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 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.

Pelvic Subluxation Research

On this day in TIC History in 1963, R.J. Watkins presented an overview of Normal and Abnormal Pelvic Kinesiology to the leading experts on X-ray analysis in the chiropractic profession. The talk is included in the 830-page book, The Complete Chiropractor (2017). You may read it here: R.J. Watkins on Pelvic Subluxation Research.

Watkins presented an overview of the pelvic subluxation research in the chiropractic profession including the works of Illi and Janse, Gillet, as well as the pioneering studies at Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College.

Please read the 6-page article to better understand the pelvic subluxation research Watkins was referring to.

Aside from the interesting research conducted at CMCC on subluxation in the 1960s, R.J. Watkins provides some excellent insight about complex and chronic subluxation patterns. For example, he writes, 

“As a reminder of “tissue memory,” we can see that old subluxations, which were not completely corrected, seem to have partially reduced as symptoms subsided. But a residual distortion persists. Since most patients have had multiple traumata, the physical distortion represents scars of old injuries pyramided into a rubble heap with the latest symptomatic problem laid on top like a capstone. Is it not apparent, then, that we cannot depend upon films made in a single position for infallible listings of a subluxation? Certainly we have a picture of the top stone on the pyramid, but the position and contour of its base of previous trauma will mislead, and even apparently reverse, the true problem.”

The complexity of vertebral subluxation patterns are an important element of research, theory, and practice. It would be interesting for the profession to take up some of this research again, explore it in greater depth, and build upon these foundations.

B.J. Palmer’s Research Pamphlets

Writing about the Green Books has led to several new insights. In this clip of my latest WeeklyTIC for Members of The Institute Chiropractic, I talk about one of those insights. 

By studying the B.J. Palmer’s pamphlets from the 1920s and 1930s, it is possible to learn about how he and his staff developed the upper cervical method of chiropractic. These pamphlets were the references for his Vol. 18, The Subluxation Specific – Adjustment Specific.

At Lyceum every year, B.J. Palmer explained the latest research findings. This included the survey from 1918, where they determined that only 35% of patients in the field were “getting well.” It also included the first spinal thermography research with the Neurocalometer. Later talks, included the introduction of the Hole In One approach, the Specific approach, the upper cervical approach, and the introduction of Torque. 

The upcoming book Palmer Chiropractic Green Books: A Definitive Collector’s Guide, includes chapters on ALL of the Green Books as well as a special chapter on B.J. Palmer’s research pamphlets. The book is amazing. The publication date will be announced soon.

The Palmer College Archives

Many of the pamphlets published by B.J. Palmer are now available thanks to the Palmer archives. Here are a few:

The Neurocalometer – An Address, 1924

The Hour Has Struck, 1924

The Neurocalometer Manual, 1926

The Hour Has Arrived, 1930

Reasons For My Faith, 1931

The Torqued Subluxation, The Torque Adjustment, 1933

WeeklyTICs

Weekly TICs are one of the many features available for TIC Members. To watch the full video and get access to ALL of the TIC content please become a member: WeeklyTIC 27

First Chiropractic Movie

On January 31, 1914, The Pale of Prejudice was released by the Lubin Company. It was a chiropractic silent film including drama, love, a revolver, as well as adjustments being give at the bedside and in a clinic. The plot involved a disgruntled physician who gave up on drugs to adopt the drugless method so that he could help his young love, the governor’s daughter.

Chiropractors Helped Produce and Promote the First Chiropractic Movie

Dr. A.W. Marchand was involved in the production. He tried to have the word “chiropractic” used in the movie and the advertising but the company wanted to avoid advertising in the movie.

Chiropractors asked local theaters to play the film and many advertised it in their newsletters.

On February 20, 1914, B.J. Palmer published a note about the movie from a chiropractor named Charleville, who was also trying to get chiropractic in a motion picture. It is interesting to note he felt it not advisable to show adjusting in the film (imagine what he might think of YouTube?). Charleville writes,

“Realizing what the stage has done toward influencing public sentiment as we look back thru the recent years and the motion pictures as we review the recent months, the writer has nursed the hope that the science of Chiropractic would soon rise to such a commanding position that the state and Fiction would recognize its place in the thoughts of the people.

“An opportunity has been sought for many months to have a “Chiropractic Drama” done in motion pictures. A scenaric writer in sympathy with Chiropractic has been at hand for some time. A few weeks ago a gentleman knowing the needs of the science and a patient of the writer, came forward with the information that soon he was to engage in the motion picture film business, and that he would make for us a film.

“Friday night Feb. 6th., sixty five of the Federation went in mass to visit a Broadway theatre, and saw for the first time a Chiropractic Motion Picture. Somebody has ‘beat the Federated Chiropractors to it.’ But LONG LIVE the enterprising ones who inspired this production.

“The film is by the LUBIN people and was released Jan. 31st. The TITLE –‘THE PALE OF PREJUDICE’. We have not had time to consider full scope of this matter, but everybody is very much enthused over the present production.”

“The writer stood by the theatre door and heard remarks made by medical sympathizers, and it would be no surprise to learn of the A.M.A. thru the local Medical Associations, causing a suppression of the picture. It might occur and the writer has heard such comment, that the Medical Associations thru the Board of Motion Picture Censorship might cause the suppression if not the confiscation of all films extant.

“The film is nothing more nor less than pure and unadulterated Chiropractic, but for reasons as yet unknown to us, the practice shown is called Drugless Healing. This may be a good thing as a ‘feeler’ of public opinion, or it may not. Personally the writer would prefer to have it out and out Chiropractic and place the credit where credit belongs.

“Then too, the picture shows the adjusting, which in the light of the prejudice against Chiropractic may be unadvisable. We presume out here that this picture is being shown all over the country and we are anxious to know how it is being accepted by the people generally over the country. Our patients and friends who have gone, and we are sending all of them, are greatly pleased with it.

Yours very truly, Joseph Charlesville, D.C., Hamburger Bldg., Los Angles Cali”

From Ira Blocher, D.C.: 

Dear Doctor B.J.,
I had the man that manages the moving picture show, to get that film “The Pale of Prejudice”. It was shown here last night (Mar 19) the people liked it well. Over 300 people to see it, the population is about 1200 or 1500.

From Little and Joslin, Rapids City, So. Dakota:

“Pale of Prejudice” shown here this afternoon and evening two packed houses. Couldn’t all get in and many turned away. Every chiropractor should get this film for it sure is some booster. Expressions of approval from all.

B.J. Palmer received from 1 to 20 ads and hand-bills about the film in the mail daily. He writes, “KEEP ‘ER UP BOYS. That’s the stuff that puts Chiropractic directly in the fore-ground of human thot.”

Key to the Philosophy Call

I just had a great conversation with Dr. Dean DePice. It was the monthly TLC philosophy call. I was the guest philosopher/historian. We covered so much ground in an hour that we didn’t even have time for questions.

Here is a key to the philosophy call. Links for TIC MEMBERS are posted below. Links for non-members are posted in the text. Hopefully, everyone will explore this vital territory.

Dr. DePice opened with some interesting quotes about principles and methods and also the relationship between philosophy and science. He even brought up some of the implications of the Uncertainty Principle. (We didn’t go down that road, but please check out my recent review of Chopra and Kafatos’ book. There are many interesting parallels between quantum theory and chiropractic theory.)

We discussed my own history and some early research, which you can read here: Philosophy of Chiropractic and the New Biology.

Principles in Practice

Dr. DePice shared some wisdom about bringing the chiropractic principles into daily practice from patient care to answering phones. Principle 17 does say it all!

I love this approach. But how do you teach your office staff to embody the Major Premise?

This line of reasoning was congruent with the lecture of the week at TIC, last week. We talked about at least four ways that individuals could arrive at the Major Premise using Wilber’s four-quadrant approach.

Universal Intelligence from the First-person perspective

The approach that is most fascinating to me is viewing Universal Intelligence from the first-person perspective. This was how D.D. Palmer and later B.J. Palmer probably got there. They did not initially use the third-person-perspective methods taught by Stephenson and by most contemporary schools.

For example, Stephenson writes, “There are many self-evident truths in Chiropractic; so many and such common evidences of the expression of Universal Intelligence everywhere about us, that they are overlooked because of their simplicity and frequency.”

And yet, D.D. Palmer first used the term “Intelligence” in 1872 in relation to hypnotic states. He practiced immersing himself in such states for more than two decades before he invented chiropractic and developed the chiropractic paradigm.

States of consciousness related to hypnosis could bring the individual into a rapport with the universe and immerse one in a cosmic field of oneness.

B.J. Palmer started accessing hypnotic states around age 18. Years later he wrote, “This man, at the age of eighteen, “found himself” in relation to this fundamental principle.”

From this perspective, staff training would include personal development and state training.

The Development of the Principles

From that point, we discussed how Stephenson’s text was an attempt to simplify and codify the ideas that came before it. That element of the history is extremely interesting.

In 1906, D.D. Palmer was jailed for practicing medicine without a license. After 23 days, he was released, split the Palmer School assets with his son B.J., and moved to Oklahoma. While D.D. was in Oklahoma and trying to stay in the school business, B.J. continued with the publication of their first book, The Science of Chiropractic.

By 1908, D.D. Palmer moved to Portland, Oregon, to open another school. In Portland, he became acquainted with several of B.J. Palmer’s students, some of whom had copies of B.J.’s first two books, Vols. 2 & 3 of the new Green Book series. 

D.D. spent most of 1909 teaching, writing articles, and critiquing B.J.’s lectures found in those books. The tension between father and son erupted into a doctrinal dispute over the chiropractic ideas.

D.D. Palmer’s writings during this time were meant to “adjust” the misconceptions of chiropractic by B.J. and other chiropractors in the field like A.P. Davis, Willard Carver, and Joy Loban. The articles became the core of D.D. Palmer 1910 book.

Stephenson’s text was mainly an evolution from B.J. Palmer’s first five books, which developed from his father’s original ideas. Also, while Stephenson was on faculty at the Palmer School in the 1920s, B.J. published selected writings of D.D. Palmer’s two books. So we know that R.W. Stephenson was at least aware of D.D. Palmer’s theories.

Three Paradigms

By the time of the publication of Stephenson’s text, there were already three chiropractic paradigms in full swing. This was also addressed in our philosophy call and initially published in a paper in 2015

D.D. Palmer’s chiropractic paradigm emphasized the chiropractic adjustment of the vertebral subluxation so that normal Innate functions mediated through the nervous system could be expressed as health.

Many of his first students were naturopaths, osteopaths, medical doctors, and homeopaths. Some of them integrated his paradigm into their own approaches. Howard pioneered the Middle Chiropractic Paradigm, which included all natural methods as adjuncts to the adjustment. Gregory pioneered the Medical Chiropractic paradigm, which sought to integrate chiropractic as a therapy in medical practice.

Epistemology and Metaphysics

Our conversation grew in depth as Dr. DePice discussed the importance of Epistemology and Metaphysics in relation to how chiropractors view their own practice, chiropractic in general, and in terms of their personal worldviews.

At TIC, we utilize the Integral Framework as a guide to these types of questions. It is incredibly useful because there is so much excellent research on worldviews and how adults develop in the complexity of their thinking. The topic is beyond the scope of this blog post.

I have published about it in relation to the foundation of chiropractic’s philosophical perspectives and professionalization. There are also several core lectures available for TIC MEMBERS to learn more.

Vertebral Subluxation and TIC’s Mission

As we wrapped up the call, Dr. DePice was very curious about TIC and how we might build relationships between our groups. I really love this because it was not about business, coaching, or signing people up, it was really about connections and moving forward as a community and a profession.

The key is all about the facts. Our mission at TIC is to assist as many chiropractors as possible to have the SAME set of facts about the history of ideas in chiropractic. And at the center of this should be a shared understanding of the history of the chiropractic subluxation. The more chiropractors that understand the richness of subluxation history, theory, research, assessment methods, and models, the more we can combat the misunderstandings that are prevalent in the chiropractic literature, chiropractic colleges, and chiropractic politics.

We did offer an introduction to TIC, which is currently open. Please try out your first month for one dollar! We know you will love it: Introductory Offer.

Why Don’t Chiropractors Remember Nerve Tracing?

Starting around 1899, D.D. Palmer taught nerve tracing. The actual phrase “trace the nerve” first shows up in an 1897 testimonial from Samuel Weed. Weed also coined the word “chiropractic,” with hands only.

In March 1905, D.D. Palmer wrote, “The fundamental principles of Chiropractic are founded on anatomy, pathology, physiology, and nerve tracing.”

In his 1906 book, D.D. Palmer wrote, “Chiropractic diagnosis is founded upon objective inspection, especially nerve tracing.”

If nerve tracing was central to D.D. Palmer’s paradigm, then why don’t most chiropractors today know what it is? After all, he wrote,

“The Chiropractor finds by nerve tracing, the occluded intervertebral foramina, which by nerve impingement, is the cause of abnormal functions. He then relieves the pressure by adjusting the displaced vertebra, by so doing, he opens the spinal foramen to its normal size.”

In 1910, D.D. wrote, “I am the originator of nerve-tracing”

What is Nerve Tracing?

D.D. explained,

“Following a sensitive, swollen nerve from the place of impingement to its peripheral ending, or vice versa, by a discriminating touch; tracing it before adjustment by its rigidity and tenseness; then finding that it has become lax and not sensitive immediately after adjustment, is important in diagnosing many morbid conditions and proof positive that the lesion has been located and removed.”

D.D. Palmer wrote that Nerve Tracing, “developed by me is the art of tracing sensitive inflamed, swollen, contracted nerves to and from the place of impingement and the organ or portion affected. This tracing, when made by an expert, is not only explanatory, but educational.”

The method developed from his old practice of magnetic healing, which he did from 1887-1896. He would find a tender spot around the symptom and lay his hands on it. Then, with Nerve Tracing, he would trace the nerve from that tender spot to the point of origin on the spine.

He also found that it was a powerful way to explain chiropractic to patients. He wrote, “There is nothing more explanatory and convincing to the prospective student or patient than nerve tracing.”

D.D. Palmer’s lecture notes from 1911 and 1912 included one lecture titled “Palpation and Nerve Tracing.” It was published posthumously in 1914 as a chapter in the book, The Chiropractor.

D.D. Palmer’s Students on Nerve Tracing

Several of D.D. Palmer’s students taught Nerve Tracing including his son B.J. Palmer, Mabel Palmer, John Howard, and Alva Gregory. Abrams even wrote about it in his 1910 book. (Abrams probably read it in D.D. Palmer’s writings.)

In his 1912 book, Spinal Treatment, Gregory wrote,

“In order that we may be enabled to do nerve tracing, the nerves of necessity must be supersensitive. That a nerve must be supersensitive, we must have some kind of impingement of that nerve; or some kind of mechanical interference affecting its cellular integrity. Such a condition of a nerve is produced ordinarily by some inflammatory process of a greater or less degree in the zone that is supplied by the nerve or by slight impingement where it make its spinal exit.”

B.J. Palmer expanded on Nerve Tracing and developed the Meric System. His 1911 book included dozens and dozens of images. These were also used in the classroom and projected from slides with the stereopticon. (Rolf Peters’ book tells the story of the various early teaching methods at the Palmer School of Chiropractic.)

B.J. Palmer’s Students on Nerve Tracing

B.J. Palmer’s students also wrote about Nerve Tracing. Their thoughts on the topic made it into several Green Books and were taught throughout the profession from Joy Loban’s Universal Chiropractic College to Jim Drain’s Texas Chiropractic College, to Lincoln Chiropractic College, which was founded by his faculty. The most prolific authors from the PSC on the topic were Jim Firth, John Craven, and Ralph Stephenson.

Loban defined it as follows; “Nerve-tracing is that branch of palpation by which the tenderness of irritated spinal nerves is discovered and their paths demonstrated.” He wrote a detailed chapter on the topic.

Drain also wrote a chapter on Nerve Tracing. He included it in the second edition of his book Chiropractic Thoughts. These new writings along with several of his pamphlets, essays, and letters on success were republished as Mind and My Pencil. Drain wrote, “Nerve Tracing is the fine art of following the path of tenderness from the subluxated vetebra to the suffering, or the region over it.”

Drain wrote, “By your nerve tracing, you verify abnormal conditions in existence, or the existence of abnormal conditions and prove the existence of ACTIVE NERVE PRESSURES.”

2017 Publications on Nerve Tracing

 

Two books were published in 2017 discussing D.D. Palmer’s Nerve Tracing, Holly Folk’s Religion of Chiropractic and Steve Walton’s The Complete Chiropractor.

Folk’s Book

In Folk’s book, she mentions “Nerve Tracing” eleven times but unfortunately, she has misunderstood the practice. Instead of capturing how D.D. Palmer defined Nerve Tracing as palpation of sensitive nerves from the symptom to the spine, Folk writes, “Nerve Tracing was the charting of a nerve from the spine to an affected bodily part.” That is not accurate. Future chiropractors may have focused on charting nerves but that was not the practice that D.D. Palmer developed. He started by tracing the nerve from the symptom. That was the clinical practice he taught. Tracing the nerves from the spine to the organs was secondary. It developed from the practice. Charting them was not part of his method. This distinction is not clear in Folk’s text. 

Furthermore, Folk implies that D.D. Palmer was “not innovating, but picking up ideas that had circulated in popular physiology for several decades.” She gives no reference for that beyond an obscure M.D. named Sherwood and some reprints of his diagrams.

Folk credits Sherwood with coining the phrase “Nerve Tracing.” However, her references for Sherwood don’t pan out. Folk cites his two books. In both books, he does have the same sentence that states “vessels and nerves” are “easily traced,” but he is referring to advanced cases of tuberculous after tissues have been destroyed by ulceration. He does mention his method of palpating for pain points at the vertebra, also in relation to tuberculosis. He didn’t name his practice Nerve Tracing. Also, what he was doing was nothing like D.D. Palmer’s work, which developed from clinical practice.

The Complete Chiropractor

Walton’s book of R.J. Watkins’ collected writings includes a chapter on Nerve Tracing. R.J. Watkins was one of the leading academics, theorists, and researchers from 20th century chiropractic. His mentor was Jim Firth, who developed his methods after teaching alongside B.J. Palmer for close to two decades.

According to Walton,

“His approach was a bit different than the classic Palmer approach. Instead of tracing from the periphery to the spine, he traced from the subluxation to the periphery. 

His tracing points were usually the belly of a muscle or the musculotendinous junction. To be a little more specific, he would trace the motor points in the belly of the muscle.These points have also been variously identified as acupuncture points and trigger points. He was tracing out segmental patterns of sensory distortion since sensory (proprioceptive) distortion is central to his subluxation theory. The pattern of points would be perceived as tender before the adjustment, and then immediately after the adjustment the tenderness would subside.”

Watkins said, “Patients are impressed when you can show them where they hurt before they even tell you.”

Perhaps it is time for chiropractors to relearn this lost art of chiropractic and research it.

Chiropractic Background

One the greatest challenges confronting the chiropractic profession is a problem with the literature, the chiropractic background. Articles in the literature dating back at least forty years need to be reassessed, critiqued, and updated. This becomes more obvious to me every time I read a new opinion paper or an overview of the profession’s crossroad or schism. 

I just started reading the new paper by a first-year chiropractic student and his mentor. It is an excellent example of this problem, which has affected a portion of the chiropractic literature today. My intent is not to be overly critical just honest. It is time we start dissecting the literature with clarity, conviction, and the facts.

I won’t dissect the whole paper for you today. It would take too long, your time is precious. Let’s just look at the first page and the use of references to begin to understand how the literature from the past affects the profession today.

First, I sincerely commend the author, Bob Strahinjevich. To take on the task of writing an overview of the chiropractic profession’s schism as a student is remarkable. It took me three years to write my first paper as a student. I understand. It has taken me another twenty years to grok the literature and so mistakes are perfectly understandable as well.

The Schism in Chiropractic Through the Eyes of a 1st Year Chiropractic Student was coauthored by Dr. Keith Simpson. I have written about one of Simpson’s papers before. It had its own challenges.

I write this out of respect for the chiropractors that came before us and even greater respect for those that will graduate in the future. It is to them that we owe a body of literature that rests on a comprehensive accounting of the profession, not on singular viewpoints based on flawed literature.

Let’s Focus on the Background

On the first page, the authors rely on twenty references to establish the background. The mark of a good paper is its use of references and more importantly what references it neglects. I will focus on the most obvious problems and steer away from the nitty-gritty details. After all, so few of their references have been critically analyzed in the literature.

The first two paragraphs just cite the internal divergence within the profession. However, we should take note of their use of quotation marks around the word discovered. They write, “since chiropractic was ‘discovered’ in 1895.” Perhaps this just harks back to Simpson’s 2012 paper, which does the same thing. This approach mainly says to the reader that D.D. Palmer didn’t really discover chiropractic. This is an old trope dating back to Palmer’s earliest detractors such as Smith, Langworthy, Gregory, Davis, and Forster. There is no basis in fact for positioning the invention of chiropractic like this but that is the stuff of another post.

In paragraph three they reference some literature offering solutions to the profession’s schism. However, their references for solutions only includes three sociologists (if you include Simpson) and Walker’s incredibly biased opinion paper. It would be a much stronger paper if they included a wider spectrum of the literature offering solutions. 

The Straw Man Fallacy

The remaining sections of the Background include a surface analysis of the “ideological gulf” in the profession. They rely on Phillips’ flawed paper from two decades ago positioning chiropractors as either believers or questioners. This argument does not reflect how actual chiropractors engage with chiropractic theories about Innate Intelligence and vertebral subluxation, especially since Phillips’ only references were Will Durant, B.J. Palmer, R.W. Stephenson, and a Los Angeles Chiropractic College position paper.

Then they utilize Phillips’ incorrect assessment about chiropractor’s perspectives as fact and cite Keating’s biography of B.J. Palmer to suggest “entrenched ideologies, based on misunderstanding of science and marinated in the fear of losing a ‘separate and distinct’ (from all things medical) identity have prevented chiropractic from fully unifying and moving forward.” This is by definition a straw man argument

A note about Keating’s unfortunate book: It is filled with facts that support a deep bias against B.J. Palmer. (I challenge anyone to read the book and determine whether you feel that biographer actually read B.J. Palmer’s 39 volumes. Isn’t it expected that a biographer read the books authored by their subject?)

So, the Background is a straw man argument based in part on dated and biased literature.

A Deeper View

I would love to direct your attention to a few articles in the literature that do not get cited in this paper. I point this out because many of the issues have been explored in other papers. To write a paper on the schism in chiropractic and ignore a good portion of the recent literature on the topic is considered poor scholarship. You don’t have to agree with the other literature but you do at least have to review it and explain why you disagree. That would be considered good scholarship if your arguments are sound.

I published an article in 2001 in The Journal of Integral Studies. In that article, I talked about the general consensus in the profession around the concept that the body is self-healing and self-organizing. We could easily build upon that to create bridges. The article also applies cultural and psychological perspectives to viewing the historical concepts of Innate Intelligence and Universal Intelligence. But the journal was obscure so I am not surprised many have missed it.

More recent articles bridge the gaps these authors intuit but go far deeper down the rabbit hole that is the schism in the profession. The complexity of worldviews and perspectives that has always been at conflict within chiropractic cannot be simplified around a fictitious “entrenched ideology,” nor can it be simplified to those who seek “evidence” and those who don’t. Any papers you may read that imply those types of dichotomies are just creating new myths.

In one article I explored eight different ways the profession could engage around constructing theory and philosophy. In another article, I explored the historical schism in chiropractic by demonstrating that at least five verifiable perspectives exist in the profession as developmental trajectories. Most of these perspectives will always clash no matter what profession embodies them. One key to unity is to understand what they are, develop an accurate history of how they clashed in the past, and then develop ways to dialogue across them. 

The chiropractic profession is fractured. It has been since 1902 according to Faulkner’s book on O.G. Smith. The solutions to the profession’s problems are not in publishing more articles that reference the same flawed arguments from the last forty years. The solution is in viewing the profession through new lenses from other disciplines, correcting the literature of the past, and honestly confronting it through science and good scholarship.

Please watch for future dissections of the literature and quite possibly a chirowiki that highlights the literature.

Chiropractic Legacy

Birthdays come and birthdays go. Some hold more significance than others. Today I am 47 and it feels like one of those big ones.

Seven years ago on this day, I taught a 12-hour keynote at the K.R. Jones Philosophy Symposium. I hired a videographer and turned it into an 8-hour online program for chiropractors to earn their Continuing Education credits. Those talks summed up a new approach I developed to understand the chiropractic profession from eight parallel perspectives. It was the start of my online education program for chiropractors.

Today I launch TIC 2.0. I am calling it that because this new website is totally redesigned. I have integrated most of my other sites and developed dozens of new pages. I’ve been working on the launch of this updated site for several months it just happens to be ready today. Welcome to The Institute Chiropractic!

Also today we go live with the first TIC Masterclass. This is a sixteen-week online program to teach chiropractors a core set of fundamental facts about the history of ideas in chiropractic. The pioneer class consists of more than 50 chiropractors from Australia. The course will be amazing.

The Institute Chiropractic may achieve our next goal of 200 members this week. (Maybe today!)

So, it feels like a big birthday. Especially when we think in terms of chiropractic history.

TIC History

Last year I started posting a series of infographics on Facebook called This Day in TIC History. Each TIC History covers a different fact gleaned from my archives of historical data. Many of the histories celebrate pivotal events including birthdays and memorial days to chiropractors who shaped the profession. The plan was to develop a simple format to share the fascinating moments from chiropractic’s past.

The TIC History gallery is now live. New TIC Histories will be posted as time allows. These are great introductions to chiropractic.

Some Background

I could have done anything with my life. So many chiropractors gave so much to me and my family. I chose to become a chiropractor so that I could give back.

I went to chiropractic college soon after I completed a Bachelors degree in history and a Masters degree in philosophy. I realized that my academic skills could be used to help the profession. That was after I fell in love with the history of ideas in chiropractic.

I had to teach myself the history of ideas in chiropractic because there is no systematic way to learn it. The curriculum in most colleges follows a standard model. A limited view of the history of ideas is taught based on each school’s perspective and guided by what students will need to know on National Board exams. The irony is the Board questions are crafted by the faculty at the schools. This circular approach to teaching a profession is short-sighted.

And so I read everything I could get my hands on for about twenty years.

The Crucibles of Teaching and Writing

I graduated in 1999 and immediately started publishing and teaching. I forced myself to continually refine and develop my ideas by submitting papers to peer-review and teaching in the classroom and in post-graduate programs. This allowed me to develop several new approaches to understanding the history of ideas in chiropractic.

First I focused on establishing a context for the development of the profession. Where did the ideas come from in history? How could we use Integral Frameworks to best explore this territory? Most of those approaches were included in that twelve hour class I taught seven years ago.

I came to realize how alone I was in my knowledge of the profession. So few chiropractors have a comprehensive grasp of how we got to where we are today. This is why I developed the Gen/Wave model, which is the central organizing principle of TIC, this site, and the lectures offered for Members and for CE credits.

TIC 2.0

This website is a developing hub. It will continue to evolve as I learn more and as I have time to add content. It is the place to learn and to develop certainty about chiropractic. The pages are introductions to the many ideas taught to TIC Members. Here are a few of the new highlights:

Gens: Since D.D. Palmer’s death in 1913, there have been three full generations of chiropractors (33 years = 1 generation). The first generation (1913-1946) was the foundation of the profession. Every core principle, theory, and practice in today’s profession could be traced to this generation. The second generation (1947-1980) paved the way for integrating the chiropractic paradigm with more current models of neurophysiology and philosophy. The third generation (1981-2014) continues to develop and refine the profession. This generational approach is one way to start getting a grip on the complexity that is chiropractic’s history of ideas.

Waves: The waves of ideas in chiropractic are a more nuanced way to understand and explore the chiropractic theories and practices. Eight distinct waves can be defined based on the publications during each era. Waves are basically defined by the ways in which the literature from one wave references the previous wave. These dates are arbitrary but do provide a powerful way to learn how the profession’s ideas developed.

The new site includes all previous blog posts from the old site (philosophyofchiropractic.com) including some further descriptions of the Gen/Wave model, the TIC VLOG series, as well as critiques of the literature.

One of the highlights of the site is D.D. Palmer Studies. This is a new approach to understanding how the chiropractic paradigm developed by D.D. Palmer more than a hundred years ago, is still impacting the profession today.

A Call for Archives

The Institute Chiropractic has a central mission to preserve chiropractic’s history of ideas and forward the profession. There are several ways in which this is happening such as dialogues and interviews, the publication of classic texts and posters, new books, articles, blog posts and the lecture series.

If you have suggestions for updates please send them. Also if you have audio, video, or documents and memorabilia that should be preserved please contact me today and we will do whatever we can to make it happen.

TIC Dialogue: Thom Gelardi and Simon Senzon

In this TIC Dialogue, Thom Gelardi and Simon Senzon discuss several chiropractic topics over the course of three hours.  The topics ranged from Thom’s only meeting with B.J. Palmer in the 1950s, his private practice, his mentor, Lyle Sherman, as well as other events of history and politics. The most distinct element of the dialogue is Thom’s unwavering philosophical viewpoint that professions are defined by their mission.

This short clip from the discussion is about the different paradigm, or what Gelardi refers to as missions. The chiropractic mission is distinct. The medical mission too is distinct. Over the course of chiropractic history, there was once a clash between “straights” and “mixers.” Starting in the 1970s, that paradigm clash focused on the role of diagnosis and analysis in chiropractic practice.

To listen to the full dialogue, please become a member of The Institute Chiropractic.

© 2018 The Institute Chiropractic - Senzon Learning, Inc.