Dr. A. T. Still Founder of Osteopathy
M. A. Lane
OSTEOPATHY IN THE INFECTIOUS DISEASES
The fact that the blood and the tissues resist diseases of various kinds is one
of the most anciently and familiarly known facts of human observation and experience,
and it is a fact, furthermore, that has been absolutely demonstrated by the experimental
pathologists of Europe and America during the past twenty-five years. This resistance
of the blood and the tissues (so called "body resistance") to diseases of every
kind - even to those mysteriously caused new growths called "tumors" - has been
called immunity by that wonderful group of men in Europe who have done so much
to extend the science of the physiology of disease, and to vindicate the theory
and practice of Andrew Taylor Still, the founder of osteopathy.
Osteopaths never tire of talking about and referring to Dr. Still, and truly
he deserves all praise, as Ehrlich and other great investigators deserve praise
for like reasons, namely, their great and original power in seeing deeply into
things theoretically; because were it not for theory practice could never become
an established fact.
The body cells and the body fluids - that is, blood and lymph - have the power
of preventing the growth and multiplication of disease germs and of the cells
of which tumors consist. In some persons this so-called "resistance" is absolute.
Such persons are perfectly immune to certain diseases. Others are not quite
perfectly immune. Others are still less immune (more susceptible), and others
still are scarcely immune at all - that is, they are highly susceptible to certain
diseases; have scarcely any resistance whatever.
All human beings, however, have a certain amount of resistance to all diseases,
and it is this varying amount of resistance to various diseases that lies at
the bottom of the whole varying and variable panorama of disease we see in men
and in all the lower animals, too; for animals, like men, are bound by the same
unvarying natural laws of life and its marvelous chemisms. When it is said that
there is a "predisposing cause" of disease, we mean that this body resistance
is more or less lacking.
Now, let us consider one other exceedingly important fact: The amount of resistance
which any particular individual may have at any particular time, is (as a rule)
increased the very moment a disease begins to grow in the body. And this increase
of resistance tends to grow with the growth of the disease until the disease
conquers the body or the body conquers the disease, or a certain equilibrium
is established; and there results a slow "chronic" disease of a certain type.
These facts are true in the vast majority of those states of body generally
This was the original theory of Andrew Taylor Still, announced by him long
before the great immunologists of Europe proved it was true by experiments on
animals. And it was this very increase of the natural resistance common to all
living things that Dr. Still had in mind when he said long ago that the blood
and tissues contain in themselves all that is necessary to overcome the disease
to which the blood and the tissues are susceptible, providing it is released
by adequate adjustment or stimulation.
That is why the osteopath is serene and calm in the conviction of the soundness
of his own theory and practice, and indeed the results of osteopathic treatment
(wonderful in many cases) are to be accounted for by this explanation and by
this explanation alone.
The natural resistance of the body to disease lies in the fact that the blood
and the tissues contain countless billions of inconceivably small particles
(molecules, in chemical language and, as they were called by Dr. Still, "atoms
in the blood"), which have a powerful chemical affinity for the disease germs
or their poisons (toxins) or with the cells of tumors, and which, uniting with
these germs, toxins, or cells of tumors, neutralize or destroy them, leaving
the body sound what we call "well". These little particles, or molecules, that
unite with the substances that produce the symptoms of the disease are called
"antibodies", or bodies directed against the agents of the disease. These facts
constitute the heart of the great theory of immunity, which, for the past twenty-five
years has filled the world with its noise, and which was first suggested and
first acted upon in a practical way by Still and his school.
From the above facts it should be clear that any method which can increase
the antibodies to disease - which can increase the defenses of the body against
disease, which Nature has planted in the body itself - would be a prime and
scientific method of treating disease and of producing results which would seem
"marvelous" and "miraculous" to persons who did not understand the facts that
lie at the root of the phenomenon. Osteopaths have long since grown accustomed
to hearing much of their work spoken of as marvelous and miraculous, but few
osteopaths are foolish enough to believe that whatever results they have had
in the treatment of disease are due to anything but some fundamental law or
fact concerning that marvelous mechanism called "the body". The results merely
prove the marvel of Nature itself.
Not long ago a certain experimenter in a large osteopathic school undertook
a series of observations on the results of osteopathic treatment for influenza,
and although this work is more interesting for the doctor than for the layman,
even the layman can understand something of its important significance.
Almost everybody is familiar with the main facts of influenza. There is first
the feeling expressed in the words, "I feel queer today; I don't know what's
the matter with me." Next day the symptoms become clearer. There is ache in
the back and bones, in the muscles of the neck, back, legs and other parts of
the body, pronounced fever, and head, eye and nose symptoms. The "matter" is
a "cold" and a "bad" one. And now if the nasal or throat secretions be "smeared"
on a bit of glass, stained in a certain way according to the simple technique
of bacteriology, and examined in the highest powers of the microscope, countless
numbers of a tiny rod-like organism are seen - the bacillus of influenza. They
are so numerous that it is plain at a single glance that the nose and throat
of the patient are housing and feeding inconceivably vast numbers of this minute
organisms, of this bacillus, or "germ", the toxin of which, being absorbed by
the tissues and blood, poison the body and produce the symptoms called the grip.
Presently - in a few days - the secretions from the nose and throat are yellowish
(pus), and in the pus are still seen many bacilli of influenza, but the number
is slowly being cut down; the pus consisting of dead phagocytes - the soldier
cells of the blood. The soldier cells and other cells of the body are manufacturing
the antibodies (and other substances) which neutralize the toxins, destroy the
bacilli, and restore the body to its former normal state. Soon the pus begins
to diminish rapidly in quantity, the bacilli of influenza die out and disappear
rapidly, and after, say fourteen to twenty-one days, the nasal and throat secretion
shows no influenza bacilli at all. The antibodies, produced by the body as a
reaction against the germs and their toxin, have worked a "cure". Nature alone
has done the job.
If reasonably large doses of quinine be taken (even when the "bowels are kept
open" by generous purgatives) this natural "cure" is delayed and the bacilli
do not disappear (together with the symptoms) for several days or weeks after
Nature, if not interfered with, would have done the job alone. In other words,
there is no drug treatment for the grip that does not delay the natural cure.
Now the experimenter in question ascertained certain interesting facts about
the grip, which every osteopathic physician understands when he considers the
facts about immunity.
If on the second, or even the third day of the infection, a generous and general
osteopathic treatment (neck and spine all the way down) be given, so that the
spinal nerves are released from tissue tension and well stimulated, there is
experienced almost immediately by the patient a most marked relief, something
coming so quickly as to be startling; and in some not frequent cases the symptoms
during the succeeding twenty-four hours seem to be increased - the patient seems
to feel "worse". But before the end of forty-eight hours - sometimes sooner,
and sometimes within the twenty-four hours, and without any seeming increase
of discomfort - the symptoms almost completely, if not completely disappear.
And if the secretions from the nose and throat be now examined only a comparatively
few bacilli of influenza are found, and then follows an interesting consequence:
The secretion passes into the pus stage several days before it would so pass
when Nature is let alone. Observe now a strange fact: If only one such treatment
be given, the pus (very small in quantity with very few germs in it), continues
to form for some weeks, and in some cases does not finally disappear for two
or three months. But if several such treatments be given, say five or six, on
successive days, or on alternate days, the pus stage is never reached at all,
or, if reached, lasts only a few hours, less than twenty-four in some cases,
and the germs disappear from the secretions with almost startling suddenness,
the patient remaining entirely without symptoms in the interval.
OSTEOPATHY ABSORBS INFECTIONS
These remarkable facts are known to several osteopaths in practice who have
drawn from them only another proof of the old theory on which their practice
has been for years based-that osteopathic treatment aborts infection by increasing
the natural resistance of the body faster than is the rule with Nature when
it is left alone.
But such an abortion of influenza is only a type of the working out of this
therapy in infections other than influenza, and we discuss the matter here only
to bring before the public one scientific phase of osteopathy out of many.
These facts of influenza - in common with the facts of almost all other diseases
- prove that the body has normally a considerable amount of resistance (antibodies)
to influenza. Some individuals can not acquire influenza at all – they are perfectly
immune, have an excess of anti-influenza bodies in their blood and tissues;
others have less, are slightly susceptible to influenza; others are highly susceptible;
a few (especially aged persons) have scarcely any resistance at all, and die
as a result of their inability to produce the antibodies in sufficient quantity
to kill the germs and neutralize the toxins. And there is excellent scientific
reason to believe that even many of these aged persons could be saved by osteopathy
if treated early in the beginning of the invasion.
All bound up in these facts of immunity is the principle of "vaccines" and
their uses in modern therapy and prevention of disease. What are vaccines, how
are they used, what success have they had, and how does osteopathic treatment
compare with them in results? Also, how does osteopathy compare in its results
with the results secured by serum treatment? - for vaccines and serums are two
different things, and should not be confused, as they are continually confused
in the mind of the layman.
The word "vaccines" has no special reference at all to the practice of vaccination
for smallpox. The principle of the two things is precisely the same, but in
modern usage when the word "vaccines" is used the "vaccine virus" for the prevention
of smallpox is not meant at all. The word "vaccine" and the word "vaccination"
were used originally because the virus against small pox was grown in cows.
(The Latin word "vacca" means in English "cow.") We can explain the nature of
vaccines and serums, whether used for the purpose of curing or preventing disease
by discussing influenza in this regard, because what would be true of influenza
would be true of any other infection.
If a vaccine cure for influenza were possible, it could be done in this way
only: Some of the bacilli of influenza would be taken from the nose or throat
of a person infected with a very virulent germ of the disease, and these germs
would be grown in what is called a medium by bacteriologists. Each of these
minute organisms will divide in two every twenty minutes or so, so that in a
short time countless billions of them could be had for use. The germs are easily
killed by heat of a certain degree and after killing the germs in that way,
they would be suspended in salt solution, and then several millions of the dead
bacilli in salt solution could be injected into the blood of the person with
influenza. These dead germs would be supposed to do in the body what the toxin
from the living ones growing in the patient's nose and throat does - that is,
make antibodies faster than the natural infection can make them. In that case
the body would be stimulated to increase its resistance in excess of the natural
increase, and the reaction would win the day over the living germs already growing
in the body. All vaccines are based on this principle; but it should be said
that no success whatever has been found in any attempt to make a vaccine for
influenza; and the same thing can almost be said with truth for other infections.
A vaccine made and administered in this way would have no effect whatever upon
influenza, and there is therefore no vaccine cure even claimed for this disease.
A serum for influenza could be made by infecting an animal (horse or sheep)
by injections of living influenza germs, or by the injection of the toxins from
a culture growth of the germs, and then injecting the serum of the animal into
the body of the influenza patient. Such a serum, or such a vaccine could be
injected alone, or such a serum and vaccine could be injected simultaneously
in the hope of causing the body to react with the production of enough influenza
antibodies to cause the disease quickly to disappear. And yet no success at
all has been had by such methods with influenza. Theoretically, it is difficult
to understand why this is so. Theoretically all infections should yield quickly
to vaccines or to serums, or to both; but practically hardly any infections,
or other diseases, do actually yield to vaccines or serums. And this in spite
of the fact that the animals used for many of these experiments are quite susceptible
to the germs employed.
And it should be said that theoretically it is just as hard to understand why
influenza and other infections can be and are destroyed by osteopathic treatment.
It is possible that stimulation of nerves actually does increase antibodies
against disease (once the antibody production has been started by the invasion
of the germ), inasmuch as antibody production is virtually a similar process
with other body secretions, as those of the stomach, liver, salivary glands,
or other glands, and these secretions are controlled by nerves. The fact, however,
remains that osteopathic treatment (whether because it adjusts bony lesions,
or other tissue lesions in the backbone, or because it simply stimulates *nerves)
really and truly aborts and stops infections, influenza among them. Numerous
osteopaths claim (to their fellow practitioners) that their treatment has in
numerous cases stopped typhoid fever, pneumonia, and various other infections,
and even the most conservative osteopath will not boldly assert that any infection
is known to be exempt to this peculiar result-the mechanism and the description
of which have been discussed in the first pages of this paper in our remarks
SERUM TESTS TO IDENTIFY VARIOUS DISEASES
The osteopath does not deny the principle on which serum and vaccine therapy
is based, more than he denies the principle on which are based the various serum
tests for disease, such as the Widal reaction for typhoid, the Moro and other
reactions for tuberculosis, the Wasserman reaction for syphilis, the Abderhalden
reaction for pregnancy, the serum test for cancer, the Schick test for diphtheria
antibodies, and other tests of this kind, which the whole world uses. The osteopath
does not deny the principles on which these tests and the serum and vaccine
therapy are based, because these principles are his very own, and his own results
are in all probability based on these very principles themselves, although osteopathic
results have not yet been studied sufficiently to say the last word upon them.
There has as yet been neither time nor opportunity so to study them. What the
osteopath holds is this: that the great principle of immunity has not been found
generally successful in the hands of serum and vaccine therapists, whereas that
very principle has been found conspicuously successful in the hands of A. T.
Still and the physicians whom his principle and therapy have inspired and actuated
for at least twenty years in the open daylight of the actual world.
WHEN OSTEOPATHIC LESIONS ARE CAUSED BY TOXINS
What is now to be stated is a fact familiar to every osteopath. If the backbone
of a patient suffering with influenza be carefully examined, it will be found
that the muscles that house and protect, and that operate the movements of,
the individual units of the spine (called vertebrae by anatomists) are tense,
stiff and hard, this unusual stress having been brought about by the toxin of
the influenza germs; whether this toxin acts directly on the muscles themselves,
or upon the muscles through the disturbance in the nervous system caused by
the toxin, is indifferent. The fact is, that this backbone muscle-equipment
is, in common with other muscles, as in the arms, the legs, the abdomen, the
chest, and other parts of the muscular skeleton, made tense and hard, rendering
the entire spine comparatively rigid. Now this rigidity in other parts of the
body is comparatively unimportant, whereas in the spine it is all-important
and critical, because the great nervous mechanism (the spinal cord, and in directly
the brain and the sympathetic nerves, which are connected with the spinal cord
by connecting nerve branches - the rami of the anatomists), throws out from
between each pair of vertebrae two great trunk nerves, and these numerous trunk
nerves supply the entire body with nerve-power; so that all the internal organs,
the skin, the bones, the blood vessels, and even the nerves themselves, and
the cells of the blood, no doubt, are directly or indirectly, dependent upon
these great nerves for their absolute action, even for their minute chemical
work. (A pharmacologist of John Hopkins University recently claimed to have
proved that the activity and properties of the cells that float in the blood
and lymph streams are under control of the nerve impulse.)
A MOVING PICTURE OF THE BODY'S REACTIONS
Here in influenza (and other infections) you have the master-tissue of the
body - the nerves - pinched and pressed upon by tissue-tension at its very exit
from the great central power house, the spinal cord, and tension there is important.
If the osteopath lowers the tension and removes the block by loosening the
tissues all along the line from skull to coccyx, we can fairly well account
for his quick results in influenza in the following way :
1. The toxin of influenza has entered the blood, and has made rigid (among
other muscles) the muscles of the spine.
2. The body cells of the influenza patient are making antibodies as fast as
3. But their work of making antibodies is interferred with, and made slow by
the fact that the cells of the body that make the antibodies are dependent upon
nerve impulses as stimuli for the work. The more numerous and full the nerve
impulses they receive the faster will they function. The less numerous and less
powerful the fewer antibodies will they make.
4. If the tissue tension at the exits of the nerves in the spine (tension produced
by the toxin) be lowered, the nerve impulses will flow freely to the body cells
- to all body cells.
5. This will leave the cells free to make antibodies as fast as they can when
not interfered with in any way.
6. But this excess of antibodies quickly neutralizes the toxin and indirectly
kills the germs.
7. But this being the case, there is now no longer any toxin to make tense
and keep tense the tissues at the exits of the spinal nerves.
8. And thus the entire complex of symptoms of influenza vanishes almost instantaneously,
just as if a vast quantity of antibodies had been injected into the blood of
the individual at one stroke.
When left alone the work of antibody making is comparatively slow, because
normal nerve impulses are partly blocked at the exits of the spinal nerves and
the entire normal mechanism of the sympathetic nervous system thrown out.
This theory sounds good and true, and it is the theory upon which the osteopath
works in his treatment of many infections.
In these days of popularized science almost every newspaper syndicate and magazine
has some writer who tries to interpret the lessons of science in the matter
of health to the public, but in none of these have we as yet seen a clear exposition
(even for the untechnical public) of the facts of vaccine and serum therapy,
such as is given in this present paper, although the writers in question ought
to know how to do it, or else cease writing. We could quote instances of the
frightful abuse of that kind of therapy by doctors of the theory of antibodies;
but what is a sufferer to do when he finds himself advised by doctors who do
not know sufficient science to know they are playing with edged tools when they
are injecting disease germs (even dead ones) or commercial serums into the bodies
of human beings? Fully ninety per cent of the "cures" claimed by medical men
for serums and vaccines are absolute folly, as the best bacteriologists and
really scientific immunologists (wherever found) will aver upon question. For
these latter men have no money interest in the matter. The osteopath, unlike
the medical man, does his conscience no violence when he states his claim -
which is not that he can cure all the ills of the body, but that he operates
on the most soundly scientific bases known, and that his therapy, while founded
upon known and proved pathological physiology, in no manner dangerously complicates
Nature, causing her to react disastrously because of a fundamental misunderstanding
or total ignorance of the peculiar manner in which she jumps.
In the old days before the facts of immunity were so well marked out and studied
by the great Ehrlich, Metchnikoff, Bordet and others, "blood poisoning" was
a term that was loaded with significance. When "blood poisoning" "set in" hope
was abandoned. The term "blood poisoning" is not generally used today but its
shadow still hangs over us, and many persons are still frightened when they
hear the name. With good cause, too, for blood poisoning is just as bad as it
ever was, only now it is called "highly virulent streptococcus septicemia."
When a pathologist uses the word septicemia he understands (or should understand)
by that term, bacteria, or disease germs, of any kind in the blood. The term
bacteremia is preferred by many. Bacteremia and septicemia mean the same thing.
Septicemia of various kinds may be destructive or "dangerous" or deadly, or
mild and ultimately harmless, according as the germs or their toxins are virulent
and the patient susceptible to the special germ involved. The old "blood poisoning"
was later found to be a peculiar germ called streptococcus pyogenes (pus making)
of a highly virulent kind universally in the blood and lymph spaces of a person
highly susceptible to that peculiar strain of the germ. Death is almost certain
in such a case. Now, if some of the germs could be taken from the body of such
a patient, grown, killed and injected within twenty-four hours, the patient
might (theoretically) be saved by the excess of antibodies liberated by the
presence in the body of the excess of the gems them selves. But this cannot
be done. Sufficient germs cannot be grown in time to save the life of the person
infected. The germs throw out a toxin so powerful and diffusible that the individual's
vital tissues are destroyed beyond recovery in forty-eight hours. And yet there
is a man in London who claims he saves cases of this kind by this vaccine method
right along in forty-eight hours. The world's bacteriologists will not believe
him. It is hard to understand how it can be done. Nobody can repeat him. We
have no record that any osteopath has ever treated a case of that kind, but
certainly if such a patient would early secure an osteopath, on the principle
that the osteopath could at least "do no harm," another infection (and an essentially
wicked one) might be added to the growing list of infections which of late years
have been coming more and more under osteopathic dominion.
SCARLET FEVER AND OTHER INFECTIOUS DISEASES
One of the main obstacles that has helped to bar the way of osteopathic success
has been the timidity of patients to enlist the services of the osteopathic
doctor in diseases such as scarlet fever, infantile paralysis, smallpox, "blood
poisoning" of the virulent type, as well as other septicemic pus-forming infections,
such as those due to colon bacillus, staphylococcus pyogenes aureus, or even
the gonorrheal germ, which causes arthritis (inflammation of the joints) and
heart insufficiency. These infections, even when developed, have been palliated
by osteopathic treatment, nor do we know to what extent completely removed.
Chronic boils and pustulating pimples are a legitimate field for osteopathic
treatment, the principle in all these infections being identical with the principle
laid down in our discussion of influenza at the beginning of this paper.
"Doctor," you will ask, "do you claim that osteopathy can cure all these diseases?"
DIPHTHERIA ACCORDING TO OSTEOPATHIC TRADITION
Our answer is rational and fair. It is this: Of these infectious diseases we
claim that we can cure vastly more cases - that we actually do cure
vastly more cases than are cured by vaccine therapy, which can be
counted upon only in the smallest number of cases. As for the serum
therapy, it may be said that no infection has been found at all
amendable to serum treatment save diphtheria alone, and as far as
diphtheria is concerned it should be said that osteopathic tradition
from the beginning has claimed to be able to cure diphtheria, and
that numerous osteopaths positively refuse to use the diphtheria
antitoxin, and prefer to rely on osteopathy alone, even when the
patients are their own children.