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The Story of Osteopathy Part Six

Andrew had an epiphany on 22nd June 1874 - he saw the body as an intricate machine which if free from displacements, derangements and contractures, nourished and cared for, will perform the functions for which it was intended, having within itself the power to manufacture and prepare all chemicals, materials and forces needed to regain its normal equilibrium and run smoothly to a useful old age. In September 1874 Andrew performed what he later called his first osteopathic treatment (although he wouldn’t call it that until 1885), treating for no fee a poor boy he saw in the street with his lower body covered with blood. In Andrews’ own words: “My first case was of bloody flux (haemorrhagic gastroenteritis) in a little boy of about four summers. I didn’t know what caused the flux, except that it affected young and old alike and was common in summer. I knew that a person had a spinal cord, but really I knew little, if anything, of its use. I had read in anatomy that the upper portion of the body was supplied with motor nerves from the front side of the spinal cord, and that the back side of the cord gave off the sensory nerves, but that gave no very great clue to what to do for flux. I placed my hand on the back of the little fellow, in the region of the lumbar, which was very warm, even hot, while the abdomen was cold. I began work at the base of the brain, and thought by pressure and rubbing I could push some of the hot to the cold places. While so doing I found rigid and loose places in the muscles and ligaments of the whole spine, while the lumbar was in a very congested condition. I worked for a few minutes on that philosophy, and told the mother to report to me the next day, and if I could do anything more for her boy I would cheerfully do so. She came early next morning with the news that her child was well. Flux was in a large percent of the families of Macon. My home at that time was still in Baldwin, Kansas, and I was only visiting in Macon. The lady whose child I had cured brought many people with their sick children to me for treatment. As nearly as I can remember, I had seventeen severe cases of flux in a few days, and cured them all without drugs.”

 Soon after, Andrew was publicly “read out” (or formally removed) from the Methodist Church by the minister in Baldwin, Kansas. Because of his “laying on of hands”, Andrew was accused of trying to emulate Jesus Christ and was labelled an agent of the devil. His practice dropped off rapidly. He was socially and professionally ostracized, became financially destitute, and was ultimately forced to move his family to Macon, Missouri. From that time he called himself a “magnetic healer”. Shortly after he moved alone to Kirksville, Missouri and after three months sent for his family to join him. Kirksville at that time had a population of 6000. In 1876, he was stricken with typhoid and for six months was confined to bed. From 1880 until 1885 Andrew called himself a “Lightning Bone Setter” traveling from town to town in rural Missouri. He used to treat people in the street for all manor of diseases solely using lightening bone setting, and was known as the “tramp doctor”, sleeping wherever he could find a bed. He was away from his wife and children for months at a time. In 1885, on the advice of his friend, the Scottish doctor William (Bob) Smith, Andrew changed the name of his healing art from lightening bone setter to osteopathy, from the Greek “osteon” for bone and “pathos” for suffering. In 1886 Bob Smith helped Andrew set up his first clinic in Kirksville and Andrew stopped travelling. Andrew continued to refine osteopathy. He described the principals of osteopathy as: structure governs function, the medicine chest within, the rule of the artery reigns supreme and the body is a unit. Although he and others doubted whether osteopathy could be taught, he made several attempts to train others. Andrew hoped that his two sons would carry on his work through the establishment of a school of osteopathy, so he waited for their return from service in the army. During this time patients flocked from all over America for his treatment. Hotels were built in the town of Kirksville to house the many patients who arrived daily for help.

January 29th 2019


Philip Bayliss, Registered Osteopath, 43 Thames Street, St Albans, Christchurch, NZ. ☎️03 356 1353