Writings of Dr. J. Martin Littlejohn, Ph.D., M.D., D.O., L.L.D.

  (First Dean of the College of Osteopathy, Kirksville Missouri,
founder of the Chicago College of Osteopathy, and
founder of the British School of Osteopathy)


[NOTE: The following paper is undated and was apparently previously unpublished. David McMillin]

    Rhythm represents the normal functional periodicity of the organs and tissues of the body.  It is produced by the rhythmical contractions of the unstripped muscle (S.N.S.) [sympathetic nervous system] and is controlled by the S.N.S.  Hence all rhythm is involuntary.  Typical rhythmic organs are the heart, kidneys, spleen, stomach, intestine and upper part of the uterus.

1. The rhythm of these organs differs, each having its own particular rhythm, e.g. stomach operates rhythmically in response to reflected impulses started by the presence of food; uterus, rhythm dependent on the organic functioning of the ovaries as distinguished from its peristaltic action which is determined by the uterine condition itself.

2. Rhythm is always controlled by S.N.S. and this control may in turn be regulated by the C.S.N., but the C.S.N. [cerebro-spinal nervous system] control must operate through the S.N.S. and it is here that the 10th cranial nerve comes into marked prominence as the one great connecting link between C.S.N. and S.N.S.

    All parts of the body containing unstripped muscle being supplied by S.N.S. have rhythmic and arrhythmic movements, the arrhythmic movements are movements which are partially rhythmic but  do not possess periodicity.

    In line with this we must note that the S.N.S. is not only a unit in action (sympathetic chain) but is very delicately adjusted by the balancing of:

(a) Ganglion against ganglion.

(b) Plexus against plexus.

(c) Note particularly that the entire control of this balancing is vested in the solar plexus (therefore if there is an unbalanced condition of the S.N.S. inhibit solar plexus).

(d) The S.N.S. nerves are both sensory and motor.  Hence as soon as a S.N.S. nerve is irritated the impulses are transferred to some point in the S.N.S. field where the irritation would be counter balanced.  Following this the sensory nerves (S.N.S.) stimulate the ganglion to reorganize the general sympathetic impulse system.  The result is a modified general rhythm (e.g. if in stomach irritation is transferred to ganglion in connection with the stomach and the net result of disturbed rhythm in the stomach would bring about a modified rhythm in all organs under the S.N.S. control (visceral life).

    If the abnormal impulses originate from pathological conditions the modified rhythm of all organs would be altered in the course of time up to the point where a sympathetic neurosis is established.

    NOTE: In my opinion the disturbance of rhythm along these lines is the cause of the majority of diseases and is the first abnormal condition to be overcome in dealing with the particular disease.

    This has a special application to constipation (inhibition to sacral nerves would palliate).  Before cure is possible the general rhythm of all visceral organs must be improved; i.e. the general treatment.

    In dealing with these rhythmic conditions of disease remember that the background is a disturbance of the nerves, so that while hygienic and entirely mental conditions may be partly the cause we are ultimately to trace the conditions to lesions - dislocations, displacements especially of tendons, ligaments and other articulatory structures.

    e.g.  A displacement of the 5th dorsal vertebra results in;

(a) Irritation causing contractions of skeletal muscles in the area proper.

(b) Irritation of the blood supply with resultant irritation of the spinal nerves..

(c) The spinal nerves carry the irritating impulses to the sympathetic nerves which transmits them via the splanchnic nerves to the solar plexus.

(d) As these irritation impulses are transferred from the solar plexus they will pass to the organ in the LOWEST STATE OF VITALITY, e.g. stomach, intestine, uterus, and in these different cases the abnormal irritation will settle down in the local plexus field, e.g. gastric, hypogastric, pelvic plexuses; and it is from this point that the disturbance of equilibrium will be distributed to the general rhythmic system.  Pain would correspond with the local plexus involved.

(e) The irritation will always find its way back again to the 5th dorsal vertebra.  This means that from the 5th dorsal vertebra there is a vicious circle of irritation and along the path of this circle there is disturbance of natural rhythm, irritation in the organ field marked by the circle with the that the organs function irregularly or too slowly.

    With the loss of the natural rhythm all the organs in the solar plexus field would be below par and therefore badly nourished, improperly functioning with accumulating wastes.

    Occupational or postural conditions have much to do with the interference of rhythm because the skeletal muscles are not properly exercised.

    Rigidity in this case is due to carbon compounds which remain unoxidised.  The oxidised compounds instead of depositing in muscles for muscle use pass into the blood and

(a) may be eliminated without oxidation or

(b) are oxidised immediately in the blood.

    In the former case (a) the muscles are weakened through lack of muscular energy (non use) and in this case the muscles are non responsive to nerve stimulus.

    In the latter case (b) there is an excess of heat in the blood and this over stimulates the nerve centres with the result that the muscles are weakened by over-stimulation (from the nerve side) without having the opportunity of using the energy in voluntary activity.

    In this case there is a reaction in the involuntary muscle field, namely over stimulation with resulting weakness.

    Note: The difference in result between (a) and (b) in the muscle field is that in (a) the muscles are in a stagnant condition, inactive through lack of voluntary exercise and therefore soft and flabby, while in (b) the muscles are over exercised tired, sore, resistant, therefore hard.

(c) In addition we have to take care of the action and effects of impure air resulting in a deteriorated condition of the muscles.

    Here there is an attempt to nourish the muscles on waste-laden blood with the result that:

(i) The muscles are generally weakened.

(ii) The weakened muscles react on the other tissues in the body; i.e. produce an organic disease condition.  The waste laden condition is due to the fact that oxygen is taken into the body for 2 purposes:

(1) To aid in the formation of compounds which are suitable for the use of the tissues of the body.

(2) To aid in the distribution of certain complex compounds which are found in the body, the oxidation of which produces heat and energy.

    Hence the two great functions of oxygen are to form heat and energy and to prepare carbon dioxide urea and so on for elimination.

    Impure air consists largely of carbon dioxide.  The carbon dioxide thus taken into the body tends to separate the oxygen molecules within the body and to keep them separate with the result that where there is the normal amount of oxygen it is so diffuse in the presence of carbon dioxide that in the lung field the interchange through the membranes is rendered impossible.

    This is the condition found usually in asthma and in dealing with this we must remember that the carbon dioxide cannot be used by the body because it is already an oxydised product.  The result is the formation and accumulation of oxalic acid, uric acid and so on indication not only improper oxidation but also the inability to oxidate, and these act either as poisons or obstructions to normal activity by taking the place which should normally be occupied by the normal compounds (i.e. carbon dioxide displaces oxygen).

    The meaning of this is that there is no substance which can be taken into the body medicinally or dietetically which will eliminate these end products.  As before the only way in which they can be eliminated is by involuntary exercise (i.e. osteopathic treatment).

    Muscular and tissue conditions are weakened and the tissues and organs tend to follow the force of gravity so that two results follow:

(A) The abnormal products tend to go down as far as possible along the line of gravity in the body.

(B) Organs and structures drop, e.g. the dropping of the clavicle and the descent of a rib, lateral curvature of the spine are the natural results of this conditions (uric or oxalic acid in the system) (uric acid etc. are drawn into the lymphatic field).

    Another result secondary to the dropping of ribs would be the dropping of the organs in the thorax, abdomen and pelvis.  The pelvic organs having the least chance of accommodating themselves to the dropping down.

    Following this, the abnormal impulses are sent along the sympathetic nerves to the solar plexus from which reorganized impulses pass out to destroy the rhythm of the organs.

    e.g. This is one of the causes of disturbed activity of the kidney, the primary cause of which is the accumulation in the blood of retrograde metabolic products.

    The same is true of the liver in which case the glycogenic function is disturbed.  Instead of creatine becoming urea it becomes leucin and tyrosine and this causes cholesterin formation - the result is gallstones.

    Our conclusion then is that anything that accumulates or any abnormal action which takes place within the body reacting abnormally on the S.N.S. will tend to react detrimentally on the rhythm of the organs of the body.