Manipulative Traction

6 Nov

“Manipulative traction” repeatedly referred to by the father of medicine, Hippocrates, has been used throughout medical history by a variety of practitioners, including Roman and Greek “skeleton men” and Egyptian “men of the hands.” In the Middle Ages bone setters were considered equals to traditional physicians with whom they routinely cooperated. The mainstay of the craft was a seven year apprenticeship by boys who completed university training between the ages of 12 to 17 and then joined well regulated guilds.

 The best bone setters along with physicians were paid a stipend by monarchs to insure the health of male lineage. If the sons died or were dysfunctional these practitioners would have to refund the money. Monarchs conferred to called bone setters  “orthopedists,” meaning career of the spine of the baby boy. Bonesetters and herbalists set a precedent for socialized medicine by providing care at no charge to the wives and daughters of royalty.

 Bone setting was Americanized around the turn of the 20th century in the Midwest by osteopaths and chiropractors who used manipulation as their signature therapy. The institutionalization of these professions was partly in response to the aggressive abandonment of holism by establishment medicine in the US where free-market capitalism is considered the mainstay of its economic system in principle if not always in fact. Chiropractic has remained a weak stand-alone profession, but doctors of osteopathy were absorbed by mainstream medicine in the mid 20th century when they were granted the same access to drugs and surgery as MDs.

 The practice of manipulation is based on nerve flow for chiropractors while osteopaths think it improves circulation of blood.  Osteopathic focus on blood is more in line with the practice of allopathic medicine which is based on chemistry. The long-standing philosophical debate between osteopaths and chiropractors about the primary effect of spinal manipulation is somewhat moot because of the inextricable entanglement of the two most basic functions of the body. Whether removing impediments to the flow of nerves or blood, manipulation is used to optimize spinal alignment and function with the goal of maximizing the body’s inherent capacity to manifest health.


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