Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Correspondence Courses and Chiropractic

Correspondence courses were at one time fairly common in chiropractic. I'm not sure when the powers-that-be decided to get rid of them, but certainly prior to WWII they were in existence. Interestingly, some of the educators in chiropractic who were most outspoken against correspondence programs were also selling them through their own colleges!

One important fact to understand is that correspondence courses were the only way to earn a chiropractic diploma by black students. Most of the chiropractic colleges discriminated against black students, so for many early black chiropractors, correspondence courses were the only way to earn an education.

Of course, learning to be a chiropractor via books and charts is virtually impossible, particularly considering the lack of being able to see videos of adjustments, even, so how these doctors learned the actual adjusting process would be interesting to see. I would love to see a full set of books and notes from such a course, but as of now, I have just a recruitment letter sent out by American University in Illinois. To put things in perspective, the $92 cash for the entire course paid up front is equal to about $1131 by today's standards, and the installment plan of $105 is $1291. A bargain by any calculation! Enjoy the photos!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Electroencephaloneuromentimpograph - Try Saying That 3 Times Fast!

Dr. Norris Erickson has part 1 of a series on the Electroencephaloneuromentimpograph published in the November issue of the Palmer Beacon newspaper. The article appears on page 18. This is a fascinating piece of chiropractic history and the machine can still be seen on the Palmer campus today. Check it out!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I haven't forgotten you!

Dear Fearless Readers, I know I haven't posted anything since July, and I was hardly setting world records prior to that, but I haven't given up on the Chiropractic History Blog. I've been incredibly busy with my career and the blog takes a major back seat, unfortunately. I have lots of things to show and tell about, so I will post more, it's just a matter of when I'll have the time to make something of the quality you expect. Thanks for your patience!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The BJ Palmer Research Clinic

I found a great slide presentation about the BJ Palmer Research Clinic from the 1940's-1950's on Slideshare. Gary Golembiewski, D.C. went to a lot of effort to make this presentation, great for any history geek!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

2010 Association for the History of Chiropractic Conference

I was in St. Louis last weekend to present a paper, "An Abridged History of Chiropractic Extremity Care." My co-authors were Drs. Steve Troyanovich and K. Jeffrey Miller and the paper was well-received. It should be published in the journal of the AHC this year sometime.

The AHC is a great group of scholars and I really enjoyed my time with a fun bunch. Membership in the association has been down the past few years, so with an energetic new board and executive director, this is sure to be an exciting year for the AHC! I really encourage you to join and contribute. It's only $100 for doctors and $50 for students, so it couldn't be more affordable and the cause is a great one. Just make sure you don't use the membership link on the website at this time, as it doesn't seem to work. Check or calling on the phone to use a CC are better options.

The Association for the History of Chiropractic is also on Facebook, so join their page there, too.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Some New Photos of BJ

I love photography, particularly old photos, and I'm always amazed when I see new photos of BJ Palmer I've never seen before. There must be thousands of photographs of this man! I recently spotted some I'd never seen that show a playful, more relaxed BJ. Enjoy!

I have no idea who the Catlady is in the first photo, but due to BJ's penchant for performers I would guess she was an actress or stage performer, possibly in the circus? The second photo shows BJ in an unusually relaxed pose, sporting a Hawaiian shirt, presumably down in Florida, where his winter home was. The final picture is a rare photo of BJ without his trademark Vandyke beard. I cannot verify that this is even him, but I found it on a site with many other BJ photos, so I'm not sure why it would have been there if this wasn't him. Evidently, he was working as a pimp when this photo was taken! LOL (and, no, BJ was never a pimp. I'm kidding).

Monday, April 5, 2010

Lazy Updates

Sorry about the lack of content lately... we're in the last 1/4 of the trimester (busy busy busy) and I've started traveling more lately to teach seminars, so hopefully I'll have some interesting things to post soon. Stay posted and don't get fed up yet... I haven't forgotten about the blog!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Palmer-Toggle Recoil Adjustment

In the earliest days of chiropractic, adjustments were, well, a little on the rough side. They were generally done with the doctor's arms completely straight and locked out, on an unpadded bench, and with a slow, but forceful, body drop. The doctor wasn't relaxed, nor was the patient, and the end result got the job done, but it was hard on the doctor and patient alike. In some cases, doctor's would even put a bag full of lead shot or sand over their shoulders to give the adjustment even more OOMPH!
Anyone can see this was not a comfortable proposition for any parties involved! The year 1910 was a big year for chiropractic innovation, as it was the year BJ Palmer introduced x-ray technology to the profession, as well as a year of big changes in the way chiropractic technique was performed.
BJ and one of his collaborators, James Wishart, had developed the technique of "nerve tracing" by this time, as well as a new type of adjustment called the Palmer Toggle-Recoil Adjustment.
The Toggle-Recoil method is often synonymous with upper cervical specific adjusting techniques today, but  it was originally applied as a full-spine adjusting method until the early 1930's when the Palmer School converted to teaching only upper cervical technique.
This new method was a thrust, rather than a body drop, utilizing a fast contraction of the triceps and anconeus muscles, with the depth of the adjustment coming from the pectoralis muscles, and followed by a speedy recoil off of the contact point on the patient's body.
The Toggle-Recoil adjustment really employed the physics equation of F=MA or force being a product of mass times acceleration. In other words, by employing greater speed in the adjustment, the force would be the same, but use less mass, for perceived improvements in comfort from the patient. Furthermore, the doctor and patient need to be relaxed in order for this adjustment to be effective, so it was much more comfortable and easy on both parties from that perspective, too.
There is a wonderful video (I'm not sure about the commentary, but the video is great!) showing BJ adjusting around 1924 using this type of adjustment, in slow motion. Chiropractic has still come a long way since this tape was made, but it illustrates the adjustment better than you could possibly ask for!

BJ illustrated these concepts beautifully, in my opinion, in his 1911 textbook on chiropractic adjusting. In the following series of photos, we see BJ first showing the concept applied to cracking a walnut with a hammer, then to replacing a board in a stack of boards. Initially, he cannot crack the nut simply by pushing hard, but he can when he uses the principle of acceleration applied to the hammer. Similarly, by pushing the "misaligned" board in the stack of boards, to try to align it, one can see how poorly it works out, but when the hammer is accelerated, that board drops right in line!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Some Random Photos

Sorry it has been so long since I posted anything substantial. My speaking schedule has geared up, we're in the second half of the trimester at the college and I have had sick dogs to take care of. I've also come to realize just how completely disorganized my history stuff is, so I have some bookkeeping to do in order to get it in some semblance of shape! In the meantime, here are some interesting photos that are chiropractic related (some of them are low-res, sorry):

I think this might be the barber shop on Palmer's campus in the old days, but I could be wrong. I love the epigrams!

This is a photo of BJ and Mabel on their honeymoon. It is one of those things with cutouts for your face, that they have at fairs and carnivals! 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A New Twist on the Neurocalometer Story

Spotted an interesting article on the ChiroUnity blog about the history of the Neurocalometer instrument, focusing largely on the behind-the-scenes interaction between Frank Elliot (then Registrar of the PSC), BJ Palmer and Dossa Evins (inventor of the NCM). A new twist on an old story!

Find the article in its entirety here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Architecture and Chiropractic - The C.S. Gonstead Home & Clinic

Two of my favorite subjects in one post! In addition to having the world's largest chiropractic clinic for many years and a true chiropractic champion, Dr. Clarence Gonstead of Mt. Horeb, WI was a supporter of modern architecture through his home and the building of his clinics.

Dr. Gonstead established his first practice over the bank building on Main Street in Mt. Horeb in 1923. In 1939, he built his first standalone office building, also in Mt. Horeb. You can see in the photos below that the building was modern for the times, almost in a Bauhaus style:

Dr. Gonstead had a rather amazing house for a little farming community in Wisconsin, too. It is unclear to me when the home was built, but Dr. Gonstead hired Herb Fritz, Jr., an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, to build his home sometime in the late 1940's or early 1950's, by my guess. The original grounds for the home was 55 acres and included the main home, pool house and an attached guest house that was added to the property in 1952. The home burned down in 1992, but the guest cottage remained and has been restored and is available for guests to stay in today. The main residence was also restored and is lived in by the folks who rent out the guest cottage. According to many online sources, it is a crown jewel of "Prairie Modern" architecture and has an incredible, organic feel that must be experienced to believe. The home is pictured below, circa 1954:
Some current photos of the guest cottage as it appears today are below:

Some photos of the main residence are below (I am unsure if the home was restored in the same style as the original Gonstead home, or if modifications were made, but it is still in Wright's Prairie Style:

It was in 1964 that Dr. Gonstead opened his gigantic 19,000 square feet practice on the outskirts of Mt. Horeb. This practice had capacity for 108 patients in the reception room, and the chairs were full most of the time. An aerial view of the Gonstead Clinic shows the clinic itself, in the foreground, as well as the Karakhal Inn, which was also owned by Dr. Gonstead, along the upper part of the photo:
Another aerial view of the Gonstead Clinic:
This clinic was designed by Wisconsin architect, John Steinmann. While not in the Prairie Style of the Gonstead residence and guest home, the clinic and inn were certainly of a modern style indicative of the "midcentury modern" architecture of the 1950's and 1960's. 

Gonstead was an incredible chiropractor, but the overlap of cutting edge architecture and his career were fascinating to me, and I hope to you, too!

Monday, February 8, 2010

What Not To Do

In the mid-1910's (sorry, the exact date escapes me), BJ Palmer published a book called An Exposition of Old Moves which was a guide of sorts containing photos and descriptions of a lot of popular "adjustments" that, in BJ's opinion, should no longer be used. Some of them are clearly borrowed from an old-school bonesetting tradition. In the 1910's, Palmer had developed the Palmer Toggle Recoil adjustment, which was more specific, as well as more precise means of finding subluxations, so BJ felt these "old moves" were too lacking in specificity or even downright dangerous. Here are a few of my favorite photos from the book:

In the last photo, BJ is demonstrating an old way of performing a straight-arm adjustment and adding "oomph" to the adjustment by placing a bag full of lead shot on his neck/shoulders! Boy, things have come a looooong way since then!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

1922 - Isn't It Funny?

I recently obtained a PDF copy of the 1922 Palmer School of Chiropractic's supply catalog and it is a wealth of interesting things for the history buff! I found a bunch of stuff in there that is in my own collection, which I will be photographing and sharing soon. For now, here is something neat from the back cover (click on the picture to make it bigger!). I especially love the last line, which reads, "If your business isn't good enough to advertise, advertise it for sale." LOL

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Origins of Sacro-Occipital Technic (SOT)

Sacro-Occipital Technic, or SOT, is one of the oldest chiropractic techniques still being used today and has a fascinating historical record thanks to the copious amounts of publishing its founder, Dr. M. B. DeJarnette, did.

At a time when chiropractic was largely based on the concept of a bone that has misaligned and is putting pressure on a nerve, DeJarnette stood out like a sore thumb because he was looking at the nervous system and its effects on the human body quite independently of the vertebral system. On a constant ongoing basis Dr. DeJarnette added to, subtracted from, and altered his technique based on his research findings from his very unusual practice (more on this story another time).

The overarching theme to SOT is the idea that doing different things to the body will result in stimulation and inhibition of various functions via the nervous system. As such, he and BJ had no love lost between them, but DeJarnette was nothing if not focused in his attempt to improve chiropractic and take it beyond the idea of a bone squishing a nerve! SOT encompasses a variety of procedures including vertebral adjusting, reflex manipulation, soft tissue and extremity work, cranial adjusting and even visceral manipulation, all in a systematized approach to correct subluxations and normalize function in the body.

How "The Major" set off down this path is an interesting story in and of itself. While DeJarnette was a student at the Nebraska Chiropractic College (now defunct) in Lincoln, NE, he had a classmate who had to drop out because of a debilitating heart condition. As a senior student, DeJarnette was sent to this man's home to adjust him and see if he could be enrolled back in classes. One of the symptoms affecting this student was extreme pain in the left arm and shoulder (probably referred from the heart), and DeJarnette said that as a student, he hardly knew what to do for this guy, so he put a hot compress on his shoulder in an attempt to relieve some of his discomfort.

According to DeJarnette's story, this caused the man to pass out! Thinking he'd killed his former classmate, DeJarnette filled a pail with cold water and doused the man, which revived him immediately. Later, the man said his shoulder felt a little better! Over the course of several weeks, DeJarnette went to his rooms and alternated warm and cold compresses, and steadily over time his shoulder pain disappeared and his heart condition improved!

Eventually the man was able to come back to the college and graduated, practicing chiropractic for several decades in Nebraska. As DeJarnette related the story, he was congratulated heartily by the students and faculty at the college, and was "big man on campus" for some time, so he never had the heart to tell anyone there he had never, in fact, adjusted the student, simply used hot and cold in a specific way and somehow this stimulated or inhibited the right functions and helped his classmate!

In his 1958 book on the history of SOT, DeJarnette said, “I became obsessed with the idea that what we did to the spine in adjusting did not produce results because we moved a vertebra and removed nerve pressure, but because we either applied stimuli or inhibition.”

Sunday, January 31, 2010

1912 - The First Chiropractic-related Patent?

Was this chiropractic table, granted a patent on Aug. 6, 1910, the first patent for something related to chiropractic? It's the earliest I've been able to find.

The patent was filed on Dec. 3, 1910 by John H. Schenck of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Presumably, Schenck was a doctor of chiropractic, but that remains unknown at this time. I was under the impression that Williams (founder of the current Williams Healthcare Manufacturing company) was the original producer of a Hylo style table (a table that raises up like this one), but maybe Schenck's design was first and never went into production. According to my patent search, William G. Williams' patent for a Hylo style table didn't come about until 1924, and was granted in 1929.

According to the patent, Schenck's purpose for this table was so that the table "may be elevated into vertical position so that the patient may be properly positioned upon the table while erect and lowered into a horizontal position for treatment and again raised into upright position so as to leave the table without producing any ill effects of an undoing of the good effects produced by the treatment."

In the picture from the patent, note that there is no split cushion or space for the face, necessitating that the patient always have their head rotated during an adjustment. I always find it fascinating that it took so long to figure out that they could use a split cushion or put a hole in the table for the face for patient comfort! Gee...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

1924 Chiropractic Invoice

Spotted this envelope and invoice recently, from 1924. I had high interest in it because of the "Keep Smiling" logo on the envelope (more on the story of Keep Smiling in a future post), but someone else was a lot more interested in it than me! At least I grabbed a couple photos. Several things strike me about this piece of history... I'm always amazed by the handwriting of people from times past. That address is a work of calligraphic art in and of itself, beautifully written with a fountain pen or possibly even a pen dipped in ink. The pre-printed envelope is great, too, of course. Sheldon and Sanborn are two towns in northwest Iowa, not very far from each other. I wonder if Dr. Scanlon had a little office in each, or if he just served that area from one office. (You can always see the full-size images by clicking on the photos themselves!)
The invoice inside the envelope is neat, too. Same handwriting, just as beautiful, and it looks to be dated from 5/1/24. The invoice is for 33 adjustments at, get this, $1.25 each! According to an inflation calculator, in today's dollars, that's still only about $15.61/adjustment, for a total equivalent of $515 for the entire course of care. Still pretty reasonable, but for those new docs who may be reading this, don't want for your patient to owe you that much money before you send a bill! It's unfair to you AND them!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

1940's On-Set Chiropractic

I'm always combing the web for interesting history stuff, and I spotted this recently, a photo of actor
Robert (Bob) Cummings getting an adjustment on the set of one of his films, Tell it to the Judge. Also in the photo are Rosalind Russell and director Herman Foster. Who the doctor is remains unknown.
With BJ's strong involvement in the entertainment industries, I wonder if on-set chiropractic was common back in those days? Learn more about Bob Cummings' life and career here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Flyer from the 28th Annual Iowa Chiropractic Society Convention

A friend recently sent a copy of this flyer to me from the 28th Annual convention of the Iowa Chiropractic Society. The dates were April 18-20, 1959. What I find interesting is that fact that Dr. Weldon Derifield taught several hours on Pelvic Sacral Technic while Dr. Clay Thompson did one hour of a film and talk about his trip to Europe, presumably to 1958's World's Fair in Brussels! BJ showed up on Sunday for an hour and a half, too. One of the exhibitors was Vitamin Products Co., which was the name of Royal Lee's supplement company before it became Standard Process, Inc. Enjoy!

Some New Material Coming In

Just got some interesting new stuff to comb through, hopefully to find some good historical tidbits. Hopefully I'll find some time to start working through it all, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Panel discussion from the Palmer School. Date unknown, 45 minutes long. I believe it's pre-1961 (although they refer to it as Palmer College of Chiropractic, which was post-1961, I think...). Audio isn't the best, but it sounds like an introduction by Dr. Ron Frogley (was he there that long ago??) with Dr. Galen Price (at this time, Dean of Faculty) as moderator. Wait until you see the list of people on the panel: Clarence Gonstead (founder of Gonstead Technique), Ralph Gregory (founder of NUCCA), Major Bertrand DeJarnette (founder of SOT), William Blair (founder of Blair upper cervical technique). Wow! I think this is from Homecoming/Lyceum. Can't wait to listen to this and put up some choice quotes or even soundbites, if I can figure out that part of it!
  • 46-minute audio with Clarence Gonstead. Sometime after 1964. Speaking at Palmer College of Chiropractic. I'm not sure if this is from an assembly, graduation, or what. This should also be GREAT!
  • 40-minute audio with J. Clay Thompson. Anyone who knows me knows this will be the first thing I really dive into. Not sure of the date, or what the topic is. Lots of laughter, may be an assembly or possibly a seminar. Starts off with very strong philosophy, so we'll see once I listen to it. This would be awesome as a transcription...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Aleck August Wernsing - Upper Cervical Chiropractic Pioneer

Without the contribution of Dr. Aleck August Wernsing, it's questionable if B.J. Palmer's focus on the upper cervical area of the spine would have been as strong as it was, or whether upper cervical techniques would look much like they do today, or even exist at all!

A.A. Wernsing was a 1926 graduate of the Palmer School of Chiropractic. He practiced in Hollywood, California. Like many early chiropractors, his discoveries began with a personal experience with a health problem. In his 1941 book, The Atlas Specific, Wernsing wrote:
It was by force of circumstances, in 1932, that I was led more definitely into this field of research for the relief of a condition from which I myself was suffering, and for which I had been unable to find relief. Noting that pressure applied to the neck just inferior to the mastoid bone gave instant relief, my natural reaction was that an actual correction of vertebral malposition at that point would give me lasting benefit. Further research justified that opinion and enlarged its scope.
Wernsing "credits" the Great Depression with "allowing" him the time to work on his research and refine his x-ray and adjusting techniques, due to the fact that there were so few patients who could afford to pay him for his service! At the time, in the middle of the country in Davenport, Iowa, Dr. B.J. Palmer was busy at work on his own theory of the importance of the upper cervical area of the spine and their paths would soon intersect.

Beginning in mid- to late-1920's, B.J. was working on a theory, through clinical research, that there were true subluxations of the spine as well as compensations (majors and minors). By using an instrument called the Neurocalometer (NCM), which B.J. opined gave direct insight into the "flow of mental impulse" along the nerves, B.J.'s team of doctors was able to note that, often, one adjustment would balance the paraspinal temperature and normalize the NCM readings. From this, B.J. developed an idea of a "Hole-in-One" adjustment, or one adjustment that would "clear" all of the patient's subluxations. B.J. was convinced that the ideal adjustment was the one given at the right place, in the right manner, at the right time, and his ideal view of the perfect adjustment was one that needed to be done, just once, to make a person subluxation-free for her lifetime. While B.J.'s goal was too idyllic to be possible in reality, he did find that, according to clinic records, the adjustment that seemed to clear out the NCM reading the most efficiently in most patients was that of the upper cervical spine (C1 or C2).

By the early 1930's, B.J. was teaching this Hole-in-One theory, and in 1934 he wrote and published a massive tome titled The Subluxation Specific - The Adjustment Specific. This was after he had met with A.A. Wernsing, however. Back in California, Wernsing was intently studying the anatomy and biomechanics of the upper cervical spine, specifically the C1, or atlas, vertebra. At the center of Wernsing's research was the idea that the atlas moves relative to the occipital condyles (base of the skull), "as if on the rim of a circle." In other words, as the atlas moves laterally, it also moves superiorly, as shown in the diagram here I've rendered.

Through the use of x-rays, Wernsing discovered that this type of movement was not as free as the other ranges of motion between the atlas and occiput, so he felt like it was this lateral-superior shifting of the atlas that was, essentially, the most important aspect of the C1 subluxation complex. Because the atlas moved in this way, Wernsing decided to describe this misalignment in degrees, and was the first chiropractor to "list" the misalignment component of subluxation in such a way.

In order to demonstrate the movement to others, Wernsing built the Mechanical Anatomical Demonstrator in March of 1934. Building this anatomical model required Wernsing to know "the relative position of an atlas in relation to its condyles in degrees of movement" and led him to invent an instrument called the Orthoprotractor No. 2, the first instrument used to do precision x-ray analysis in chiropractic.

As mentioned, Wernsing depended on x-ray for his biomechanical research. He invented a method of x-ray analysis he called True Plane Radiography, and utilized the Orthoprotractor No. 2 and Orthoprotractor No. 1 (another analysis instrument), to gain precise measurements from the x-rays. With some modification, Wernsing's methods for analyzing x-rays are essentially the basis of the majority of upper cervical techniques still in use today, as well as some of the postural techniques such as those of Pettibon and Chiropractic Biophysics©.

A.A. Wernsing's True Plane Radiography method required six films of the upper cervical spine: Scout A.P., True Lateral, Scout Lateral, True A.P., A.P. 45 and Superior Inferior view. The x-rays began with the Scout A.P., which was used to measure the true plane of the atlas vertebra, which is different in every patient. Without getting too technical, the point of True Plane Radiography was to take accurate x-rays of the atlas vertebra relative to the occiput in such a way so as to minimize projectional distortion that can happen with less carefully shot pictures.

In 1933, Wernsing attended a lecture in Oakland, California, given by one of B.J.'s upper cervical instructors, on the Hole-in-One (HIO) theory and his burgeoning chiropractic technique of the same name. Wernsing felt that B.J.'s work had serious flaws, and had this to say in an article in 1959:
After we had completed the class, we both knew that the Palmer School had no information on the advanced work I was doing in my office. Two of the basic differences between my work and that taught by the PSC were as follows, my work was and is based on determining the malposition of the atlas in relation to the occipital condyles: the HIO work taught by the PSC was based on the axis rule.
On January 5, 1934, Wernsing arrived in Davenport, Iowa, for a meeting with B.J. Palmer, Dr. "Laddie" Heath (B.J.'s brother-in-law) and Dean Herb Hender. Wernsing recalled seeing the trio reviewing a galley copy of a book titled The Atlas Subluxation and the Axis Adjustment, which was a textbook on the HIO material B.J.'s instructors were presenting around the country. B.J. was highly impressed by Wernsing's research, and after their meeting Wernsing had agreed to keep B.J. updated on any new developments. For his work, Wernsing was mentioned in the foreward of B.J.'s renamed book, published later in 1934, The Subluxation Specific - The Adjustment Specific, which incorporated most of Wernsing's ideas.

A month later, on February 5, 1934, Wernsing received a letter from B.J. exclaiming the value of Wernsing's work. An excerpt from B.J.'s letter clearly shows the excitement he felt:
We are working, testing, trying. IT WORKS. We are very much pleased with the idea. Have written it into the book as a verifiable idea worth knowing and using. Have given you an appreciation in the Preface of the book. You have rendered a REAL service. Shall try your idea of plane lines in x-rays and see what it produces. Always open to further suggestions you may render the cause. Gee, wouldn’t it be great if we had 1,000 like you thinking along CHIROPRACTIC lines?
Wernsing continued to refine both his analysis and adjusting technique over the years. In 1939 B.J. invited Wernsing to present his material to a rather lukewarm crowd at the Palmer Lyceum, but in the 1940's interest in Wernsing's work seemed to grow. Between 1940 and 1941, Wernsing wrote a series of five articles on his work for Los Angeles College of Chiropractic's Chirogram, and in it he made the first description of adjusting the atlas from a side-lying position. Wernsing had invented what he called a vernier adjusting table, allowing the patient to lie comfortably on her side while the headrest cushioned and blocked the occiput during the adjustment. This table could also accommodate the shoulder width of the patient in this position. At this same time, B.J.'s HIO technique was still using a knee-chest position, with the patient kneeling on a table and their head in full rotation, undoubtedly a less comfortable proposition for the patient.

The exact mechanics of Wernsing's adjustment are difficult to ascertain from his writings, but as far as I can tell, it involved a double-thumb (reinforced thumb) contact with a sustained, relatively light pressure, over the atlas transverse process, as opposed to the more dynamic Palmer Toggle-Recoil thrust used in HIO.

Wernsing published his work in a 1941 book called The Atlas Specific. He clearly had a huge influence on B.J. Palmer, and through Palmer's teaching of HIO, later adoption of a side-lying posture for adjustment (thanks largely to Clay Thompson's invention of the drop headpiece) and establishment of a group of loyal upper cervical collaborators called the Palmer Standardized Chiropractors Council, Wernsing's work went on to, perhaps unbeknownst to them, influence major players in the upper cervical technique world like John Grostic, Cecil Laney, Ralph Gregory and others.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dossa Dixon Evins - Inventor & Innovator

One of the most controversial moments in chiropractic history happened in August, 1924, when B.J. Palmer gave his Lyceum speech, The Hour Has Struck. In his speech, B.J. vilified the majority of chiropractors for their mode of practice, and also introduced a new instrument with the proclamation that if you claimed to be practicing chiropractic, you had to be using this instrument. The enrollment at the Palmer School dropped 90% for the five years following B.J.'s speech, and it was a major turning point in Palmer's influence over the profession his father, D.D. Palmer started. The whole controversy began with a relatively unknown chiropractor and engineer named Dossa Dixon Evins who simply wanted to improve how chiropractors assess their patients.

Dossa Dixon Evins was born February 13, 1886 in Blodgett, Missouri. Not much is known about Evins' early life, but he did attend the University of Arkansas and earn a degree in electrical engineering. In World War I, Evins worked for the Secret Service and developed a radio receiver to discover high-powered transmitters, leading to the capture of German spies.

Around 1914, Evins contracted tuberculosis and spent several years in a sanitarium to try to recover. Along the way, he became interested in chiropractic through San Antonio chiropractor Dr. R.S. Marlowe. Evins was interested in Marlowe's method of assessing patients, which involved him using the back of his hand to feel "hot boxes," which he theorized were areas of inflammation caused by vertebral subluxations. Around 1910, B.J. Palmer and Dr. James Wishart developed a tedious method of assessment called "nerve tracing." In this procedure, the doctor would use the back of his hand to feel for warmer areas, then would use palpation to trace the tenderness and pain away from the spine to wherever it would take them. Interestingly, photos from 1911's, The Science, Philosophy and Art of Chiropractic Nerve Tracing show in photos that these nerve tracings often followed the dermatome patterns.

Because of his electrical engineering background, Evins went about creating an instrument that would find these heat abnormalities in the spine, and due to his success with chiropractic as a patient, he enrolled in the Palmer School of Chiropractic (PSC) in August, 1920. While still a student, Evins continued to refine his heat-reading instrument, which he called the Neurocalometer (NCM), as well as inventing the first hydraulic Hylo table, called the Palmer-Evins Hylo.

After graduating in 1922, Evins moved to practice in Kansas City, Missouri, where he continued to work on the NCM instrument. Evins tested the instrument for about a year, then approached Registrar of the Palmer School, Frank Elliott, who helped Evins present it to B.J. Palmer. B.J. felt like this NCM was one of the most important innovations in the history of chiropractic, believing it to be objective proof of where the "flow of mental impulses" was being impeded by vertebral subluxations. Palmer, Elliott and Evins tested the NCM for almost another year before B.J.'s fateful unveiling of the instrument at 1924's Lyceum.

Evins patented the instrument in 1925, and part of the controversy surrounding B.J.'s speech in 1924 were the terms of selling the instrument, which was by lease only. The lease was relatively expensive when inflation rates are accounted for, involving a total cost of $2,000-$2,500 spread out over ten years. By 2010 standards, accounting for inflation, that's the equivalent of $25,000-$31,000!

Unlike B.J., Evins weather the NCM storm quite well. By all accounts, he was a well-liked, humble gentleman. Evins wrote an article in the September, 1925 issue of The Fountainhead News, Palmer's newspaper, putting to rest many rumors about B.J.'s supposed mistreatment of him. Evins continued to develop medical instruments, musical instruments, and was even working on an improved x-ray tube technology when he passed away. Evins was also director of B.J.'s Central Broadcasting Company and was responsible for synchronizing the radio signals from B.J.'s two stations, allowing WOC to broadcast to a wide audience.

At some point, Evins and his wife, Billy, had been vaudeville entertainers, and "Doss" still enjoyed playing the English coronet. Because of his history with tuberculosis, Evins had scars on his lungs that would sometimes open up and bleed. As such, Billie wouldn't allow him to play the instrument whenever she was around. Billie traveled to Arkansas to visit family in 1932, and Doss took the opportunity to play his coronet daily, which reopened many of his lung scars. He bled internally for several days without knowing it, and by the time he realized what had happened, it was too late to save Evins' life. Evins died of pneumonia on November 15, 1932. Five years later, Billy remarried to W.L. "Laddie" Heath, Jr., Mabel Palmer's brother and an important confidante of B.J. in his own right.

Welcome to Chiropractic History

There are some really great chiropractic blogs around, but none of them are dedicated to the fascinating history of the characters and events that make up this wonderful profession. I hope to post regularly on the Chiropractic History Blog and I hope you learn something new and are entertained in the process!