Manual manipulation of the spine and other joints in the body has been around for a long time. Ancient writings from China and Greece dating between 2700 B.C. and 1500 B.C. mention spinal manipulations to ease low back pain.
In addition, Hippocrates, known as the “Father of Medicine” who lived from 460 to 370 B.C., published a text detailing the importance of manual manipulation. In one of his writings he declares, “Get knowledge of the spine, for this is the requisite for many diseases”. Evidence of manual manipulation of the body has been found among the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Babylon, Syria, Japan, the Incas, Mayans and Native Americans. The official beginning of the modern chiropractic profession dates back to 1895.
Daniel David (D.D.) Palmer made a manual adjustment of a neck vertebra, and restored the hearing of a man named Harvey Lillard. Two years later, in 1897, Dr. Palmer went on to begin what is now called the Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa.
D.D. Palmer’s son, Bartlett Joshua (B.J.), took over the Palmer School of Chiropractic in 1904, and led the school through the 1950s. During that time he developed a lot of progress and introduced concepts into the profession, including introducing x-ray to chiropractic, studying spinal biomechanics and morphology, and finding ways to improve reproducibility in both spinal adjustments and patient outcomes. By the 1930s, B.J. Palmer had discovered that he was able to get the best full spine patient outcomes by dealing specifically with the upper neck and brainstem area, and dedicated the rest of his career to teaching and further advancing knowledge of the upper cervical spine complex.
In the 1940s, two upper cervical doctors, John Francis Grostic and Ralph Gregory, collaborated to further refine the upper cervical work. Their revisions primarily included the development of the orthogonal upper cervical model (90° alignment of the atlas with respect to the skull and neck), the side posture adjustment (the head positioned without maximal rotation), and the reduction of the depth of the corrective thrust. These progressions revealed the concept of “holding” a correction, and not needing repetitive adjustments. Gregory’s students went on to develop what is currently known as the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association (NUCCA), while Grostic’s pupils went on to cultivate what is today known as the Society of Chiropractic Orthospinology.
As the Grostic seminars continued, finding ways to make the upper cervical correction more reproducible was always at the forefront. Proponents of hand-held adjusting instruments evolved in the 1970s, and were able to achieve similar or superior results to previous hand adjusting models. These doctors went on to create the society for chiropractic orthospinology (mentioned earlier). Around the same time, Dr. Roy Sweat, who started teaching the Grostic seminars in the 1960s, introduced table-mounted instrument adjusting into the upper cervical world. In 1982, he started the Atlas Orthogonal seminar series and R.W. Sweat Institute, with an aim to standardize the procedure and reduce human error in the delivery of the correction.