Chiropractic as it is known today made its first recorded appearance in the United States in September, 1895.
According to Palmer College of Chiropractic this is when Daniel David (D.D.) Palmer—often referred to as the founder of chiropractic—first successfully applied this newly created treatment method.
Additionally, Palmer’s very first patient was a man by the name of Harvey Lillard, a man who worked as a janitor in the building that housed Palmer’s magnetic healing business at the time and Palmer College posted a reprint of Lillard’s testimony, crediting Palmer with healing deafness he’d had since he was 17-years-old.
At the bottom of this testimony is a 1956 painting created by Chester Paciorek depicting this very first adjustment and offering an idea of what the very first chiropractic table may have actually looked like.
The first chiropractic table
In this painting, the table used by Palmer appears to be nothing more than a long, wooden bench that stood knee-high. It also looks as if this bench was covered in some type of material, though it is unclear from the depiction what that material potentially was or whether there was any padding beneath it.
Compare that to an undated black and white photo posted on the Chiropractic History Blog by Steve Agocs, DC, and one gets a clearer image of what one of the first chiropractic table actually looked like.
This picture is much less inviting than the one seen in the painting as it was nothing more than a flat wooden table which had no covering or padding whatsoever and the patient is seen with pillows under his chest and thighs, suspending his entire body, leaving nothing touching but his forehead which rested directly on the wood.
Making the table portable
1905 marks the year the first portable chiropractic table was manufactured according to Steve Simmons, DC. Known as the Adams Suit Case Table—likely because it was produced by the Suit Case Factory and was in the company’s Adams Line—this table was also made of wood, yet it came in a leather case and opened into two separate pieces.
The top piece of the table was slanted upward and intended for the patient’s upper body, says Simmons, and the purpose of the second piece isn’t truly known. Though he does suggest that it could have been used for the patient’s lower body or it may have simply been a desk of sorts, forcing the patient to kneel next to the one side and receive his or her adjustment in that position.
The first patented chiropractic table
The first patented chiropractic table didn’t appear until December 3, 1910 according to Agocs, and was filed by John H. Schenck, a man who may or may not have been a doctor of chiropractic. In an image of the drawing of the table submitted with the patent, not only is there padding covering the top and bottom of the table, but the middle section is sunken in, with thicker padding there as well.
This table was also different from the ones in images before it in that it moved from a horizontal position to a vertical one. In the post, Agocs shares that the patent revealed this was so the patient could be lowered into a horizonal position for treatment and raised upright “so as to leave the table without producing any ill effects of an undoing of the good effects produced by the treatment.
It is this type of table what can be seen in a video posted by ExpandingPractice, In this video, B.J. Palmer (D.D. Palmer’s son) is seen performing a spinal manipulation in 1924 via slow motion photography. Additionally, this is one of the first evidences showing the patient lying face down, directly on the table as opposed to being suspended above by pillows or kneeling on the floor beside it.
Enter movable pieces
It would be more than 30 years before the chiropractic table would improve further by adding moveable pieces. In 1955, J. Clay Thompson purchased a chiropractic table with a broken headpiece.
However, after eventually buying a new table, Thompson realized that he obtained better results with the broken one as it allowed the patient’s head to drop slightly when he delivered a thrust. His patients preferred the broken table as well, leading Thompson to the development of the drop headpiece.
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.
The history of chiropractic tables is relatively short, but it is also varied.
Tables have changed significantly in past years and they continue to change today, making advancements in comfort and technology, and improving standards.
This gives DCs many different options when choosing the best ones for their individual practices.