Both professions utilize hands-on treatment to reset, mobilize, and “adjust” locked-up and dysfunctional spinal and pelvic segments.
By John Bomar, D.C.
This article was featured in Venture Inward, March/April 2007.
Many students of the Edgar Cayce readings have noted that Mr. Cayce repeatedly referred patients to osteopathic physicians. In Mr. Cayce’s era the osteopaths provided treatment that was primarily of a physical medicine nature. They developed many effective techniques for restructuring the spine, mobilizing the immune system, creating lymphatic drainage and stimulating neurological reflex for correcting organ dysfunction and easing chronic pain syndromes. They enjoyed excellent outcomes for a variety of ailments, and many of their cures can only be described as “miraculous.”
While the readings occasionally referred to doctors of chiropractic, these were relatively few. It seems the source of the readings preferred the more complete treatment regimens of the osteopaths of that day. As a practicing chiropractic physician I personally had the advantage of being introduced to the work by an older osteopath who had gone to the original osteopathic school in Kirksville, Missouri, soon after the passing of its founder Andrew Still. Dr. Still was a disillusioned medical doctor who pioneered a new approach to healing that emphasized the importance of neurological integrity and restoration of normal physiology that had been adversely affected by misalignments of the spine and pelvis.
My doctor, Dr. Harris, was an extremely kind older southern gentleman whose work probably saved my life. After I suffered over two years of a severe neurological disability and ineffective medical treatment, Dr. Harris was the first to correctly identify and treat the underlying cause of my problem. On his advice and encouragement I entered the work, but because of limited finances I had no other option but to attend chiropractic school. While in school I supplemented my study with any volume of osteopathic technique I could find, and this proved extremely useful in clinic.
As a 25-year student of the Cayce readings, I always wondered why the Cayce readings preferred the osteopathic work to that done by chiropractors. I knew that both professions utilized hands-on treatment to reset, mobilize, and “adjust” locked-up and dysfunctional spinal and pelvic segments. And I knew that both schools of thought accepted that the work they performed could influence disease states in the body through its beneficial effect on neurological distress in the spine, described by Mr. Cayce as “impingements”.
After my years of practice, I have come to the conclusion that the source of the readings guided patients to osteopaths rather than chiropractors primarily because of the osteopath’s inclusion of connective and soft tissue therapies, which complimented and enhanced the beneficial effect of spinal manipulation. One has only to look at the historical texts during the “golden years” of osteopathy, from its founding at the turn of the century until WWII, to appreciate the wide and varied discussions on the various ways to influence the body through the application of such therapies, including neurological reflex work. And it only makes sense – the spine does not live in a vacuum. It is supported and moved by the muscles around it, and, by my observation, all spinal biomechanical lesions (subluxations) are accompanied by some degree of aberrant nerve reflex and muscle contracture/spasm. Also, the autonomic nerve centers (sympathetic ganglia), whose primary job is to control blood-flow patterns in the body and help regulate organ function, exit directly from and attach directly to the spinal column. Early osteopathic literature also discusses the pathological consequences of “stasis,” or non-movement of body fluids. When blood and lymphatic fluid movement is impaired, it creates fetid areas of distress and disease and diminishes oxygen and nutrient delivery to tissue. With their more comprehensive approach, early osteopathic treatments often last up to 45 minutes and placed special emphasis on deep relaxation, fluid drainage, and neurolymphatic release techniques preparatory to spinal mobilization. They also gave “generalized” treatments with the purpose of overall deep relaxation that enhanced neurological/hormonal balance and harmony.
My observation within the chiropractic profession is that this type of comprehensive approach to healing can be a bit hard to find. During my schooling at Palmer College (the founding school of chiropractic health care), very little emphasis was given to soft tissue work. It seemed as if the school and its teachers thought it a dilution to the “purity of the philosophy” to make much attempt at treating the tissue surrounding the spine or other misaligned joints. Fortunately, these shortcomings have changed radically in recent years and most schools have made very good progress in incorporating complementary techniques of physical therapy and massage into their treatment plans. May now emphasize the importance of initial anti-inflammatory therapies (cold packs, herbal and nutritional supplements, etc.) connective/soft tissue physical therapy and massage, and instruction in rehabilitation exercise.
Yet there remains within the profession a faction that disdains any utilization of soft/connective tissue/neural reflex work. These philosophical fundamentalists, the so-called “straights” within the profession, feel somehow that all that is necessary for muscular, or neurological problems is to mobilize a joint through manipulation (adjustment) creating an audible release. I call them snap-crackle-pop docs. It is probably no coincidence that many of these same practitioners have the stated goal of seeing 100 patients a day. While they are increasingly a minority within the chiropractic profession, they are also the ones that may be most visible through heavy marketing and sales programs, often offering some discounted or free service.
For those seeking physical medicine that approaches the style and technique utilized during Edgar Cayce’s time, one may consult the American Osteopath Association, whose members generally follow their early leaders in the application of osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT) One may also contact the American Chiropractic Association, whose members tend to practice a more comprehensive/holistic approach.
Patients who are moving to a new location and look for a new chiropractor should steer away from the large yellow-pages/newspaper advertisers, looking instead for small professional ads, or even none at all. Asking a number of friends or coworkers about a good chiropractor will often tell you who has the most local respect based on good outcomes and sound practice. I tell patients to avoid any D.C. who has X-ray examination as an absolute requirement for active treatment (this should always be decided on a case-by-case basis). I also advise them to ask if a free consultation can be scheduled before treatment begins. This gives them the chance to meet their doctor face-to-face, ask the right questions, inspect the office for its professionalism and order, and get a “feel” for the practice.
In many ways the mantle of truth inherent in the concept of “somato-visceral reflex” (the premise that disease states in the organs can be a result of nervous system impingements caused by misalignments in the spine or pelvis) ha shifted to the chiropractic profession as osteopathic doctors increasingly adopt allopathic (M.D.) models and treatment regimens. Let us hope the chiropractic profession proves worthy of the new challenge and responsibility.
Dr. John Bomar, a 1978 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic, practices in Arkadelphia, Ark. He is a past board member of the Arkansas Chiropractic Association and a founding board member of the Arkansas Chiropractic Educational Society.