Manipulation is a manual maneuver used to restore maximal, pain-free movement of the muscular skeletal system. The history of manipulation of the spine and extremities begins as early as Hippocrates in 640 BC. There is evidence throughout Asia and India that there is a possibility of earlier roots. In China, a distinct branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine called Tui Na, was devoted to manipulative techniques that date back to 2700 BC. Naturopathy and Chiropractic care were taught in the same colleges up until the 1950s. Manipulation techniques were considered part of the naturopathic education. Today these two schools of thought are no longer in the same building. Manipulation is still a strong part of the naturopathic curriculum and remains a requirement for graduation and licensure for Naturopathic Medicine.
Manipulation adjusts bones to increase mobility and correct misalignment. Naturopathic manipulation focuses on both soft tissue and bone alignment similar to a chiropractic adjustment. These techniques use a high-velocity thrust to achieve joint cavitation (popping noise). This form of manipulation differs from other forms of manipulation which incorporate stretching, pressure and mobilization to correct the alignment of the spine and organs. Other forms of manipulation may include lymphatic drainage and cranial sacral therapy involving subtle adjustments. Naturopaths use manipulation as part of their therapeutic regimen and do not rely on this technique as their sole method of treatment. We believe that misalignment could be the result of an underlying cause. For example, in acupuncture there are specific points that run along the spine and relate to internal organs, known as the Back-Shu points. A dysfunction in one of these organs could affect the musculoskeletal system and lead to a misalignment. Naturopathic treatment in this case would focus on improving the organ and secondarily addressing the spine.
The importance of manipulation as a therapy centers on the strong interrelationship between the spine and the structure and function of the body. An imbalance in the musculoskeletal system plays a role in health. It can lead to an interference with the nervous system and the body’s ability to heal itself. The combination of the muscular and skeletal systems account for over half the body’s mass and therefore use the most amount of energy. A decrease in function places more stress on other systems to give more energy to the musculoskeletal system. Muscles have the ability to pull bones out of alignment. If left unaddressed, the bones will remain misaligned which can lead to compensation from other muscles and the continuation of this cycle of applying pressure to more bones and joints. The resulting posture affects nerve function, increases pain, inflammation and general discomfort. By correcting the soft tissue and bones of the musculoskeletal system, naturopathic manipulation can improve the body’s ability to rebalance the nervous system and create homeostasis in the body.
Manipulation techniques have come a long way since its early documentation, in which practitioners were often referred to as “bone breakers”. The techniques have been refined to provide a gentler, high-velocity, low impact thrust to correct misalignments of the spine. At Nature Medicine, your ND is fully trained in naturopathic manipulation and is capable of using this therapy as an adjunctive treatment to your healing process. If you continually need to be adjusted there are many reasons for this. You may want to read about Prolotherapy (for tendons & ligaments being stretched), Trigger Point Injections (for muscle spasms), Neural Therapy (for nerve irritations) or MRT (for subconscious emotions).
- Pizzorno & Murray. Textbook of Natural Medicine. 3rd ed. Vol. I. Churchill Livingstone. 2006.