Manual Therapy Project

Manual Therapy Project

As a young man who received excellent results from chiropractic treatment for severe headaches caused by a neck injury, I became fascinated by the therapeutic potential of manual therapy – the use of the hands to diagnose and treat illness. At about this same time I started to become aware of the work of Edgar Cayce, which strongly endorsed various forms of manual therapy for a wide range of conditions involving both physical and mental illness.

In particular, I became convinced that most mental illness has a strong physical dimension that can often benefit from manual therapy. This viewpoint was bolstered by visits to the archives of Palmer Chiropractic (Iowa) and Kirksville (Missouri) where I researched the use of manual treatments for mental illness. Numerous articles and books described the therapeutic efficacy of osteopathy and chiropractic for the treatment of major mental illness. As a grad student in clinical psychology, I utilized my understanding of this material in a master's thesis titled, "Clinical and Research Implications of Autonomic Nervous System Involvement in Schizophrenia."

The relevance of the autonomic nervous system in schizophrenia may not be so obvious to unless one delves into the medical literature. Even then, the presence of autonomic features in this devastating mental illness is usually thought be a byproduct of underlying brain disease. While this may certainly be the case, the traditional manual therapy literature also asserts that injury or disease to the nervous system outside the brain can be a causal factor. For example, spinal injury was regarded as a significant factor in many of the cases of major mental illness treated by the osteopathic physicians at the Still-Hildreth Osteopathic Sanitarium in Macon, Missouri during the early years of the development of osteopathy. Likewise, the chiropractors following the lead of Palmer were reporting excellent results in their sanitariums.

As I studied the Cayce information and found dozens of cases of major mental illness (including schizophrenia) that were said to have been caused by spinal injury. Referrals to manual therapy practitioners, and even to the Still-Hildreth Osteopathic Sanitarium, were common in the Cayce readings provided for persons with mental illness.

Eventually I compiled enough information to extend my master's thesis into my first book: "The Treatment of Schizophrenia – A Holistic Approach Based on the Reading of Edgar Cayce." After working in the mental health system for several years, my attention shifted to research of the Cayce approach for a wide variety of disorders. These projects are documented on the Meridian Institute website.

Manual therapy played a central role in the diverse clinical research programs undertaken at Meridian Institute. We focused attention on both the principles and techniques of manual therapy, publishing our results in peer-reviewed journals.

Manual Therapy For Systemic Disease

At Meridian Institute some of our early publications addressed the concept of manual therapy for systemic disease.  Historically both the osteopathic and chiropractic traditions are full of cases of systemic illness that can benefit from manual therapy.  The Cayce approach also takes this position very definitely.

Yet mainstream medicine had a serious problem with such possibilities.  Having just begrudgingly allowed chiropractors to treat back pain due to a Supreme Court ruling in the late twentieth century, there was no way mainstream clinicians and researchers could allow manual therapists to claim efficacy for systemic illness.  When a New England Journal of Medicine article reported research findings that apparently demonstrated that chiropractic was not helpful for asthma patients, we protested citing that the “sham” treatment closely resembled a traditional general osteopathic treatment.  By the way, the research subjects did show some improvement during the study.

A letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine was published as well as articles to two of the top manual therapy journals.  The chiropractic journal article was titled Manual Healing Diversity And Other Challenges To Chiropractic Integration.  It was published in the “Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics” in 2000.

The osteopathic journal article was titled Manual Medicine Diversity: Research Pitfalls And The Emerging Medical Paradigm and was published in the "The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association" in 2001.

Manual Therapy For Physiological Regulation

One of the reasons that manual therapy may be helpful in the treatment of systemic illness relates to systemic physiological effects said to be linked to manual treatment.  Manipulating, massaging, adjusting, and even simply holding pressure on a nerve center along the spine (or other centers as described in the literature) can have measurable effects as we demonstrated with a simple osteopathic technique called “holding the vasomotor.”  The researching findings were published in a article titled Osteopathic Regulation of Physiology in “The American Academy of Osteopathy Journal,” 2001).

We also had a book chapter in a mainstream medical textbook published on the concept of physiological regulation via manual therapy (Physiological Regulation Through Manual Therapy, published in "Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: State of the Art Reviews”, Vol. 14, No. 1, February, 2000).

Nervous System Regeneration

The concept of nervous system regeneration is probably the most extreme area of manual healing for systemic illness.  The Cayce material contains many examples of the use of manual therapy in conjunction with electrotherapy and other modalities for the treatment of diverse neurological conditions ranging from multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease to schizophrenia and various dementias.

The manual therapy portion of this therapeutic model focuses heavily on the concepts of “coordination” and “drainages.”  You will have encountered these concepts if you have read the previously cited articles.  In the Cayce readings a formula for “rebuilding the brain” requires these techniques in addition to energy medicine and other modalities as discussed in the following excerpt:

The PRINCIPLE [of using electrotherapy with gold or silver] being that these change the vibratory forces as they add to or take from impulses within the system, from which those of the sensory [nervous] system, or senses, react in the brain itself, and which takes place much as has been given with gold and silver in their varied conditions as may be applied to the system . . . for WITH the proper manipulations to PRODUCE coordination WITH drainage in the system, as may be given through manipulation osteopathically, or neuropathically given to the system under various stages, may create for a body almost a new brain, will the patience, the suggestion, the activities in the system BE carried out according to the conditions as necessary to be met.  (1800-16)

I have written a text that elaborates on the concept of nervous system regeneration titled Principles and Techniques of Nerve Regeneration.  I have excerpted out two portions that discuss the role of manual therapy which can be downloaded here in pdf format. The focus is primarily on "coordination WITH drainage" as recommended by Cayce and described in the traditional osteopathic and neuropathic literatures.

The Early American Manual Therapy Collection

Having invested considerable time, energy, and financial resources in researching the various aspects of manual therapy, I decided to make the material available to other seekers. The Early American Manual Therapy collection is the culmination of this project. It is currently in Version 6.0 and I intend to continue to expand the collection as resources become available.

SFG 3 Resources – Multidimensional Healing

Multidimensional Healing

(Note: This article by David McMillin was originally published in True Health newsletter.)

One of the major challenges of researching holistic medicine is collecting data that reflects the whole person. We are each multidimensional beings with many facets. Whether we use a triune model (physical, mental, and spiritual) or some other concept to describe our multifaceted nature, developing research instruments that are sensitive to all the dimensions of life is essential. To be sure, there are numerous questionnaires that measure physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual attributes. In our research studies we have used a wide variety of instruments that focus on physical and psychological symptoms. In keeping with holistic philosophy, we have also used the Spiritual Well Being Scale and the Index of Spiritual Experience to explore the soul dimension of health. And yet at times participants in our research programs have reported positive outcomes that did not register on any of these instruments. For a health researcher, that is very disturbing! To address this dilemma, we created the Healing Questionnaire. The Healing Questionnaire is a simple, one-page document that lists six forms of healing. Wayne Jonus, M.D., had previously recognized four forms of healing: cure, care, empowerment, and enlightenment. In creating the Healing Questionnaire, we added quality of life (QOL), because this aspect of healing has become so well established in mainstream medical research. We also included soul development, because the Edgar Cayce readings sometimes cited this as the most important form of healing. As a research tool the Healing Questionnaire requires more work in terms of statistical reliability and validity. Apart from the research aspect, we have realized that the questionnaire appears to be most useful as a clinical intervention. In other words, just making patients aware of the various forms of healing that they may experience seems to increase the probability of a positive outcome. To understand how this can happen, let’s look at each of the six forms of healing on the questionnaire.


Many of the people who come to our research programs equate healing with cure. Very often, the way they define cure is “put me back the way I was before I got sick, but don’t ask me to change anything.” They want a magic bullet. From a medical perspective, most chronic illnesses are incurable and of unknown causation. Traditional systems of healing (such as osteopathy) are based on the concept of “cure by removal of cause.” For me, part of the attraction of the Edgar Cayce health readings is that they identify the causes of many diseases. Inherent in Cayce’s approach is the premise that, “With the causes removed, the general system may be built back to normal reactions.” (2772-2)


As a form of healing, care deals with symptomatic relief and decrease in suffering. With care, there is less pain, discomfort, or inconvenience. Although medical science is seeking the cure of many diseases, it is in the area of care that most of the progress has been made. Some people view care as a limited form of healing because it focuses so much on symptoms. To be sure, symptom suppression without consideration of the basic causes of illness has its limitations. As with all the forms of healing on the Healing Questionnaire, Edgar Cayce viewed care as an appropriate and important form of healing. For a woman suffering attacks of asthma, Cayce gave dietary recommendations and prescribed spinal manipulations that were typical for this condition, but observed that, “… with the precautions as to diet, as to the care of self and of the general activity, the body may be bettered by same – but not cured of the condition … there will still remain those tendencies.” (2977-1) Note that the “care of self” may lead to a “bettered” condition, not cure. For a man with terminal cancer, Cayce prescribed ultraviolet light and plantain salve to relieve the pain from sarcoma nodules. Cayce cautioned, “These will bring ease. These will not cure, but are sources of help …” (3387-1) In this context, “ease” and “help” are indicative of care which is intended to relieve suffering. Like modern clinicians, Cayce definitely regarded care as a valid form of healing.

Quality of Life

In recent years, quality of life (QOL) has become an important form of healing for medical researchers. QOL relates to activities of daily living – of simply being able to do the things that make life worthwhile and enjoyable. You have probably noticed the numerous medical ads on TV that show people enjoying activities, even though they may have a debilitating illness such as arthritis or asthma. Drug companies and advertising agencies are certainly tuned into QOL as a form of healing. Edgar Cayce often spoke of the importance of improving QOL, especially in cases where a complete cure was not likely. For example, a sixty-three-year-old woman suffering from toxemia was told, “While the normal may not be entirely brought about, these may be assisted to such an extent as to bring many days of happiness to the body.” (4594-1)


Empowerment means that we have a better understanding of the experience of illness and the skills for coping with it. Empowerment involves the use of the will to make choices, take action, and be responsible. Empowerment is an attitude – a shift in perspective from being a helpless victim to a source of strength and courage. One of the best examples of empowerment that I have observed in our various research programs involved a young woman who had been diagnosed with epilepsy. Her diagnosis was like a prison cell. In fact, she lived up to the diagnosis by having a seizure during the orientation meeting for a conference. Yet over a period of several months something remarkable happened. She experienced a major attitude adjustment. She went from being an “epileptic” to a person with epilepsy. This may sound simply like a play on words. For her it meant that she could get on with her life. Before becoming empowered, she felt like her life was over. After experiencing this form of healing, the empowerment was almost palpable. She exuded a glow of energy and positive feeling. Not surprisingly, she also experienced significant QOL healing in terms of getting a job, driving a car, having a romantic relationship – parts of her life that she had given up.


As a form of healing, enlightenment is a greater realization of the value of life as it is. Some of the best examples of the healing power of enlightenment come from the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn. Dr. Kabat-Zinn is probably best known for his success in teaching mindfulness meditation to pain patients who have not responded to mainstream medicine. A higher level of consciousness can be profoundly healing. In his book Healing Words, Dr. Larry Dossey captures the essence of enlightenment as healing when he observes that “one’s authentic, higher self is completely impervious to the ravages of any physical ailment whatever … at the most essential level, we are all ‘untouchables’ – utterly beyond the ravages of disease and death.” At a practical daily level, enlightenment translates into a feeling peacefulness and resolution. Thus, regardless of whether you are experiencing a good symptom day or a bad one, at a deeper level of consciousness, all is well.

Soul Development

Soul development was added to the Healing Questionnaire because many of the Cayce readings explicitly referred to this form of healing in a way that was not included in the other types of healing. Cayce insisted that the context of the human experience is that of the soul making its way through eternity, finding its way back to the Source. The various experiences along the soul’s journey, whether health or illness, are opportunities for soul growth and development. With regard to the multidimensional nature of soul development, healing often involves family members and caregivers. In numerous cases, Cayce asserted that the healing process was as much for caregivers as for the identified sick person. In a reading for a young man with epilepsy, the caregivers were told, “Let the attitudes of those about the body, and those making the applications, be never those of censure, but rather that there is given each the opportunity for ministering to a soul seeking its course to its Maker.” (1784-1) Thus, healing can be a spiritual initiation for all involved. We will explore healing as spiritual initiation in a future article. Karma was often cited in readings that discuss soul development as a form of healing. For example, in a reading given for a woman with multiple sclerosis, Edgar Cayce encouraged her to adopt the attitude that, “The physical conditions that have come upon me are those most necessary for my own soul’s development.” (716-1) Such cases often involved karma, or the soul meeting itself.

Other Forms of Healing

The Healing Questionnaire encourages people to think outside the box in terms of positive healing outcomes. I encourage clients to imagine what type of healing they will experience. I even suggest that there may be other forms of healing that are not on the list. In our residential research programs, participants often describe additional manifestations of healing that are important to them. One of my associates has encouraged me to add death to the list of healings. You be the judge as to what healing means to you.

Imagining Healing

As a clinical tool I have found it helpful to work with the Healing Questionnaire as a meditative experience. If you are in need of healing, try this simple process. Become quiet and relaxed. If you are familiar with meditative practice, this will be easy. Otherwise, listening to some quiet, relaxing music may be helpful to alter your consciousness. Begin with cure and imagine what your life would be like if you were cured of the condition. Then move along the list to care, and so forth. With each form of healing, use your imaginative senses to explore healing possibilities. See and feel what the healing would be in each form of healing. What would be different in your life? How does the healing feel at an emotional level? This process will engage the mental and spiritual forces for healing. As you apply therapies that are appropriate for your problem, replay in your mind the healing images that were evoked during the meditative experience. Cayce stated that this would make the treatments more effective.

Healing as Transformation

Healing is always possible – it is only a matter of what form the healing may take. As you work with this model, explore the possibilities for your healing journey. Working with a multidimensional model of healing tends to be transformative. Health challenges are viewed as opportunities for growth at all levels. We will continue with this theme next month when we consider the concept of “illness as symbol.”

CLICK HERE to view the Healing Questionnaire in Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format.