Willard Carver, LLB, DC

When Willard Carver was a boy, he had a delivery job and often went to the Palmer’s home. Carver claims to remember B.J. from when he was just a baby. He later went on to become a lawyer. He helped in the legal separation between father and son in 1906. Carver became a chiropractor and like many of his colleagues formed his own school.

Carver taught many first generation chiropractors including Gregory and Ratledge. He had a big influence on chiropractic education, legislation, and theory.

Carver was very interested in bringing psychological theories into chiropractic. Carver suggested to D.D. that he include suggestive therapeutics into chiropractic.  This was even before he earned his degree from Charles Ray Parker. Parker graduated from D.D. Palmer’s school in 1905. He was in Mabel Palmer’s class. Carver’s suggestions were rejected by D.D. However, D.D. published his replies to Carver and in those open letters he furthered the philosophy in new ways.

Joe Keating created chronologies of Carver’s life and Carver College of Chiropractic.

The Structural School

According to Stevan Walton, Carver is best known for developing the structural school of chiropractic. From that perspective, the whole spine is viewed as a structural unit. Many chiropractic techniques that rely on “basic distortion,” a sort of asymmetrical normal, owe a theoretical debt to Carver.

Mortimer Levine wrote “The Structural Approach to Chiropractic” (1964) as Chair of the Department of Chiropractic at the CINY. Levine wrote:

 “As a result of these observations on postural patterns and the influence of sacral distortions on the super- imposed spine Dr. Willard Carver formulated one of the most important canons in chiropractic, namely The Principle of Basic and Compensatory Distortion

Definition: When a basic structure moves in relation to the body gravity line, relative and superimposed strucures must alter their relation to that line or equilibrium is lost. 

The same proposition stated more simply: When a weight-bearing structure is distorted, nature automatically attempts to restore body balance by developing compensatory counter-distortions. 

Dr. Carver’s elucidation of this law of equilibrium was the major breakthrough to a clear and comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms of postural change. 

It now becomes apparent that many of the distortions found in the vertebral column are compensatory in nature, and are the result of the need to redistribute weight because of a basic distortion. No attempt should made to correct these counterbalancing curves, unless the basic distortion that brought them into being is first corrected. 

Knowledge of the principle of basic and compensatory distortion also answers the previously posed question: what constitutes a compensated or well balanced distortion?”

Carver’s Philosophical Writings

Carver wrote several books such as Carver’s Chiropractic Analysis (1909), Carver’s Chiropractic Analysis: Second Edition (1915), Psycho-Bio-Physiology (1920), Carver’s Chiropractic Analysis: Third Edition (1921), and History of Chiropractic (1930). Carver’s family also became leaders in the profession. His brother Fred Carver published The Postural Method of Chiropractic Diagnosis and Adjusting (1938). His nephew Homer Beatty published Anatomical Adjustive Technique (1939). This was republished years later with commentary by Beatty’s student Earl Homewood, president of CMCC.

This chapter from Carver’s 1915 edition captures the perspective on dis-ease held by most chiropractors of the first generation. It represents D.D. Palmer’s chiropractic paradigm in regards to displaced vertebra leading to neural dysfunction and then to anbormal function. The chiropractic adjustment restores the structure and normalizes the neurology, which allows normal function to be expressed.

The other excerpt is an introduction to Carver’s view of life force and universal force in regards to the human organism.

Remarks on Disease

Disease is a term that has been used to refer to sickness, or deviation from the normal, from a time when the mind of man runneth not to the contrary. It is a word that came into use from the idea that pain or lack of ease is always an element of abnormality. In this sense it has long outlived its proper application; but because therapeutic teaching has always been theoretical as distinguished from an analysis and deduction from fact, the word “disease” having obtained a therapeutic place, has been retained. Disease is a term that is wholly inadequate to express all of the phases of abnormality that occur, and is therefore a term responsible for much confusion.

Our word “disease” comes from an old French word, meaning not easy. It indicates a process, therefore, in which there must be lack of ease or pain, for it will require no argument to show that a process resulting in not ease must produce pain in some degree.

It is clear that there are many phases of abnormality in which the element of pain is entirely wanting, for in the majority of abnormality, which consists in displacement per se, the individual is not even conscious of the displacement.

Paralysis furnishes another illustration of a phase of abnormality-in which -there is no pain.

Abnormality consists of two departments: ( 1) Abnormality which consists wholly in the displacement itself ; (2) Abnormality that consists in abnormal function. It may be easily·seen that using the word “disease” somewhat in the therapeutic sense, we might say that, Chiropractically, there is but one disease and that consists in abnormal function, the phases of which are legion. Occasionally, and in its proper limited sense that is, in the sense of painful processes, the word “disease” may be used in the subsequent pages of this book; however, where the word “disease” is used it will never be used to express the therapeutic idea of a disease.

The therapeutic idea of a disease is that it is a thing, an entity, as it were, a thing to which treatment may be applied to which remedies may be addressed, which may be wrestled with and peradventure overcome. When speaking of disease as he conceives the process, it is without recognizing that it is a process; he speaks of the struggle of the body to overcome the disease and says that the disease, naming it, attack, prostrates, etc., the individual, and fortunately sometimes says the disease leaves the individual.

The prominent and standard authorities on different branches of therapeutics all agree upon one thing; that disease is a thing, a subject for treatment, that is, consists of certain fixed elements and that it may be palliated or destroyed by the application of proper remedies.

All therapeutic authorities agree that a disease is made up of symptoms and that if all of the symptoms that constitute a disease are not present then there is not a disease but just stray symptoms. To illustrate: they say headache is not a disease, but a symptom of many different diseases. I submit that if headache is not a disease then the term has no meaning.

There can be no controversy that the word “disease” cannot have a plural. Mind is indivisible; an individual is not possessed of minds; he can give attention to but one thing at a time; he can be conscious of but one thing at a time; he can, therefore, only be conscious of pain, he cannot be conscious of pains and in the same sense he can be conscious of disease, but cannot be conscious of diseases, that he suffers from disease in the same sense as pain.

The individual may be affected by several phases of abnormality, but if he suffers from each of them the consummate of all such suffering is only pain, not pains, and in the same way, if he is suffering from several phases of abnormality the consummate is that he is suffering disease. In making these statements, it is understood that they are contrary to a very common usage which opposes them to a very fixed prejudice, however, that fact should not be permitted to relegate against a fair presentation of the truth, and will not.

Sufficient has been said to prepare the student for the statement that Chiropractic recognizes disease in the sense of pain but does not recognize a disease in the therapeutic sense, that is, it does not recognize the occurrence of a number of symptoms, all at the same time, as constituting any one the so-called diseases named in therapy, such as typhoid , pneumonia, paralysis, etc.

Disease, as Chiropractically understood, is a result from a specific cause. It is pain caused by an enforced change in function. It is an evidence of abnormal process which may arise from many phases o-f abnormality, the number making no difference in the result except in the gravity of effects.

Chiropractic does not teach that certain symptoms combined and taken as a whole constitute a disease in the sense of it being a thing or entity, but it does teach the various phases of abnormal process that have been observed in the different organs of the body, and as incident to the abnormal co-ordinance in different organs when under abnormal process at the same time.

Careful observation has revealed the fact that no two individuals were ever affected exactly alike, even under therapeutic diagnosis and treatment in what is termed by therapeutists, the same disease; that is, no two cases of so-called pneumonia, typhoid fever, articular rheumatism or any other so-called disease were ever observed to present the same symptoms or elements or to affect the subjects in the same way.

Fear, unqualified, is one of the most damaging phases of mental operation. People have been caused, by the results of therapy, to fear certain so-called diseases because therapy has taught that for such there is no cure. For instance, therapy has taught that there is such a disease as tuberculosis and that it is incurable, and the same teaching· has been applied to many other so-called diseases. Because of these facts, layman at large have acquired an unqualified· fear of these so called diseases, and to an individual laboring under such adverse mental attitude, no more damaging suggestion could be given than to diagnose his case as being one of the incurable diseases, when as a matter of fact, his symptoms will never coincide with those of any one else, and the subject of the gravity of his abnormality will be based upon facts wholly disrelated from those of other individuals and, therefore, the gravity of his particular phases of abnormality will be controlled by a law unto itself. Adverse· promulgation of this unqualified fear has done and is doing incalculable damage to the human family, and cries most loudly for correction.

When people generally learn that their affections are simply phases of an abnormal process that are the result of a specific cause rising wholly within themselves, and for which they are generally wholly responsible, and do not partake of the nature of a mysterious onslaught in the nature of a witch or demon, untoward suggestion will be at an end and a scientific and judicious attention to the body will ensue that will result in an untrammeled and continuous evolution.

From what has been said, it very cl early appears that Chiropractic does not t each that disease, or the phases of abnormality can be treated but does teach that every phase·of functional of abnormality is a process resulting in a constantly changing condition, and that the only way that the adverse condition may be removed is by·reverting the process from the abnormal to the normal, and since the condition came to its present gravity, whatever·that may be, as the result of affirmative abnormal action, it must be reduced or removed by negative reverse-activity or by an activity of function tending toward the normal; this, because it turns from the abnormal to the normal, is called reaction. To illustrate: If displacement has occurred at some point in the vertebral column producing occlusion of stimulus in the nerves supplying a viscus, resulting in disintegration at the·periphery of such nerves, that disintegtated substance is an abnormal chemical compound . In other word s, a foreign subtance, an irritant to the periphery of nerves in that area, a will produce the sensation called pain. It is perfectly clear that such a process cannot be treated, cured or restored, but can ‘only be changed to the normal by a reversal of the process by which the adverse situation was produced, to-wit: an adjustment of the displacement, removing occlusion, thus restoring normal movements of the fluids which in turn secures normal depuration, making room for normal elaboration and finally resulting in normal assimilation.

As a corollary to the fact that there are no such things as diseases, Chiropractic teaches that there is no such thing as a cure but that functional abnormality is a process and not a thing, and can only be corrected by producing the necessary ‘reaction to bring into operation the normal process.

Physical Laws

Life, as it is observed in this material existence is but the action of matter under the operation of force.

It is of the utmost importance to the student that he shall familiarize himself , at least with the more usual conduct of matter under the application of force in the abst1·act. in order that he may make adaptation, so far as the subj ect permits, as to the phases of the application of force, in the concrete, to inanimate particles of material in the production of animation.

In this view of the phenomena it will be observed that matter is never, under any circumstance alive, but is only animated and impelled to the performance of its various offices by the application of the force of life acting through, upon or with relation to it causing the co-ordinance and co-operation of its parts in all of the wonderful and manifold movements which have so universally, but incorrectly, been denominated living matter.

That life is or exerts force is one of the commonest phenomena and for that very reason the consciousness of that fact is only had in the occasional instance when it should be of common recognition.

Few, if any, have failed to observe in the sprouting of seeds or·the coming up of small plants how frequently large portions of earth are lifted, cracked and thrown back to permit the escape of the top of the plant to freedom above the ‘ ground .

Who has not stood with awe and observed this phenomenon in the sprouting and growth of the delicate radish or turnip? Many persons have seen a solid rock riven by the growth of a tree in one of its crevices and yet it is only the occasional individual, witnessing such demonstrations, that thinks far enough to understand, that these are but the expressions of the force of life.

The matter contained in the vegetation of these illustration is not alive, but is animated by the force of life acting through it.

These thoughts are referred to for the sole purpose of inducing the student to understand, that a comprehensive knowledge of the functioning of the human machine is necessary, in order that he may be active to the thoughts, with respect to the various operations of that machine, that will be discussed in this work.

The confusing aspect of the subject is because, in a consideration of the human machine, there are two departments of force that must always be considered in relation with each other: one, the force of life, which will be considered hereafter, and two, universal force relative to the human organism, which it is the express purpose of this chapter to detail.

The general law of force that must always be considered by the student of Chiropractic is simple and not difficult to understand, provided that certain basic facts are always kept in mind.


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