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.