From wooden benches to mechanical pieces of art
Various types of spinal manipulation were recorded as far back as 2700 B.C. in places like China and Greece. The history of chiropractic tables does not go nearly as far back, and despite its long history, chiropractic care was first explored in the United States only in 1895.1
It was in this year that D.D. Palmer, practiced the first ever chiropractic adjustment in Davenport, Iowa under the notion that the nervous system was greatly responsible for total body health.
D.D. felt that in order to keep the nervous system flowing free and clear, thus protecting the body from disease and illness, chiropractic manipulation was necessary.2
The first table
In his chiropractic history blog, Steve Agocs, DC, posted a black and white picture of a spinal adjustment being conducted on a flat wooden table that contained absolutely no padding or segments.3
In this particular image, pillows were placed under the patient’s chest and thighs, suspending his entire body a couple of inches above the table with his forehead resting directly on the wood. The table itself was a bench normally used for sitting, which was low enough for the adjustment to be performed.
If doctors wanted to provide more pressure for an adjustment, they would place a bag of lead shot or sand on their shoulders.3
Improving the table
D.D.’s son, B.J. Palmer, continued in his father’s footsteps by choosing to expand and improve chiropractic care.2 B.J. patented a portable table which was manufactured from 1905 to 1916.4
Todd Waters, an antiques collector, describes the Adams Suit Case Table formerly in his collection as being sturdy and well-made, but probably not comfortable for patients. Thinly covered by leather, the pieces clip together like a suit case. When standing separate, one piece was parallel with the ground while the other has a slight angle.4
Another table B.J. chose to use for adjustments appears to be slightly more comfortable, which you can easily see in a video that was taken while he was performing a spinal manipulation in the year 1924.5
In this video, the table has a thin layer of padding, which is a vast improvement over the earlier versions. Additionally, the patient is lying directly on the table, which had inclined areas under the lower body and head and an open space under his torso. This negated the need for the pillows to properly position the body for the adjustment.
Looking more familiar
It would be more than 30 years, in 1955, before the chiropractic table would improve further. J. Clay Thompson patented a a table with a headpiece that was movable, making the adjustment easier on the chiropractor and patient alike.6
Two years later, in 1957, Thompson created a table with multiple “drop points”—the dorsal area, lumbar region, and pelvic area—providing the foundation for the common chiropractic table many DCs use today.6
The history of chiropractic tables is short but varied. Tables have changed significantly and they continue to change today. Advancements in comfort and technology are improving standards for chiropractic tables, and DCs now have many options for their practice.
1 American Chiropractic Association. “History of Chiropractic Care.” https://www.acatoday.org/level3_css.cfm?T1ID=13&T2ID=61&T3ID=149. Published March 2003. Accessed September 2015.
2 Palmer College of Chiropractic. “The Palmer Family.” http://www.palmer.edu/about-us/history/palmer-family/. Published February 2001. Accessed September 2015.
3 Agocs, S. “The Palmer-Toggle Recoil Adjustment.” Chiropractic History Blog. http://chiropractichistory.blogspot.com/2010/03/palmer-toggle-recoil-adjustment.html. Published March 2010. Accessed September 2015.
4 Waters, Todd. “” SpinalColumnRadio.com. http://spinalcolumnradio.com/2011/08/24/chiro-pickers-fresh-pick-suit-case-adjusting-table/ Published August 2011. Accessed September 2015.
5 ExpandingPractice. “BJ Palmer Adjusting in 1924.” YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2zKlUbbDTY. Published May 2008. Accessed September 2015.
6 Absolute Health Chiropractic. “About the Thompson Technique.” http://absolutehealthnj.com/about-us/about-the-thompson-technique.html. Published February 2001. Accessed September 2015.