideas are broken down and explained in a logical order. For example, the initial sections include his ideas about tone, biological principles, health and disease, life and death, vital force and energy, impulse, neuroskeleton as a nerve-tension frame, vertebral subluxation, pinching versus impinging, etiology, inflammation, nerve tracing, and palpation. The second part of the chapter explores his theory of neurological habit grooves, the relationship between organism and environment, consciousness, Innate, and inspiration. The final sections of the chapter examine his proposed religious legal strategy, his views on subjective and objective religion, as well as chiropractic as a moral and religious duty, his “doctrine,” and also his thoughts about chiropractic’s impact on society and culture, along with his view of individual greatness and what he referred to as “the great advancement.”

Chapters Five and Six include overviews of Vols. 2-13. These books formed the canon of the textbooks that were used to teach the first generation of chiropractic students at the PSC. Chapter Five covers B.J. Palmer’s first six books. In those books, B.J. introduced new theories and practices, some of which became the foundation of the profession for decades. His new clinical applications and philosophical contributions were developed from the paradigm initiated by his father. For example, D.D. Palmer’s practice of nerve tracing was developed into the meric system, and his theory of dis-ease and abnormal function were developed into B.J.’s models of momentum, retracing, and nine primary functions. B.J. Palmer’s models were also developed in the context of his expanding clinical empiricism. He officially took over the school from his father in 1906 even though he had been running it since 1902. By 1909, the student clinic at PSC in Davenport was seeing more than 100 patients per day. Textbooks were needed for the growing student body, not only for philosophy and technique but for every core subject. Chapter Six explores the first textbooks written by PSC faculty between 1914-1920 on topics like Symptomatology, Physiology, Anatomy, Spinography, Chemistry, and Gynecology.

These first books in the PSC faculty series, which came to be known as the Green Books, demonstrate a pioneering philosophical approach to biology for the early twentieth century. The books shared a common viewpoint, the view from Innate. That is, not only did they consider the organism in terms of neurologically mediated self-organizing and self-healing processes but they tried to convey each physiological and clinical topic based on what Innate was attempting to do at any moment. This was in regard to normal function, interacting with the environment, and dealing with the consequences of vertebral subluxation. B.J. referred to this as “the chiropractic standpoint.” The early Green Books represent the first comprehensive attempt by a school of thought to publish a series of textbooks from an Innate perspective. These chiropractic texts foreshadowed late twentieth century theoretical biology with its theories of autopoiesis, complex systems, dissipative structures, and self-organization. Future chiropractic research and theory might build upon this foundation by understanding the ways these early chiropractors integrated the chiropractic paradigm into each discipline.

Chapters Seven, Eight, and Nine include the books published in the 1920s. Chapter Seven is about what we refer to as the Humanities Green Books: The Spirit of the PSC, Chiropractic Advertising, and Chiropractic Malpractice. The first book, The Spirit of the PSC was written as a novel by Leroy Nixon, a student, to capture the atmosphere of the school at its peak in the early 1920s. Chiropractic Advertising was written by Harry Vedder, a faculty member. It includes an overview of marketing practices in common use and also advice on communication and professionalism. Chiropractic Malpractice was written by Arthur Holmes, one of the chief lawyers who defended chiropractors in court. It includes legal advice, communication strategies, and a legalistic perspective on chiropractic from that era. Chapter Eight covers the legacy of John H. Craven, DC. He wrote two Green Books: Chiropractic Orthopedy and A Textbook on Hygiene and Pediatrics from a Chiropractic Standpoint, and, he also collaborated with B.J. Palmer on new editions of Vols. 1, 2, and 5. Those were B.J.’s main books of philosophy. As head of the Department of Philosophy, Craven was the teacher of Ralph W. Stephenson, DC.

Chapter Nine covers the life and work of R.W. Stephenson.Stephenson’s Chiropractic Textbook has had more impact on the profession than any of the books. His 1927 book was used for decades as the main philosophy text at the PSC. It is still used today to teach the core principles of chiropractic at several colleges around the world. The chapter provides a look at Stephenson’s life, his writings prior to and after 1927, and also an exploration of his second book, The Art of Chiropractic. Many of the main ideas published in his textbook were already described in his articles and his thesis, written in 1924. The chapter provides a context for the book and emphasizes his contributions to chiropractic theory.

Like the earlier Green Books, Stephenson’s integration of the chiropractic paradigm might be viewed as a precursor to late twentieth century theoretical biology, systems views on clinical practice, and body/mind approaches to health and healing. Additionally, his text could be viewed as contemporary for the time.

It was written at a time in Western culture when biology was a relatively new discipline and biologists were seeking to establish definitions of life based on the holistic organizing relations of parts rather than on the parts themselves. Here is one example of the holistic perspective inherent to Stephenson’s text. He writes:

“If a number of interdependent parts are to have a cooperative relation with each other, they must be grouped about a central idea, a common need or governing principle. This governing principle is Innate Intelligence.”

What theoretical biologists refer to today as “self-organization,” the biologist of the 1920s referred to as “organization.” The Green Books used the term “organization” more than eighty times to refer to the body’s innate ability to self-organize. Stephenson refers to Innate Intelligence as the scientific “law of organization.” Understanding how the chiropractic paradigm and its development in the Green Books was a part of wider trends in biological thinking within the culture may help today’s chiropractor to find new relevance in the texts and also provide new avenues of exploration for the chiropractic researcher.

Even though Stephenson and other chiropractic theorists of that era published ideas that were congruent with early twentieth-century theoretical biologists, chiropractic texts were not integrated with main-stream health or science literature. The Green Books were mostly self-published by the PSC. This was a common practice of chiropractic colleges, many of which published two or three texts.

Chapters Ten and Eleven are about the research pamphlets and the research textbooks from the 1920s and the 1930s. Chapter Ten includes an overview of the many pamphlets B.J. Palmer published between 1924 and 1933. These were his yearly reports delivered at Lyceum about the various research studies undertaken, starting with the first thermography research and ending with the upper cervical model of the torqued subluxation. Most of these pamphlets were integrated into future Green Books.

Chapter Eleven covers the research textbooks published between 1934 and 1938. The first book, Vol. 18, introduced B.J. Palmer’s approach to the upper cervical subluxation specific adjustment. In 1936, Vol. 19, B.J. gave his first report on the new B.J. Palmer Chiropractic Research Clinic. In 1938, Vol. 20, B.J. Palmer published a text on x-ray analysis using comparative graphs and Percy Remier, DC, published Chiropractic Spinography as Vol. 21, which included the latest advances in x-ray technology and analysis.

Chapter Twelve explores B.J. Palmer’s tomes. Between 1949 and 1953, he published Vols. 22-29. Each book was more than 700 pages in length. The chapter includes the main philosophical and theoretical contributions of the books along with several important details. These texts lay the foundation for B.J. Palmer’s final refinements and evolution of the Innate philosophy, including his emphasis on Innate Thot Flashes and the integration of his 14 years of clinical research using thermography, x-ray analysis, and other innovations like shielded grounded booths, and the invention of the electroencephalneuromentimpograph. The chapter also describes much of what is in the books including letters, research studies, older philosophy essays, as well as historical and autobiographical accounts. Additionally, until this chapter was written, there was no account in the literature of the way older pamphlets were used in later Green Books. One of the reasons why B.J. Palmer was able to publish so many thousands of pages in such a short time was because dozens of chapters are comprised of pamphlets, some of which were written as early as 1911. He did not include the dates for most of the original writings and so it is probable that many chiropractors have viewed these chapters as if they were written in the 1950s.

Chapters Thirteen, Fourteen, and Fifteen cover B.J. Palmer’s final writings; Vols. 32-39. B.J. published these final eight books between 1955 and 1961. The books focused on philosophy, research, technique, theory, and reflect on his life in the context of the development of chiropractic. He started publishing one book per year and delivered the talks at Lyceum. His nephew, William H. Quigley wrote about B.J.’s dedication to teaching during those last years of his life. Quigley writes:

“During the summers of 1955 through 1960 B. J. wanted to keep in touch with the students and planned on addressing each of the school’s 12 classes. He would lecture from eight until ten, taking time to answer questions from the student body. He would rarely have time during the year to meet this schedule, because of travel and other commitments, yet each year he would try again. He did make certain that he had at least one opportunity to talk with each class before their graduation.”

In spite of B.J. Palmer’s debilitating health challenges during the 1950s, he continued to write, to meet with his team running the PSC and Palmer Broadcasting, and he started planning for the inevitable. Quigley writes:

“As B.J. pondered his mortality he did what many other men did before him, he sought means of perpetuating his name and work…
During the last years he clearly seemed compelled to publish what he considered proof of chiropractic in general and his philosophic beliefs in particular.”

The last of the Green Books convey an evolution of B.J. himself. This evolution is most notable in his more spiritual writings as well as his attitude towards critics and detractors. He became more accepting and seemed to acquire a new type of insight about human nature. He recog-nized that his audience was targeted. He wrote for them.

Chapter Thirteen covers Vols. 32-34, Chapter Fourteen covers Vols. 35 and 36, and Chapter Fifteen covers Vols. 37-39. Each book represents a distinct body of knowledge. The chapter sections dedicated to each volume are categorized with topical subheadings so as to better introduce the reader to the complexity and range of ideas. The books build upon new avenues of Innate philosophy, many of which were first described in Vol. 22 published in 1949. In these, his last writings, it is possible to track new developments of ideas, an evolution of theories, and a historical perspective that brings context to chiropractic as a profession.

B.J. Palmer’s final eight books are an ideal place to begin any study of his life and work. The books themselves are relatively short, especially in comparison to the tomes. Any study of the Green Books could begin with Vol. 32 and, over the course of several months, systematically continue through Vol. 39. In this way, B.J. Palmer’s final writings offer any student of chiropractic an excellent place to get started. These books provide a glimpse into a life of continual growth and discovery, as well as the development of theory in relation to all aspects of chiropractic.

For Green Book Collectors

Chapters Sixteen, Seventeen, and Eighteen, were written by Faulkner and Foley, with editorial and historical insight from Senzon. These chapters were the inspiration for The Definitive Guide, which was originally intended to be a resource for Green Book collectors and gradually evolved into the current form. The detail in these chapters include the definition of a Green Book, ways to determine authenticity, rarity, and value of a book, an exploration of the history of Green Book publications, and a novel category system to distinguish between every edition of every Green Book.

Generations of chiropractors have been collecting Green Books. Many chiropractors have claimed to own a complete “set” of Green Books. Usually this means they have all the books that were issued while they or their relative was a student at Palmer. It was common for Palmer graduates to keep their Green Books even after they had retired and stopped practicing. Many kept their books until they died, their Green Books meant that much to them. Since the Green Books were produced over a nearly sixty-year span, it is doubtful that any chiropractor was ever able to purchase each book as it was initially issued. Even B.J. Palmer could not have owned a complete set of published books because the last two Green Books were published posthumously.

After B.J. Palmer died in 1961, the profession entered a “dark age” of chiropractic philosophy. The philosophy of chiropractic was not stressed as strongly in chiropractic schools. Most of the early Green Books were long out of print. New chiropractic books discussing philosophy were rare. Young chiropractors began to search for Green Books. The authors have found small want-ads from the early 1970s, when chiropractors were seeking Green Books. One chiropractor told us that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he advertised in the classified “wanted” section of chiropractic magazines. Generally speaking, he paid $100 for a Palmer-authored Green Book and $50 for non-Palmer books. He did not know what books existed and was always excited to find a book he did not have. Oftentimes the buyer would have to purchase all the books in a lot. He would be contacted in response to his ad by a retired doctor or the family of a deceased chiropractor. They would say they have a specific number of books and a price would be negotiated. This method led to duplicates in collections, which were often traded with other chiropractors also seeking Green Books.

Some of the initial volumes from the 1920s and earlier are on their third or even fourth owners. Books from the late 1950s are just coming available because their original owners are now elderly and parting with their prized possessions.

Our intent is to disseminate the most detailed knowledge available of the physical books themselves. This is the first significant update to the literature about the Green Books since Glenda Wiese and Michelle Lykens published A Bibliography of the Palmer Green Books in Print, in 1986. We hope that the collector may better understand the subtle nuances of the various books and make informed collecting decisions. This book provides knowledge for the Green Book collector about the individual Green Books to be sought and offers an idea of the rarity and value. Collecting Green Books is an extension of passion for the chiropractic profession.

The Wiese and Lykens bibliography introduced the profession to facts about how many Green Books were actually produced over the years. Prior to their bibliography, the only accurate lists of the books were old PSC catalogs, which listed books that were available but not books that were out of print, reissued volume numbers, or those not yet written. For example, doctors tried to collect every volume number but did not know that some numbers were used twice. Wiese and Lykens demonstrated that several volume numbers had been used on completely different books and that two volume numbers were missing from the series: Vols. 30 and 31. Their bibliography became a “shopping list” for the modern Green Book collector. It is only since their Green Book bibliography that collectors have been able to truly collect a complete set of Green Books.

Chapter Sixteen covers special considerations about the Green Books such as reissued volume numbers, missing volume numbers, unnumbered Green Books, other Palmer books, covers, leather bound special editions, private collections, author mock-ups, signed and inscribed editions, numbered editions, non-traditional sized Green Books, the difference between editions and printings, supplements to editions, and modern reprints.

Chapter Eighteen covers the rarity and value of a Green Book. Since collectors traditionally did not know what books even existed, pricing was arbitrary. We will attempt to take some of the guesswork out of collecting. The chapter includes a rarity and desirability scale (also used in the Green Book Master List); how to value Green Books; the art of trading, buying, and selling Green Books, as well as how to assess book condition and guidelines for repairing damaged books.

Before the Internet, finding Green Books was limited to advertising in chiropractic journals, from estate sales of deceased chiropractors, and contacting used bookstores in person. The Internet opened the inventory of every bookstore in the world to online buyers. In an instant, the inventory of thousands of used bookstores could be searched, and Green Books bought for the listed price. And yet, booksellers had no idea how to price these books. Some would be listed for only a dollar or two, others would be listed for exceptionally high prices.

Green Book pricing, rarity, value, and desirability became more established with online auctions such as eBay and other auctions listing Green Books for sale. This system of buying and selling began to set a true market-price for Green Books. In an online auction, as buyers bid against each other, prices began to be established. The rarer books had serious bidding wars resulting in high prices. The more common books would sell for as low as $20 and were readily available. If there were no interested buyers, the Green Book would not sell at all. Over the past fifteen years prices have fluctuated based on supply and demand. During a period of oversupply and less demand, prices dropped. The rarer Green Books continue to command a high value.

When B.J. officially took over the PSC in 1906, there were not many students. In those early years, B.J. did not need many books printed. However, he did print more books than he needed for the current students. Some books were sold to former students as well as potential students studying at home. Of course the future PSC student would need books. By 1919, the PSC had several thousand students. At that point many thousands of books were printed and sold by the PSC to its students. This simple detail is a big factor in the rarity of Green Book editions. Many of the early books were printed in such limited amounts that they are very rare today. Green Books for the 1920s were printed by the thousands, and as such, many have more supply than demand.

This Book

The Definitive Guide was also written to act as an anchor to the chiropractic paradigm. The rhetoric in the chiropractic profession today needs such an anchor. There are articles published in the peer-reviewed literature attacking the chiropractic paradigm without adequate historical references. Some of these articles suggest that philosophy and vertebral subluxation should be dropped in the trash bin of history because they are no longer needed and perhaps never were. This type of ahistorical rhetoric, usually backed up by a plethora of circular and faulty references, is taking root in the profession and influencing board decisions, institutional policies, and threatening the ability of good chiropractors to practice. On the other end of the spectrum, philosophy is sometimes used in chiropractic to support unfounded claims, historical facts are too often mistaken, and narrowly focused beliefs limit the profession’s ability to develop. It is our fervent hope that this book will guide the next generation of chiropractors like a candle lit in the darkness.

33 Principles and Chiropractic Waves

I was thrilled to be invited to write an article for the magazine 33 Principles published by the United Chiropractors Association. The article came out in the summer issue. We have posted it here with permission: Chiropractic Waves.

The article covers an outline of the 8 important waves of chiropractic ideas. The waves are also featured at The Institute Chiropractic. The chiropractic waves of philosophy are as follows: First Wave (1897-1907), Second Wave (1908-1915), Third Wave (1916-1927), Fourth Wave (1928-1948), Fifth Wave (1949-1961), Sixth Wave (1962-1975), Seventh Wave (1976-1996), and the Eighth Wave (1997-2017). The waves are one way to organize the complex history of ideas in chiropractic according to philosophical contribution. Another way is according to generation. References to the article may be found here: Refs.

Here are a few other highlights from this excellent little magazine:

Scotland College of Chiropractic

In an update from Dr. Ross McDonald, chair of The Scotland College of Chiropractic Charitable Trust, the latest projects and support for SCC were unveiled. The Board is actively developing the program and planning to meet the highest standards. 

Support for the new college continues to roll in. Several groups have made donations. Also, the Delta Sigma Chi organization and The Institute Chiropractic have pledged donations of books. The Delts will generously provide a set of Green Books. At TIC, we will be donating a set of White Books (we are just waiting for our newest books to be published so that their set is the most complete.) The Board is actively seeking donations to develop an osteological collection of human spines.

If you would like to learn more or donate to The Scotland College of Chiropractic please follow this link: SCC

Syntropy Chiropractic Training

The magazine also included an introduction to Syntropy Chiropractic Training (SCT) developed by Dr. Patrick McMahon (TIC Member) and Dr. Aaron Morris. Their vision for training chiropractors to adjust with mastery is powerful. In order to deal with the issues of burn out, poor results, and low referrals, they decided to teach fundamental skills based on their backgrounds in martial arts, exercise physiology, neurology, biomechanics, advanced athletic training, and chiropractic.

The program is based on three levels: Tonal palpation, 3D coupled biomechanics, and acquiring motor skills that are designed to practice effortless adjustments. By teaching chiropractors to train like master athletes, SCT offers some excellent tools for any chiropractor or chiropractic student. It looks great! You can check out their training schedule here: SCT

Where is the Evidence?

Another gem from this issue is a four page article by Dr. Dave Russell (TIC Member) on how to write a case study. In the article Dr. Russell provides a template for chiropractors to contribute to the literature and build the evidence base by writing case reports. He emphasizes that everyone can do it. All that you need to get started is a patient that has had positive outcomes from the correction of vertebral subluxation. Outcomes could be anything from musculoskeletal changes to emotional and psychological wellbeing improvements. Cases don’t have to be miracles to make a good case report.

The keys to documenting any case are: detailed history and notes both subjective and objective and at least one progress evaluation. The more data you collect, the stronger the report will likely be. He suggests that you can set up your practice so that case reports become a regular way for you to document evidence and contribute to the literature. He also includes some tips on how to actually write the report as well as a list of journals that publish case reports.

Other excellent resources on case reports include McCoy’s manual on the topic: The Case Study Report, and a two hour course available for TIC Members: How to Write a Case Report.

It is an excellent magazine. To join the UCA just follow this link: UCA

Institute Chiro Wiki

The mission of The Institute Chiropractic is to preserve and forward the chiropractic paradigm. The Institute Chiro Wiki is a new project designed to do just that.

The Institute Chiro Wiki was developed for several reasons. 

Wikipedia Bias Against Chiropractic

Wikipedia refuses to offer a balanced viewpoint on chiropractic. Instead, the Wikipedia entries are slanted against chiropractic. This unfortunate bias of the Wikipedia staff has led to multiple refusals to update incorrect historical statements. It also does not offer the public an accurate portrayal of chiropractic theory, research, or history.

Institute Chiro Wiki Categories

The Institute Chiro Wiki will grow slowly, over several years. Entries will be developed by Members of The Institute Chiropractic in three broad categories: Literature, Definitions, and Schools of Thought. It is hoped that this approach will not only offer an honest view of chiropractic for the public but also a critical look at the literature for the profession.

There is no systematic way for chiropractors to be introduced to their own literature. One goal of this wiki is to critically analyze seminal papers and books so that the profession may build upon the literature in productive ways.

Adding to Institute Chiro Wiki

TIC Members may offer suggestions or articles on the TIC Member’s forum, which may be found here: Forum.

If you are not a member and you have a suggestion, please send an email for consideration. If your idea or entry is considered, it will be posted in the Member’s forum for discussion, revision, and approval.

The first wiki entry is live: Legally Defensible

Carrying the Torch of Research

Research in chiropractic has been ongoing since 1905 with O.G. Smith’s microscopic studies of the intervertebral foramen and the intervertebral disc. Chiropractic research has continued ever since at varying levels of rigor.

One area of research that is vital to chiropractic’s future is research that explores the chiropractic paradigm.

This is carrying the torch of research in the chiropractic profession.

In one of his most personal and philosophically illuminating passages from his 30+ books, B.J. Palmer wrote,

“WE came OUT OF THAT ONE ROOM, bearing a fiercely burning torch to build a better road on which sick people could travel in their rights to get well and live longer…” (Vol. 37)

Part of the way he did that was to develop a research clinic in the 1930s, which was used to research and develop chiropractic analysis, technique, and outcomes.

B.J. Palmer’s Research Vision

In his final book, B.J. Palmer described the many objective measures utilized in the B.J. Palmer Chiropractic Research Clinic. The research focused on the detection of vertebral subluxation using x-ray analysis, thermography, and the timpograph (an early form of surface electromyography based on EEG technology) with an emphasis on reproducible measures. The research included shielded and grounded booths and strict guidelines of patient positioning and practitioner protocols.

This list includes most of the outcome measures utilized at the Clinic. Alongside standard examinations and instrumentation for anatomical and physiological health, patients were assessed using novel technologies.

The volumes of data collected between 1935 and 1961 have yet to be fully explored with statistical analysis.

  • Electrocardiograph
  • Recording sphygomanometergraph
  • Heartometergraph
  • electro-cardio-o-phon
  • Audio cardiograph
  • Contour graphometer record
  • Urine analysis
  • Blood tests
  • Metabolism tests
  • Microscopic examinations
  • Physical examinations
  • Neurocalograph
  • Neurotempometer record
  • X-ray analysis (using ten x-rays)
  • Electroencephaloneuromentimpograph

According to Martin’s classic article The Only Truly Scientific Method of Healing: Chiropractic and American Science 1895-1990, the research in the clinic was on par with much of the medical research of the day.

Exemplars Carrying the Torch of Research

There is some incredible research being conducted around the globe, some of which is highlighted at the International Research and Philosophy Symposium each fall. This symposium often highlights exemplary researchers, academics, and thought leaders like Kelly Holt, Dave Russell, Matthew McCoy, Christie Kwon, and Curtis Fedorchuk.

Holt and Russell built upon previous studies by Robert Cooperstein and raised the bar for Interexaminar Reliability studies. Their study was conducted at New Zealand College of Chiropractic. They used a multidimensional battery of tests to assess for vertebral subluxation. Their research forces the profession to rethink ALL previous interexaminer reliability studies. This is important for several reasons as it demonstrates good reliability between examiners and it calls into question conclusions drawn from earlier studies of poor reliability.

McCoy and Kwon lead the Foundation for the Vertebral Subluxation along with Christopher Kent, foundation president. FVS developed a robust research agenda to explore the epidemiology of vertebral subluxation and the clinical outcomes to management

Fedorchuk was named researcher of the year by FVS in 2017. His research includes a pioneering study of Diabetes Type 1, a case study using Telomere length, and correcting a Grade 2 Spondylolisthesis. Fedorchuk’s call for a profession-wide epidemiology study at Sherman’s Lyceum in 2018 is available here: The Epidemiology of Subluxation in the US and the Need for Being an Evidence Generating Practice.

Adaptability Research Symposium

The Adaptability Research Symposium was developed to provide a forum for chiropractors to learn about a central pillar of the chiropractic paradigm: adaptation. The symposium emphasizes the chiropractic perspective that “it is the level of adaptability that determines the health of an individual.”

This year’s Adaptability Symposium is September 28-29 in Chicago. One highlight of the conference will be a LIVE demonstration of a chiropractic adjustment utilizing six outcome measures: 1. Heart rate variability, 2. Impedance cardiography, 3. Pupillary reflex testing, 4. Bilateral paraspinal skin temperature analysis, 5. Dermatomal testing, and 6. Skin conduction levels.

This type of research and analysis carries the torch of chiropractic research. Please do your best to attend!

Researching Innate

D.D. Palmer and B.J. Palmer established several complex definitions of Innate Intelligence. Some of the terms they used to describe Innate were very different from the ways most chiropractors do today. 

B.J. Palmer researched Innate. His Innate research included physiological function, moral guidance (conscience), exceptional human function (greatness), and illumination (finding oneself). 

The first two modules of TIC Masterclass 2 focus on B.J.’s Innate research and his theory of Innate Radar. Other modules will explore elements of the Innate Philosophy and subluxation theory from the early Green Books.

Unifying The Profession

After filming this lecture, I produced this short DailyTIC. It focuses on a realization; that to help the profession move forward, a comprehensive understanding of the history of ideas is needed. 

In the past, I wrote about B.J. Palmer’s model of consciousness and an Integral approach to the philosophy of chiropractic

Today, I recognize there is no shared foundation in the profession around the history of ideas. Hence, the mission of The Institute Chiropractic.

TIC Masterclass 2 – Subluxation and Innate, how confident are you?

Have you ever found that you lack confidence when someone challenges your idea of the vertebral subluxation?

Have you ever seen chiropractors branded as B.J.-followers, disciples, or called dogmatic?

Have you ever heard the claim that B.J. believed it had to be HIO and nothing else?

Have you ever been told that the vertebral subluxation is an outdated model, that has not evolved since D.D.?

Do you think you would struggle at all in clarifying your position on any of these, or discussing where you stand on vertebral subluxation in general?

TIC Masterclass 2 was developed to help you build your confidence in vertebral subluxation foundations and Innate philosophy. Also, the class is designed to grow your own level of consciousness so that you may enact the richness of the chiropractic paradigm from a greater perspective.

Here’s some examples of where our understanding has been derailed and where your self-esteem and self-confidence as a chiropractor may have been hit:

Navigating the Bias Against B.J. Palmer

The history of ideas in chiropractic cannot be understood without confronting the legacy of B.J. Palmer. He was a brilliant and polarizing figure. During his lifetime he feuded with many chiropractic leaders. Those feuds led to a charged, complex, and sometimes biased literature.

It has been very difficult for chiropractors to maintain certainty about central moments in chiropractic history in part because of this problem with the literature. 

Chiropractors who have never read B.J. Palmer or studied his theories have opinions about him. And those that have studied him are often maligned as “followers,” “disciples,” and dogmatic believers.

It is time for the profession to recover from this misuse of historical writing.

TIC Masterclass 2 is designed to give you the tools to lead this recovery by learning the facts.

  • You will learn how to navigate the bias against B.J. Palmer.
  • The lectures do this by teaching you basic historical facts about his life and the development of his ideas.
  • These facts are then used to demonstrate errors and bias in the literature.

Vertebral Subluxation Certainty

Another goal of TIC Masterclass 2 is to help chiropractors build certainty about the vertebral subluxation. 

Learn to distinguish between subluxation theories and historical models of subluxation in three ways:

  • The empirical research underpinning the evolution of subluxation models at the Palmer School.
  • How vertebral subluxation models evolved in the Green Books from 1906 to 1956.
  • Develop a solid foundation for understanding contemporary subluxation theory.

You will develop the skills to successfully refute statements like, “If D.D. could change his theory three times then why on earth would the chiropractic profession want to pick one of D.D.’s or his son’s theories and etch them in stone? That is dogma that has no place in modern health care or modern chiropractic.”

In TIC Masterclass 2 you will learn that the history of ideas in chiropractic is fascinating and rich.

The Innate Philosophy

B.J. Palmer’s Innate philosophy is another area of the literature that is often confusing and difficult to navigate.

This is true because Innate Intelligence was used to describe at least two different types of activity:

  • The body’s ability to self-organize through the expression of function and health.
  • As a source of inherent wisdom with an “Innate radar,” like intuition, inspiration, and soul.

The chiropractic Innate philosophy is very complex. It begins with D.D. Palmer’s original ideas and was developed over the decades by B.J. Palmer and many other chiropractors. It embodied several levels of meaning.

TIC Masterclass 2 is designed to teach you a basic history of Innate theory and how to apply it:

  • Explore Innate Intelligence using new models in philosophy, consciousness studies, and dynamical biology.
  • Deepen your chiropractic foundation by distinguishing between Innate, Homeostasis, and Allostasis.
  • Apply B.J. Palmer’s methodology on how to “find yourself,” become more in-tune, and enter regular flow states.

TIC Masterclass 2 is designed to help you better understand the richness of our chiropractic ideas as a meaningful foundation for the great work that you do.

Sign Up Today!

The first module goes live June 18, 2018

TIC Masterclass 2 is available to all members of The Institute Chiropractic.

There are two ways to sign up:

  1. Become a regular member @ $50 per month.
  2. Purchase the four-month course for $150. (Regular membership will begin auto billing on month five.)

DD Palmer References

D.D. Palmer references are a vital source of information about early chiropractic theory. The chiropractic profession developed from his chiropractic paradigm.

The science behind D.D. Palmer’s theories was advanced for his time. This is important because some chiropractors are still unclear about D.D. Palmer’s knowledge of anatomy, physiology, pathology, and surgery.*

This post focuses on D.D. Palmer references rather than the articles, interviews, and public presentations that misrepresent the history of ideas in chiropractic.

DD Palmer’s Medical Library

Twenty-three years ago, a landmark paper was published on D.D. Palmer references. The article was subtitled, “The Founder was Into the Literature.”

The authors document D.D. Palmer references in an amazing way. They were able to demonstrate that the founder of chiropractic was current on the latest textbooks in his field.

D.D. Palmer references were compared to the books that medical schools required during that time. In his 1910 book, D.D. Palmer referenced the latest texts alongside previous editions. He even gave some historical citations going back almost 100 years in the literature. 

D.D. Palmer was a self-taught expert on anatomy, physiology, and pathology. 

No More Excuses

Leaders of the chiropractic profession should demonstrate a mastery of chiropractic’s history of ideas. In the past, there simply wasn’t a great deal of information. Most authors did the best they could with the resources they had. Today we know much more about D.D. Palmer and we have access to virtually all of his writings.

Also, we now have access to most of his references!

Chiropractic educators should demonstrate a solid understanding of chiropractic’s history of ideas. This goes for speakers at conferences, authors, faculty, and administrators. Mastery of chiropractic’s history of ideas should be a professional standard.

Here are two example of how D.D. Palmer used the literature to develop his theory of vertebral subluxation.**

D.D. Palmer on Subluxation as a Partial Displacement of Articular Surfaces

One of the best examples of D.D. Palmer’s integration of the literature comes from his article Chiropractic Rays of Light. It was first published in The Chiropractor, in the June 1905 issue. The article was then republished as a chapter in The Science of Chiropractic (1906) and again as a chapter in The Science, Art, and Philosophy of Chiropractic (1910).

In the article, he provides 27 quotations to support the following statement,

“It is interesting and instructive to notice the various opinions of medical writers, in regard to luxations of the vertebral column, and how near they were onto that which is now known as Chiropractic. Below are given extracts from standard anatomies and orthopedical books.

A Chiropractic luxation is where the articular surfaces of any of the 51 spinal joints have been partially displaced, and not usually accompanied with fracture. The replacing of these sub-luxated vertebrae are readily accomplished by a Chiropractor. When we refer to Chiropractic luxations of the spinal column, we speak of those which have been only partially displaced in the articular processes.”

Most D.D. Palmer references are now digitized and available online. It is very easy for us to check his references.

Here are a few:

Regional Anatomy in its Relations to Medicine and Surgery Vol. 2

George McClellan (1894)

A Text-Book of Anatomy by American Authors

Edited by Frederic Henry Gerrish (1902)

The Science and Art of Surgery

John Eric Erichsen (1884)

D.D. Palmer on Nerve Tension and Nerve Stretching

D.D. Palmer referred to the stretching of nerves in relation to displaced vertebra as early as 1899. By 1910, D.D. cited Landois to support the latest development of his theories. He quotes Landois description of nerve stretching and then says,

“Nerve tension, nerve stretching, acts as an irritant, causes too much functionating, too much action, a waste of energy. Extreme tension causes paralysis. Bones of the body framework give to nerves a proper and normal tension, known as tone. If they are displaced, they will cause either more tension or relaxation. If so, why not replace the displaced bone which is causing tension or relaxation?”***

He also referenced Landois, Gould, and Lippincott to support his theories on the effects of nerve irritation. He proposed that the irritation of the nerve is related to the atomic activity of the nerve. He referred to this as his “thermal-nerve theory.” Life processes were viewed as vibratory. Subluxation causes too much or not enough function due to increased vibration or decreased vibration. This leads to increased or decreased tonicity of the organs or tissues. Thus, chiropractic is based on tone.

Pedestals, Authority, and Paradigms

Chiropractors who criticize the use of D.D. Palmer’s theories in modern practice should be wary of their argument style. A critical approach is essential especially when taking a dismissive stance.  An academic discussion about the history of ideas in chiropractic should include historical facts and evidence using appropriate references. Otherwise it is just rhetoric.

For example, it is too easy to assume various things like; just because the term “subluxation” is being used that it is the same definition that was used a century ago. A simple look at the literature and textbooks on subluxation will demonstrate the fallacy of that position.

Then there is the mistaken assumption that those who invoke D.D. Palmer’s ideas or B.J. Palmer’s are automatically putting them up on pedestals, appealing to authority, or the strangest claim; making chiropractic into a religion. It is true that chiropractors in the past have exalted the Palmers. And some chiropractors may still do that today. And yet, most do not. That is an important distinction that gets glossed over or perhaps is just not commonly understood.

There is a big difference between appealing to authority and learning from the past. The fact of the matter is that D.D. Palmer developed a new paradigm, the chiropractic paradigm. In the Kuhnian definition of the term, a paradigm must include a new radical viewpoint with a practice that enacts it. D.D. Palmer’s paradigm was that irritation of the nervous system due to impinged or stretched nerves (usually of the spine) led to abnormal function of the nerves. This could be a primary or secondary contributor to pathophysiology. The practice of chiropractic is to adjust the spine to release the irritation and normalize intelligent function.

Critics should examine D.D. Palmer references along with his clinical observations and then re-frame the critiques so that they are evidence-based. Are D.D. Palmer’s ideas being correctly described? How EXACTLY has his paradigm been debunked in the literature? Has it? The task for a critic is to determine how his work is being applied in relation to today’s practice, which should include objective assessment not assumptions.


*The surgery literature of the time included detailed explanations of the spine and nervous system.

**According to Faulkner’s book, he first used the term a few months after O.G. Smith, in 1902.

***His term “functionating” was in use at the time.

Straight and Mixer

In this recent interview for ChiroSushi with Tristan Schaub, we talk about the old Straight vs. Mixer controversy in chiropractic. You can read a bit more about this topic in the blog post on D.D. Palmer’s quote to John Howard and also in the article on chiropractic professionalization.

In this interview, Simon and Tristan discuss the history of the debate, the three paradigms of chiropractic, and some important philosophical distinctions.

Learn More

In the interview, we mention a few important books, lectures, and dialogues. Here are a few of those resources:

In 2017, Dr. Senzon traveled to Gaffney, South Carolina, and interviewed Dr. Thom Gelardi, founder of Sherman College. A preview of their two-hour dialogue is posted here:

TIC Dialogue with Thom Gelardi and Simon Senzon (preview)

In the talk, we also discuss some pivotal events from the days of Sherman College’s founding such as Reggie Gold and the book Chiropractic and Politics, which was written by faculty at Sherman College in 1978. The book lays out grounds for conspiracy charges against the CCE and the NBCE.

Another important source of new facts on the early history of chiropractic is Tim Faulkner’s book The Chiropractor’s Protégé. The book is filled with incredible documentation from O.G. Smith, D.D. Palmer’s 10th student, and information about several of the early students like Langworthy, B.J. Palmer, and A.P. Davis. The book also includes new photos of D.D. Palmer, details about the controversies between the early leaders, as well the many “firsts” of Smith.

We also mentioned Simon’s two hour lecture on R.J. Watkins. The talk is available for TIC Members here. It is based on Steve Walton’s book The Complete Chiropractor.

The three chiropractic paradigms of chiropractic are described in the article Chiropractic and Systems Science and also described in some of the Online CE courses at TIC

Stephenson Facts

Almost every year I learn more Stephenson facts. R.W. Stephenson was the author of one of the most well-known books from chiropractic’s history of ideas. And yet, most of the references to his work in the literature point to his 33 principles of chiropractic and ignore many of the other contributions in the text. I thought it might be useful to point out some of the other areas I have taken note of in his life and work.

Learning new Stephenson facts adds to our understanding of the discipline of chiropractic.

Since 1996, I have read his book every few years. That year is when I began my studies under David Koch, Val Pennachio, and Bill Decken. Each reading of the book offers new insights.

The Biological Principles

In 1999, I published an article, edited by Ralph Boone, which was based on an integration of Stephenson’s text with 20th-century theoretical biology. The article was in part, a response to a challenge from Boone to study the primary texts of leading biological thinkers. It was also the result of bi-weekly conferences with Koch.

In the article, I pointed out the four essential principles that dealt with the biological organization of living systems (21, 23, 26, & 28). The viewpoint in those principles was congruent with organismic biologists from the 1920s and subsequent systems theorists.

Mental Impulse and Signs of Life

In 2001, I included Stephenson’s contribution to the history of the mental impulse. He concluded that a current within the efferent nerve carried the “thought” to the tissue cell. Mental impulse was viewed as a thought in motion. The tissue, which also enacts intelligence, receives the mental impulse to express action.

In 2003, I noted that Stephenson’s use of Webster’s dictionary to define the five signs of life was antiquated. Newer definitions have emerged from systems science, complexity theory, and autopoietic theory. All of those definitions are congruent with the chiropractic paradigm and the comprehensive view of living systems put forth in the text.

Unique Contributions

Starting in 2007, I delivered ten hours of lectures at Sherman’s ACP. Topics included the history of philosophy for chiropractors, chiropractic and systems science, and chiropractic and energy medicine. These talks laid the foundation for many of my writings and courses

In 2008, I included several of Stephenson’s contributions to the literature. These included his triune of matter, force, and intelligence, and also his phrase “universal forces.” These ideas were developed from B.J. Palmer’s models but were unique contributions.

An Integral View

In 2011, I presented my new series of papers on constructing a philosophy of chiropractic. Those talks are available for CE credit and also exclusively for TIC Members. In the talks, I used Stephenson ideas to explore some important distinctions of Innate Theory in chiropractic.

Innate was described as the inherent self-organizing deep structure of the organism. The term was also used by B.J. Palmer and D.D. Palmer to describe Spirit, soul, and various states of consciousness. An Integral approach allows us to sort through these seemingly contradictory definitions of the same term. For example, differentiating the biological organization as the interior of the organism is one aspect of the broader definition used by the Palmers.

Increasing Levels of Complexity

In 2012, I taught a two-hour lecture in Mexico City on Stephenson’s text. I deliberately left out his 33 principles in order to highlight other aspects of the text. For example, he captured an early systems perspective. His view of living systems and specifically the human nervous system was described in terms of increasing levels of complexity. He correlated the complexity of the human nervous system with our increasing ability to adapt to the environment, become more and more sensitive, and develop higher levels of consciousness. 

He also wrote of the transformation process in the brain cell in terms of a magnetic field, whereby intelligence gets a “grip on matter.” (I have since recorded lectures on all of these Stephenson facts, which are available for TIC Members.)

Stephenson’s Life

In 2014, I was pleased to publish Rolf Peters’ book An Early History of Chiropractic.** The book includes several new biographical facts about Stephenson that I was unaware of. For example, after he left Palmer in 1929, he moved to Boulder, Colorado. Then he returned to PSC in 1935 to study HIO and revise his book. In 1936, he was tragically hit by a bus and died two weeks later on April 5, at the age of 56.

I also learned about his other book, The Art of Chiropractic, which he also published in 1927. The book was written for his students in the Technique Department. He headed that department from 1926 to 1929. 

Subluxation Theories

In 2015, I taught about the history of subluxation theory and the relationship between chiropractic and systems science. In both talks, I included Stephenson’s vertemere cycle and his contribution to Cord Pressure Theory. (TIC Member access.)

I recently learned that the Vertemere Cycle could be traced to Craven’s Chiropractic Orthopedy. Craven must have taught Stephenson his theories, which were precursors to proprioceptive and degenerative models of subluxation.

The Forun and Creation

In 2016, I lectured at MileHigh about Stephenson’s and Craven’s incorrect use of the term “forun.” This was based on my reading of B.J. Palmer’s first edition of Vol. 5 or The Philosophy of Chiropractic. In Vol 5, B.J. introduced the term. It was defined quite differently in 1909. (TIC Member’s access: HERE.)

Recently, I tracked the two places where B.J. Palmer actually referenced Stephenson. In one of those, he seems to concur with the new usage of “forun.” I will revisit my critique one day soon.

Stephenson Facts

In 2017, my understanding of Stephenson’s life and writings took a quantum leap. I taught several hours about Stephenson facts and theories. In my preparation for those talks, I learned several new facts about his life such as his love of violin making, the many technique courses he taught, and that students and faculty referred to him as “Daddy” Stephenson. He was a beloved instructor in the 1920s and also during his brief return in the 1930s.

I was also able to understand the development of his ideas leading up to his 1927 book. Stephenson published several articles in the journal The Chiropractor, published by PSC in the early 1920s. The articles give us a more nuanced understanding of his early thoughts and how they became the core elements of his text.

Also in 2017, I had the honor to publish a chapter in Dave Serio’s 33

The Stephenson Poster

The most incredible Stephenson facts I discovered in 2017, was that he illustrated his books, Craven’s book, and also The Chiropractic Chart. I found this poster as a tiny advertisement in a 1926 issue of The Chiropractor. I recognized its value for today’s chiropractors and hired a graphic artist to redraw it exactly. This Stephenson Poster now hangs in chiropractic offices all over the world. It is finally getting used the way Daddy Stephenson hoped that it would.

The Chiropractic Chart demonstrates the chiropractic principle in a simple way.  The nervous system is essential to all body functions. Interference in the nervous system is detrimental. The spine structurally protects the spinal cord and the nervous system. These simple facts can be understood by everyone.

The Newest Stephenson Facts

In 2018, I have already learned a few new Stephenson facts!

I just completed the Stephenson chapter for the upcoming book with Faulkner and Foley Palmer Chiropractic Green Books. The chapter goes through his articles, his books, and also his PhC thesis. That document is filled with gems.

We were able to track down where he taught school before matriculating at Palmer. It was likely a one-room schoolhouse. This would mean that he taught several grades at once, including Geometry. In the PhC thesis, he noted that teachers were upgrading the way they were teaching Euclid’s geometry. This is interesting because it helps us understand why he chose to write his book as a geometric proof or what he called a “deductive geometry.” The book will be ready soon.

Finally, I just learned that my history of the chiropractic subluxation was accepted for publication. The articles include lengthy sections on Stephenson’s contributions to subluxation theory. It adds some essential Stephenson facts into the literature. 

**Also that year, I republished Drain’s Chiropractic Thoughts, which might be viewed as the “sister book” to Stephenson’s text. It contains many of the same ideas but written in “street language.”

Chiropractic Retracing

Retracing is a physiological model of the healing process that was developed by D.D. Palmer based on his clinical observations with the first chiropractic patients. The retracing theory was developed over many decades by practicing chiropractors, subluxation theorists, and chiropractic authors.

As early as 1931, B.J. Palmer noted the theory was sometimes misused. Here is an example:

Rules of Chiropractic

In 1950, B.J. Palmer laid out several rules:

  1. If patient is feeling better but growing weaker, he is over adjusted.
  2. If patient is feeling worse, but growing stronger, he is retracing.
  3. Adjust chronic case only when there is interference and not always then.
  4. Adjust acute case as for a chronic.
  5. Rule of acute or chronic is determined by interference checks.
  6. Rule of degree of effect is determined by degree of interference.

Chiropractic Retracing – a Core Element Subluxation Theory

Many chiropractors taught retracing and developed the theory in their writings.

In 1909, Joy Loban counseled that patients should be instructed about retracing from the outset. He also noted that is was misused back then as well. He wrote,

“This theory of retracing has been much abused. Chiropractors have used it to cover a multitude of errors in practice. With some it becomes a habit to call all unfavorable events which occur during adjustments “retracing,” thus shifting the blame from their own shoulders to Nature’s. This is a pernicious practice because it deceives the patient and also because too frequent repetition of this explanation finally deludes the practitioner into the belief that all such events really are retracing. This view withdraws his attention from his own technic and he ceases to discover his own mistakes by ceasing to look for them.”


Others who have written about retracing include; R.J. Watkins, Ralph Stephenson, Joe Janse, Napolitano, Lowell Ward, Joe Strauss, Donny Epstein, Marc Filippi, and Rob Sinnott.

Jim Drain wrote a chapter on retracing in his 1927 book, Chiropractic Thoughts. He writes, “I have for your consideration the subject of retracing. This subject is used by almost every practicing chiropractor, both to explain the actual retracing process, and as a good excuse for the bad feeling the patient complains of. It is my intention to clear up this subject so you will not have to offer the retracting argument for a crutch for chiropractic.”

He goes on to explain that retracing is not always unpleasant. In the chapter, Drain lays out 16 things to consider in relation to the retracing process.

Researchers and practitioners might gain a great deal by exploring history of retracing theory in chiropractic. There are certainly dozens of testable hypotheses that emerge when considering the theory.

© 2018 The Institute Chiropractic - Senzon Learning, Inc.