The question is often asked, “What is osteopathy? Can it be true that disease is cured without the use of medicines such as doctors have been using for thousand of years?”
The answer to this question calls for a brief explanation of the theory and practice of the new system of healing.
Definition. Osteopathy is that system or science of healing that uses the natural resources of the body as curative agents. To this end means are used for the adjustment of structural conditions and relations that may have become abnormal, in order to insure the proper preparation and distribution of the fluids and forces of the body, and to secure the co-operation of functional activities, so as to promote harmony within the body mechanism.
Body a Mechanism. Osteopathy regards the body as a perfectly constructed and adjusted machine, which, so long as it retains its orderly adjustment, will perform its functions in the preservation of a state of health.
Body a Commissariat. Besides this, the organism has the power of preparing all the chemical supplies, material substances and forces necessary for the building and upbuilding of the organism and its parts, provided the proximate principles of food and water with sufficient oxygen are furnished as raw materials.
Blood and Nerves. If every part of this organism is supplied with blood and nerve force, the organism has the capacity of maintaining its healthy normal state of activity, the vital force of the organism holding the balance between the different functional activities.
Health and Disease. Health demands perfect structural adjustment of bone, muscle, ligament, etc., the functions of health being determined by these as the media of manifesting and expressing the relations of the vitality to external existence, which we call living or life.
Disease is the result of some interference with or obstruction to the proper performance of the functioning of the organism or its parts. This is generally an effect of some abnormal anatomical conditions, such as the misplacement of bones, ligaments, muscles, organ structures, the contraction or relaxation of the soft tissues. Such an alteration in the correct anatomical relations of the constituent parts of the body results in an obstruction of the vital forces and vitalized fluids, the nerve force, blood and lymph supply. This obstruction interferes with the harmonious performance of the physiological functions and results in a state of unhealth. This state of unhealth establishes discord in the organism and produces what are called technically diseases, the disease taking a special form from its location, the obstructive condition or the exciting cause of superficial expression.
Vital Mechanism of the Body. The human organism is a perfect vital mechanism. When the tissues are depleted, upbuilding takes place from within by specially prepared tissue foods, the regulation of the repair being guided by internal forces. When the blood is altered in its composition, restoration takes place towards normal by the conjoint action of liver, lungs and blood forming glands, all uniting to renew the blood substance. When the body becomes febrile through an overplus of heat accumulation or lack of heat dissipation, the thermal mechanism directs the counterbalance in the over-activity of the sweat glands, so as to evaporate heat from the body surface and in the excess of vaso-motor activity to bring to the surface in the blood stream, the internal heat surplus. When the heart is overworked, the general cardiac nerve mechanism directs the counterbalance, in the dilation of the superficial blood vessels, to pull away the blood from the heart and relieve the overaction.
The body possesses co-ordinating powers, so that when disorder, irregularity, suspension of function take place, equilibrium may be re-established without resorting to any foreign agency. The principal means used by the organism in regulating and restoring to the different organic activities are the nerve forces and the fluids of the body.
Blood and Nerve Centers. Blood and lymph possess a definite composition, circulate through a tubular system under absolutely known laws supply the tissues with food and drain the waste elements into common channels of elimination. The nerve forces originate in the ganglion cells and pass along the paths of the nerve fibers, furnishing stimulus to the healthful activity and nutritive development of every tissue, blood depending upon nerve force and nerve force upon blood.
Blood has definite paths and nerves have fixed trunk paths. These paths must pass between and through the tissue structures of the body. Hence the movement from normal of bone structure, the abnormal position or variation in size of the soft tissue structures, alter the relations of structure to structure and produce varying degrees of pressure or obstruction or irritation in connection with the blood vessels and nerves.
This condition of interference is greatest at the spine, where the nerve trunks and blood vessels pass out from and enter in the spinal column through small foramina in the bones, the contraction, hardening or thickening of the connecting ligaments intensifying the pressure, obstruction or irritation.
Lesions and Their Causes. The question is often asked by the laity, “What produces these lesions? How did such a bone get out of its place?” The strains, sprains, falls incident to childhood, youth, especially the playful activities of the young, the tension and strain due to the labors of life, the accidents and mischances of every day life in sitting, walking, lying, are sufficient to produce slight deviations in the structures. Exposure to cold, attitudes of the body in different occupations, overactivity of certain portions of the body in certain kinds of work, cause the hardening, thickening, contraction of the ligaments and muscles; and these in turn produce movements of the bones that alter the structural relations. These alterations in structural relations cause the blood vessels and nerves to become irritated, subjected to pressure modifies the blood supply to the organs innervated from the particular region involved, there is an incoördination of the blood and nerve supplies.
Obstructions. Thus, the obstructive conditions involving the nerve and blood supply depend upon, (a) contracture, hardening, thickening of the soft tissues, ligaments, muscles, fascia; and (b) slight alterations in the delicate relations of the bone and cartilage structures. Either one or both of these being the fundamental condition producing the incoördination in the mechanics of the body.
When such a condition of soft tissue contracture or hardening exists all over the surface tissue, there is found a state of peripheral resistance, which reacts very damagingly upon the deeper organs, such as the lungs in tuberculosis, the heart and kidneys, the liver, stomach and intestines in many diseases.
Disease being found to be a result of obstructive interference with the blood and nerve supplies, the logical method of dealing with such disease is to remove the obstructive pressure or irritation, so as to permit the free mechanical play of the structures of the organism in connection with the vitality.
How to Remove Obstructions. Hence osteopathic manipulation is directed to this end. (a) Attention is given primarily to the soft tissues because these are the connecting and binding structures, and until these are normal, the bones and cartilages cannot be corrected or at least kept corrected. Contracted, shortened and thickened ligaments can be reduced by stretching, and hardened fascia can be softened by gentle manipulation or vibration.
(b) Next the bone and cartilage structures can be replaced by articulation or by the skillful manipulation of the framework on the principles of mechanics applied to the bone structures involve, (1) the exaggeration of the maladjustment to free for correction; (2) the application of extension to separate the maladjusted structures; and (3) the correction of the adjustment of the structures by rotation, articulation, the pull and push movement, or some other well-known mechanical principle.
Results of Correction. When this correction takes place, the fluids and forces of the body are free to exert recuperative influence upon the diseased parts of the body, and the native resources of the body being used for purposes of healing and curing.
For example, tonic treatment consists in the restoration of the circulation, the oxygenation of the blood through proper lung action, the oxidation power of the blood through the metabolic activity of the liver, the detoxination of the blood through the action of the ductless glands, and the elimination of waste elements through the kidneys and skin.
Temperature is controlled through the equilibrium of the thermal apparatus of the nervous system, the establishment of vaso-motor equilibrium and the proper activity of the physical methods of heat dissipation, radiation, conduction and evaporation, especially through the sweat system.
Instead of cathartics, intestinal action is restored by the elaboration and distribution of the native secretions of the liver and intestines and the restoration of the isotonic state of the muscle tissue in the intestinal walls.
Distinctive Osteopathic Theory. In the accomplishment of these results what is distinctive of the osteopathic method is, the discovery and the correction or removal of the obstruction, so as to open up the currents of blood and nerve force, to allow free action to the heart in distributing the blood under vaso-motor regulation and correct distribution of nerve force under the general brain, medulla and spinal action. This principle has been applied to many of the acute and chronic forms of disease with marvelous success. Such application has laid down an empiric foundation for the building up of a system of therapeutics based upon this fundamental principle, osteopathic therapeutics.
Distinctive Osteopathic Treatment. The distinctive osteopathic treatment consists of the scientific application of manipulation and other methods on the basis of anatomy, physiology, chemistry and mechanics, so as to utilize the inherent resources of the body to overcome disease and restore health. This is done, (a) by manipulation, in the restoration of normal anatomical relations, (b) in the removal of obstructions by manipulation, or (c) by any other method of nature not involving the use of anything alien or foreign to the body proximate principles, (d) by stimulating the physiological processes from the great vital centers of the organism, and thus determining the natural chemical secretions and excretions of the body.
Distinctive Etiology. The etiology of diseases depends upon obstructive conditions or disorder in the form of structural lesions, sanitary, hygienic and hereditary conditions, which lower or pervert the vitality of the patient, by obstructing the nerve impulses, seemming the current of arterial or venous blood and thus causing irritation, inflammation or malnutrition. A neurosis is in many cases the fundament upon which acute diseases or acute manifestations of a disordered organism are built.
Distinctive Pathology. The new pathology is a pathology of perversion. Prior to the establishment of what are known as morbid anatomy changes, we find perversions in the functionings. All cases of disease where pathology exists start in an exaggeration or diminution of physiological activity, due to obstructive or irritative structural disturbances. This produces an abnormal reaction in some of the functional activities, and when such perverted functioning exists for any length of time, the result is that morbid changes take place in the tissues. These have been called the pathology or morbid anatomy changes par excellence by the regular medical doctors.
Bacteriology. It is here that bacteriology finds its level and secures a place in the osteopathic theory. Bacteria are existent, but before the germ can find lodgment the body must be in a weakened or depleted condition, due to a prior perversion of functioning, and consequent neurosis and malnutrition. In fighting against the micro-organisms, therefore, we find pure blood a perfect germicide, healthy tissue cells the strongest phagocytic agents and a readjusted organism the most favorable battleground for the destruction and elimination of the germs and their toxins.”
An illustration may be found in that dread disease tuberculosis. The lung tissues receive their nerve supply principally from the pneumogastric nerve. Obstruction or irritation of this nerve cuts off the normal trophic impulses upon which the lungs depend for healthy vitality. Degeneration begins in the membranes when the nerve supply is abnormal. The result is that a pathological condition of exudation is established. Cough results with consequent expectoration. Here is a degenerative state of the lungs which opens up a culture field for the lodgment and development of the tubercle bacilli.
The explanation of the osteopathic cure of certain cases of tuberculosis is found in the removal of the obstructive conditions involving the nerve supply to the lungs, checking thereby the symptoms of constant cough, expectoration and night sweats, which are often taken as the indices of consumption. These symptoms, in reality, represent the stage of perverted functioning, during which the tissue field is in preparation for the degenerative changes of real consumption. When these conditions are controlled, there is a nutritive upbuilding of the lungs to the point of resistance to the action of the tubercular germs.
Dr. Thomas J. Mays, in writing on “Pulmonary Consumption” says, “The lesion is not one originating in the local tissues, but in the nervous system * * All forms and phases of pulmonary disease are constantly called forth through the instrumentality of vagus disintegration.” Behind the pathology of tubercle formation lies perverted nerve action and behind this lies obstructive or irritative conditions causing the abnormal functioning of the nerve and exposing the neurotic lung or other tissue to the micro-organic infection.
Currents of Vitality. The pathways along which nature transmits the currents of vitality to the different organs and tissues is connected in some way with the spinal cord through the spinal nerves, and the sympathetic system establishes its visceral connection everywhere by means of its ramifying branches. Hence the failure to receive vital currents at some particular point of the body will infallibly establish a specific lesion of obstruction or irritation.
Congestion, inflammation and degeneration are primarily due to a failure of the venous drainage system to perform its duty. This is a result of disturbed circulation and depends upon some obstructive condition produced by muscular, ligamentous, or osseous pressure. The removal of the pressure establishes normal drainage and health processes.
Nature’s Therapy and Physician. In all this work the physician of nature is aided by the first law of nature’s therapy. Nature always tends towards the normal, preserving while life lasts the normalizing tendencies. This tendency to the normal, however, is valueless, so long as obstructions exist, whatever these may be.
Hence, the main duty of the physician of nature, Nature herself being the great physician, is to keep the field of nature’s activity free.
To accomplish this, certain things must be done. (1) contracting relaxed and relaxing contracted soft tissues; (2) adjusting osseous and cartilaginous structures in their inter-relations; (3) soothing the irritation of overactive tissues by inhibition applied through the nerve centers; (4) arousing torpid or inactive tissues by stimulation applied through the nerve centers, and (5) establishing free and uninterrupted currents of vitality by adjusting the entire organism to itself and its parts, as well as adapting the body to its environment of diet, air, climate, sanitation, etc.
Appeal to Medical Profession. Many regard Osteopathy as a type of faith cure, with which it has, however, no affinity. The fundamental principles of the science are the common property of humanity, developed in the history of physical, physiological and anatomical research. There is nothing new claimed for these principles except their application.
Osteopathy seeks to localize every essential land mark of the body with the view of reaching by manipulative methods the most remote parts of the organism, through the superficial channels nature herself has provided. No man, no group of men, no part of the healing profession has the right to arrogate to itself the claim to deal exclusively with diseases. Nothing can claim a place in the therapeutic field that can not prove its claims beyond a reasonable doubt. Of this new claimant in the field of theory it may be safely said, many hitherto incurable cases and many diseases regarded as curable, both acute and chronic, have yielded to its application.
Dr. E. H. Pratt, in The Journal of Orificial Surgery writes: “Osteopathy is not only a science based upon an accurate knowledge of regional anatomy, but also an art to acquire which requires an educated sense of touch. * * * Like all other inovations, it will be first ridiculed, then persecuted, then abused, before it will be permitted to pass into history as a legitimate remedial professional measure. That this latter, however, will be its final destination, there is not the shadow of a doubt, because its utility as a means of cure is established beyond question and its permanency of existence thereby insured.”
R. Walter, M. D.: I would like to say a few words about a part of this subject; physicians are continually talking about stimulation; that nerve, that muscle, that limb needs stimulation, and thereby will be endowed with activity and vigor. I have had considerable experience with the effects of stimulants and of alcohol, the greatest stimulant in the world. It produces the peculiar effect of making a man feel warm when he is cold and of feeling strong when he is weak; it makes him feel neighborly when he is glum. Alcohol is the great representative stimulant and what is true of it is true of all other stimulants. If a stimulant does give strength, where does it come from? the stimulant? or the man? It comes from the man in every case, no matter what the nature of the agent in question; if it is a stimulant it draws its strength from the man and gives absolutely nothing itself. They are taking just so much out of the man; they are depleting the power that maintains the man in health, are providing for future ill-health. The beauty of homoeopathy is that it does not do anything like that. I hold that that is the essential difference between homoeopathy and all stimulation in the world. Homoeopathy is the science of restoring the vital activity. A man suffering from heat or cold or pain or some discomfort goes to a homoeopathic physician and medicine is administered that restores the vital activity and the symptoms are relieved, and the part diseased, whatever it may be, is able to perform its functions without external aid.
When the water cure is used for the purpose of stimulating and retarding the recovery we should go to work and investigate the means by which that power may be recuperated. Increase the power that made the man and the power that holds him in health and you are doing the best thing that can be done to help the sick. You restore the substantial vigor that maintains the healthy function of the organs. Very different is the results of stimulation.
Nature’s great restorative is through the process of sleep; it is the representative process of all recuperation; the condition of helplessness, of unconsciousness, of inactivity is the time when nature’s restorative forces are at work. The power that would be spent in keeping the various functions and activities up is quiet, resting, and being restored. The next morning the man expends the power that was stored up in the night. There is our model; we should imitate nature in this. There is all the difference in the world between a system that stimulates a man and a system that recuperates him.
W. L. Morgan, M. D.: I have had some little experience with osteopathy before it was ever discovered; it was in 1872 I received my instruction in it from a very crude homoeopathic physician; he was an accurate prescriber but a very crude man. He was especially good in obstetrics. I had a case in which labor was delayed by violent and useless pains in the back. He showed me that such pains were caused by an abnormal condition and that could be allayed by a little manipulation along the sides of the spinal column as is now directed in the works on osteopathy.
I was much surprised to see how quickly order was restored, the spinal pains disappeared and the labor proceeded naturally to completion. I have seen that done many times since. Hence I claim that the last speaker was wrong when he decries such an action as stimulation. I claim that it was not a stimulant nor was it a depressant but a restoration to order.
E. B. Hooker, M. D.: I quite agree with the last speaker. It is not proper to call such an action stimulation any more than it is proper to call the action of the homoeopathic remedy stimulation. The action of the remedy is the restoration to order, and it may take a stimulating action or it may take a depressing action, in either case it is a restoration to order. Samuel Hahnemann when explaining the method of homoeopathic cures, said that the remedy aroused the vital force, which may be called stimulation as it calls it to increased activity. I disagree entirely with the gentleman in regard to stimulation, and I do not believe that all stimulants are like alcohol.
R. Walter, M. D.: Then why should the medicine be a similar medicine and not the same? Why administer the same thing in stimulation and not a similar?
W. L. Morgan, M. D.: I do not know what we will do with all our drug provings if they are all the results of stimulation. The idea conveyed to most people by the phrase restoration to order seems to me much nearer the truth. But after all we agree that the like or similar remedy will cure and that is the main point.
Hills Cole, M. D.: I would like to know what the osteopaths do in a case of poisoning if it is a complete system of therapeutics. We also hear much about dislocated vertebrae. That seems to be a new thing. At least it must be a very different thing from dislocation in the ordinary sense, that is, the surgical sense.
J. Martin Littlejohn, M. D.: I thank you all for your expression of opinion. I want to say that I am not a faddist. I was a student of the allopathic school of medicine in the oldest university of Europe and am a graduate of the homoeopathic college and have studied the organon of Hahnemann. I believe that the science of osteopathy will stand upon a similar law to that of homoeopathy. I do not think that Dr. Walters’ strictures stand against osteopathy at all upon the question of stimulation; there is no question of general stimulation such as is obtained from alcohol. There is no affinity between osteopathy and whisky. I spoke of five points in osteopathy, and stimulation was only one of them. And here it does not mean a general stimulation of the whole body, but a localized stimulation where it is necessary. Dr. Morgan is right, osteopathy only attempts to set in order that which is out of order. That answers the question. That is absolutely the correct view of the osteopathic remedy. You must use something that will go to the internal economy, to the vital order of the individual body where crude drugs cannot reach; the vital order of the body has got to be affected by, and can best be affected by, the vibration of the potenized remedy which will bring a state of order out of confusion. It is absolutely the same thing that we try to do from the standpoint of osteopathy; namely, to bring order out of confusion. Dr. Walter says that you would not dare to apply stimulation to an exhausted man at the end of the day’s work. I say, “yes.” If not, why is it then that the worn out men of business of Chicago come to the osteopath at four o’clock when the day’s work is done. Because ït rests and soothes them; they take the treatment and go home to supper and they go to bed and sleep all in a way that would be impossible without the osteopathic treatment. The only correct idea of it is the restoration of order in that which was in disorder. I have had some experience with the use of the homoeopathic remedy as well as with osteopathy and also I may say with the old school of medicine. Why is it that with certain cases you can raise them up to a certain point but beyond that point you cannot go?
It is because there is some mechanical irritation that needs osteopathic treatment to relieve, and then your homoeopathic remedy will make a permanent cure. There was a doctor in Oklahoma, with certain symptoms who was treated by the best homoeopaths in the world, and they could not get him beyond a certain point, never to the point of cure. Why? Because there were obstructive conditions that prevented the vital force from acting. That man came to me and after a few osteopathic treatments the remedy acted and acted permanently. The physical was set in order by the treatments and the vital was set in order by the remedy. Someone asked what osteopathy would do in case of poisoning. The osteopathic system takes cognizance of poison cases from a chemical and mechanical standpoint. If you speak of chronic poisoning by allopathic drugging there is only one thing that can cure that state and that is high potencies in the homoeopathic field. In acute poisoning there is no other method of treatment but the use of chemical antidotes and the subject is not different among the osteopaths than it is among others. It does claim to be a complete curative system; it professes to cure by removing obstructions, and thus allowing the vital force free field.
The osteopath, just as Dr. Walter said of homoeopathy, diverts the path to neighboring tissues, takes energy from the path where there is too much and puts it where there is too little and thus restores order. I thank you for this opportunity of presenting the subject and hope that you will look into it. Do not take the ideas of others about it but look into it yourself. There was another question: The osteopath does not use the word “dislocation” but “displacement” in regard to the position of bones, especially of the vertebrae. Dislocation is there an entirely wrong word; what is meant is slight displacement. The deviation of one bone in relation to another bone, or deviation from the chronic contraction or from the thickening of a ligament around the vertebrae. Spinal curvature is an example on a large scale of what we often find on a small scale.