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Home | About Up C Spine | Chiropractic | Green Books | Harvey Lillard - 1895


Harvey LillardThis section is dedicated to the Green Books of Chiropractic. I will review and summarize various chapters which I think may be of interest, or thought provoking. I have already provided one Green Books summary on my site. It discusses Palmer's Hole-in-one theory and conclusions regarding subluxations. Please click on the following link for further information http://www.upcspine.com/tech8.htm

Picture 'Harvey Lillard': The Green Books; Compiled Rob Sinnott, D.C.; ©Chiropractic Books 1997; Volume 1:1920 - Page 60

In my readings about chiropractic I obviously came across references to the Harvey Lillard adjustment by D.D. Palmer. For those people who are not aware of this little piece of history I will summarize briefly.

In 1895 D.D. Palmer discovered a bump in the 'back' (I'll get to this shortly) of Harvey Lillard, his janitor who was deaf and had been so for 17 years or so, and proceeded to adjust 'a displaced 4th dorsal vertebra' back into position at which point Mr. Lillard's hearing was reportedly restored. You will come across many references to this adjustment and quite rightly the exact causal mechanisms are being debated.

For example, there are suggestions by Marsarsky[1] that a subluxation at T4 could be "responsible for preganglionic outflow to the stellate and superior cervical ganglion… and "our current understanding of the sympathetic innervation of the cochlear vasculature… seems to suggest that a probable explanation exists". As a past sufferer of tinnitus I can tell you that on occasions when my tinnitus, fullness etc. were at their worst, both my neck and back pain were most noticeable. For me, even a bite splint provided by a dentist halted the tinnitus and ear problems in their tracks. Utilization of the jaw caused problems to start again, including back and neck pain. There are numerous muscular connections between the cervical spine, shoulder and jaw musculature. Thus any usage (eating, talking & yawning) can and does, cause spasms in the cervical and shoulder muscles to occur. This could affect structures around T4.

Which vertebra was actually adjusted in Mr. Lillard's back in 1895? If you read the Chiropractic Green Books you will note the following references to the Harvey Lillard[2] adjustment.

On page 137 of D. D. Palmer's book, THE SCIENCE, ART, AND PHILOSOPHY OF CHIROPRACTIC (1911), is a picture of Harvey Lillard. Underneath, is this statement: "The above is a likeness of Harvey Lillard, the first person who received a Chiropractic adjustment from the hands of D. D. Palmer."

"On Sept. 18, 1895, Harvey Lillard called upon me. He was so deaf for seventeen years that he could not hear the noises on the street. Mr. Lillard informed me that he was in a cramped position and felt something give IN HIS BACK. I replaced the displaced 4TH DORSAL VERTEBRA by one move, which restored his hearing." D.D. Palmer

Comments from B.J. Palmer:
" My father was at all times and in all ways an honest man, not given to misrepresentations, evasions, or deceit in anything he said, wrote, or printed. He was factual in all professional statements but one - which we here now correct.

We consistently and repeatedly have said it was NOT "4th dorsal vertebra" but was AXIS that was adjusted in Harvey Lillard. Why this discrepancy, this disagreement?

In those early days, there was no mention of "vertebral subluxation" in ANY book on anatomy or orthopedic surgery. It was something NEW, even to my father. All medical books WERE FULL OF DISLOCATIONS. All medical books said that if anything happened in the backbone IT WAS A DISLOCATION, and all strenuously warned and advised against any fooling with the bones OF THE NECK particularly, because TO DO SO WOULD PRODUCE A DISLOCATION AND PRODUCE COMPLETE PARALYSIS OF THE BODY BELOW.

What had father done? Had he set a DISLOCATION? If so, it was a dangerous thing to do.
In those early days, father's idea was in stage of growing pains. He did not want ANYBODY to do ANYTHING to NECKS, for fear of consequences. He taught his earliest students, "Stay away from THE NECK because you MIGHT produce paralysis and thus destroy my new work which is just beginning to take shape. If some of you boys should fool around with necks and paralyze people, you easily could kill my new work before we get it established."

For this reason only, my father covered up WHAT he did, WHERE he did it, to avoid dangers that COULD occur. For THIS reason ONLY, he said WHAT he did and WHERE he did it was "4th dorsal vertebra."

Why do I say it was "the axis"? Because I was there and SAW WHAT HE DID, WHERE he did it-and it WAS the axis.

We since have learned much about cervical vertebral subluxations which are common in almost every person, which are NOT dislocations; and ADJUSTING THEM BY HAND ONLY is easy and is NOT fraught with danger when done correctly and efficiently."

Source: The Green Books; Compiled Rob Sinnott, D.C.; ©Chiropractic Books 1997; Chapter 7 - Pages 117-118

So there you have it. According to B.J. Palmer, the adjustment given that day back in 1895 was to Harvey Lillard's axis (C2) vertebra and not to T4 (thoracic). But does it mean that a T4 subluxation does not affect hearing? Not sure, however as most upper cervical chiropractors will know subluxations in the upper cervical spine (C1 and C2) do in fact affect the spinal column throughout, causing secondary misalignment as the skeleton realigns underneath the skull. As a result of scoliosis there could be the potential for muscular interference to structures within the vicinity of the T4 vertebra.

Therefore I put to you that there may be a connection between back problems and hearing disorders. I am also aware that upper cervical adjustments correct scoliosis resulting from atlas subluxations, and therefore it stands to reason that a correction of an upper cervical subluxation can correct 'misalignments' below C1 and even at T4.

Whilst I'm certain that the debate will continue, the important thing is to get more studies started which investigate upper cervical chiropractic so that we patients can benefit.


The “Green Books” cover a broad spectrum, that of which is chiropracTIC in its true essence. As the profession has blossomed into its present day arrangement, it has undergone many pivotal and transitional changes which account for its unique identity today. Efforts to place some of these often cryptic time periods in the professions identity are captured in the Green Book volumes. Some of this context needs to be elucidated. Included in these books are links to relevant information and history, behind some of the most renowned are the chiropracTIC Green Books..

So if you are interested in knowing more about the green books that were written by the developer of chiropractic, BJ Palmer and a few other people, or you would like to purchase some green books, please go to http://www.chiropracticbooks.com/

The Green Books CD can be obtained by contacting Rob Sinnott, DC at chirobooks@sbcglobal.net.

  1. Masarsky CS, Todres-Masarsky M: Subluxation and the Special Senses, Chap 13, pp184, ‘Somatovisceral Aspects of Chiropractic’-An Evidence Based Approach. Pennsylvania, 2001, Churchill Livingston.
  2. The Green Books; Compiled Rob Sinnott, D.C.; ©Chiropractic Books 1997. Chapter 7 – Pages 117-118
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