Cayce Health Database
EDGAR CAYCE ON OSTEOPATHY
By Theodore Jordan, D.O.
[NOTE: Dr. Jordan, a practicing osteopath in Columbus, Ohio, and
an A.R.E. member, has devoted several years to researching early osteopathic
literature, the better to understand the Edgar Cayce readings that recommended
manipulation and its role in health care. The following article
was published in Venture Inward, July/August 1994, Volume 10, No.
Osteopathic treatment is of the most frequently recommended
therapeutic measures suggested in the Cayce readings. Chiropractic
adjustments are recommended only occasionally. This has caused much
confusion for contemporary physician practitioners because osteopathic
and chiropractic manipulative treatments seem so similar today.
A look at the development of osteopathy and how it
was originally practiced shows how it differed from chiropractic.
More important, osteopathy in philosophy and practice more closely reflected
the healing philosophies of the Edgar Cayce readings.
Osteopathy was developed by a Midwest physician, Andrew
Taylor Still (1828-1917). When three of his children died of meningitis
despite the best available medical treatments, he began to question the
exceedingly harsh and seemingly useless practices of his day. This
led him to search for a better understanding of health and disease.
Dr. Still dissected many human corpses, thus gaining
a knowledge of anatomy that was legendary.
" A thousand experiments were made with
bones until I became quite familiar with the bony structure. I might
have advanced sooner in osteopathy had not our Civil War interfered with
the progress of my studies."
Nine years after the war ended, in 1874, Dr. Still
advanced his concept of osteopathy. He believed that the human body,
being a work of God, was perfect and inherently had all the properties
needed to maintain a state of health. Disease only existed if there
was some obstruction to health such as impaired circulation of blood,
lymph, or nerve forces. The osteopath need only remove this obstruction,
he reasoned, and the body would then naturally heal itself.
In his autobiography, Still traced his confidence
in manipulation as a healing therapy to an incident when he was 10 years
old. Suffering from a headache, he lay on the ground with his head
resting on a blanket that lay over a rope tied between two trees about
eight to ten inches above the ground. "Thus I lay stretched on my
back, with my neck across the rope.' He fell asleep and woke up feeling
fine. "I followed that treatment for 20 years before the wedge of
reason reached my brain, and I could see that I had suspended the action
of the great occipital nerves, and given harmony to the flow of the arterial
blood to and through the veins, and ease was the effect." He came to believe
that "the artery is the father of the rivers of life, health, and ease,
and its muddy or impure water is first in all disease."
He viewed the body allegorically as a "finely tuned
engine" and the osteopath as a mechanic whose job was to correct any parts
of the engine that were out of order.
Dr. Still taught that when a bone or vertebra is slightly
out of position there is also a strain on the surrounding tissues including
the ligaments, muscles, blood vessels, nerves, and lymphatic vessels.
This strain causes a decrease in the local circulation of fluids and alteration
of the nervous impulses. Disease results when tissues and organs:
- Do not receive sufficient arterial blood supply to provide them
with oxygen and nutrients
- Do not have properly balanced nervous supply to regulate and coordinate
their function with the rest of the body, and/or
- Do not have adequate drainage through the veins and lymphatics
to carry away their wastes.
The osteopath's duty was to help elicit the body's
natural healing forces by removing any obstruction to health. This
most often meant correcting the bony misalignment so that all the surrounding
tissues and nerves could work unimpeded.
"Remove all obstructions, and when it is intelligently
done, nature will kindly do the rest," Dr. Still wrote. He also
often said that anyone can find disease, but an osteopath's job is to
Many parts of the Edgar Cayce readings and their recommendations
parallel the osteopathic philosophy of health. A book that outlines
the similarities between these two systems is Osteopathy: Comparative
Concepts - A. T. Still and Edgar Cayce, written by J. Gail Cayce.
The Cayce readings contain many very complimentary
comments about osteopathy of that day, such as: "There is no form of physical
mechanotherapy so near in accord with nature's measures as correctly given
osteopathic adjustments." (reading 1158-31) Also, "... and nature
is better even than the osteopath - though the osteopath is the closest
to the natural means." (1497-4) "Seek out, then, an instrument
of the curative forces known as the osteopath, that is capable - through
the proper manipulations, using the structural portions of the body as
leverage - of stimulating the secretions through the various activities
of glands and centers and ganglia along the system to bring about a coordination
of the activities of the physical forces within the system itself." (531-2)
Cayce seldom recommended chiropractic treatments and
even on occasion warned against them. What was the major difference
that Cayce saw between the two schools of practice at that time which
influenced him to suggest osteopathic much more often than chiropractic
treatments? It seems that the primary difference between osteopaths
and chiropractors of that day was their method of adjusting the body.
Before these differences can be explained, a clarification of terminology
A bone out of proper alignment is termed a lesion,
or a subluxation, or somatic dysfunction. There are many ways to
correct these misalignments; but they fall into two therapeutic categories,
the direct and the indirect techniques.
Most direct techniques are associated with the popping
or snapping of joints, usually the vertebrae of the spine. In many
direct techniques, the operator applies a thrust that is directed to force
a displaced bone back into position. If a single vertebra is displaced
so that it is rotated and facing slightly to the right, the thrusting
technique forces that vertebra to the left with the intent of leaving
it centered in the midline where it should be. This is achieved,
once the patient is positioned, by a quick thrust which causes the joint
spaces to open, producing an audible pop. This mechanism is the
same as when people crack their knuckles. The sound is produced
as two joint surfaces are quickly pulled apart, creating a small vacuum.
The same effect is achieved by pulling a small suction cup from a smooth
surface. This does not directly damage a joint, and often frees
any restriction. Injury to the surrounding ligaments can occur only
if the operator puts too much force into the motion, thereby stretching
the surrounding ligaments beyond their physiologic range.
Depending on the operator's intent and skill, this
thrust can be very specific and only adjust one segment. With a
slightly different approach, many joint spaces may be opened quickly,
producing a crunch sound instead of a single pop. It appears that
early chiropractic adjustment was administered in this way - with quick
thrusts to correct any vertebrae that might be out of place. Over
the years many variations on this basic technique have been developed.
Some use a great deal of force, while others are quite delicate and specific.
Dr. Still and the early osteopaths who trained under
him seem to have rarely used these direct techniques. Instead they used
much gentler, indirect techniques. Their method of correction involved
gentle exaggerations of the position of the dysfunction until the tensions
in the ligaments were felt to balance. Then the job was to wait,
feel for the body itself to correct the dysfunction, and to assist gently
the body's natural corrective movement until the bone returns to normal,
or to a more normally balanced position. For example, in the case
of a vertebra facing slightly to the right, instead of thrusting it to
force it left, the osteopath would gently exaggerate its position; turning
it even more to the right until a balance was felt, then allowing the
body's intrinsic forces to take over and return the vertebra to its proper
position. The main focus of the operator is on the tension of the
surrounding ligaments and muscles. The corrective action comes not
from the physician, but from the body's natural healing forces.
Ample evidence of their preference for indirect techniques
is found in the writings of some of the early osteopaths. Indeed,
they even warned against the harsher direct techniques.
"I don't think I ever saw the 'Old Doctor' (A.
T. Still) snap a joint with any noticeable sound, "writes M. L. Bush,
D.O., who boarded with the Still family while a student at the first osteopathic
school. "His technique was practically painless to the patient.
I have often heard him say, ‘When you hurt a patient in treatment, you
don't deserve to be called an osteopath."'
G. V. Webster, D.O. summarized their philosophy when
he wrote: "Living things prefer persuasion to force, consideration to
trauma, intelligence to ill-expended force. It is better to work
with the tissues than at them. Nature has her rewards and penalties
for the manner in which lesions are treated. Co-operate with nature."
Edgar Cayce echoed this in reading 1158-24: "Then
the science of osteopathy is not merely the punching in of a certain segment
or the cracking of the bones, but it is the keeping of a balance
by the touch - between the sympathetic and cerebrospinal system!" and
"With the adjustments made in this way and manner, we will find not only
helpful influences but healing and an aid to any condition that may exist
in the body...... Also, "A long series of such (osteopathic adjustments),
just pulling or cracking here or there, has nothing to do with healing
forces! They have to be scientifically or correctly administered
for the individual or particular disturbances, just as we have indicated
Reading 304-2 further explains this difference: "Osteopathic
treatment is needed, not chiropractic. If we had wanted this we
would have given it. The body does not need adjustment, what it needs
is relaxation of the muscular forces .... Chiropractic treatment is adjustment,
not relaxation of the muscular forces."
Not every dysfunction will fully correct on
the first treatment but the osteopath's job was to acknowledge the body's
wisdom and allow the body to correct itself at its own pace. As
C. P. McConnell, D.O. wrote, "Always make it a point when working
upon dislocated vertebrae in any region that just as soon as one has
obtained a slight movement in the lesion do not attempt to correct
it any more for the time being. A slight movement toward the right direction
may be all that is necessary to relieve the ill effects of the lesion.
In fact it might be impossible to get the lesion anatomically correct......
Likewise, reading 2519-3 states: "...but to act in
the manner as will allow nature itself - for, this - this would be well
for all physicians of every character to remember: That they may only
aid nature to; adjust itself. You can't force nature to do anything!
Only aid it in adjusting itself to meet conditions."
Along with these indirect techniques, osteopaths also
used a number of different approaches to correction. Some
osteopaths preferred direct techniques to correct vertebral misalignment,
but even these techniques were performed gently and without much
popping or cracking of bony joints. Edythe Ashmore, D.O., in a 1915
osteopathic text, wrote this about treating the neck: "The habit of putting
a cervical joint upon tension and 'popping' it is one to be condemned
in no uncertain language .... Cervical treatment should be mastered by
Even before A. T. Still's death in 1917, it appears
that the direct, thrusting techniques were slowly becoming more popular
with osteopaths. In the 1920s, Still's influence waned as these
techniques became, and remained, quite popular among the younger osteopaths.
Some osteopaths remained true to the original methods, however, and criticized
this new approach. Among them was J. B. McKee, D.O., who in 1979
warned that hearing a pop was no indication of correction.
"... the main danger [is the] confusion resulting
from confounding the sound of articular separation with the correction
of the existing lesion," wrote McKee. "Even the veriest layman knows
that he can pop his knuckle without any way changing the relation of the
joint surfaces and it would be well perhaps if osteopaths would give the
thought more consideration than seems to obtain at present."
These direct, thrusting techniques have remained the
most popular mode of treatment among the majority of chiropractors.
Among osteopaths, these techniques became increasingly popular until they
were apparently the primary method of manipulation taught in osteopathic
schools from the 1930s through the 1960s. Some reasons, I believe,
are fairly obvious. The older osteopathic techniques require a highly
developed sense of touch, focused concentration, and are slower to perform
and very difficult to teach correctly. The direct, thrusting techniques
on the other hand, are quick, efficient, and can be taught relatively
easily to large classes of students.
Both the chiropractic and osteopathic professions
have changed. Over the last century, osteopaths have fought for
and have won full licensure in all 50 states and are able to prescribe
medications as well as to perform surgery. Today doctors of osteopathy
are found practicing in all specialties of medicine. Manipulation
is still taught in every osteopathic school and many osteopaths continue
to utilize these skills in their practices.
Today, however, not all osteopaths continue to use
their manipulative skills on their patients. Nonetheless, there
remains a strong core of osteopaths who maintain the highest proficiency
in manipulative medicine. Although many expertly utilize the direct,
thrusting techniques, the older styles of manipulation never completely
disappeared. Today an increasing number of osteopaths are interested
in learning, developing, and thus continuing this older, gentler style
of manipulation, especially with the current renewed interest in natural
medicine and the emphasis on assisting with the body's own power for healing.
Some chiropractors are also now using more of the gentler techniques and
methods of correction.
My explanation of all these techniques has been necessarily
oversimplified. To perform any of these techniques requires a detailed
knowledge of anatomy, palpatory and diagnostic skills, knowledge of indications
and contraindications in the treatment of patients, and extensive formal
instruction for safe, correct, and successful treatment. Most persons
receiving manipulation therapy today are being treated with direct, thrusting
techniques. When done intelligently and properly, these treatments
are certainly beneficial, as many can attest.
The purpose of this article has been to explain why
the Cayce readings made such a distinction between osteopathic and chiropractic
treatments, to explain some therapeutic differences within these disciplines,
and to suggest that from the readings, it may be realized that these gentler,
indirect methods of manipulation first used by early osteopaths, and still
in use today, are more in tune with the body's natural healing forces,
and thus kindred in philosophy with health care as prescribed by Edgar
Cayce. As reading 1158-24 put it:
"Then, the science of osteopathy is not merely the
punching in a certain segment or the cracking of the bones, but it is
the keeping of a balance - by the touch - between the sympathetic
and cerebrospinal system! That is the real osteopathy!"
The founder of osteopathy, Dr. Andrew Taylor
Still, was certainly an extraordinary individual, having started
the first osteopathic college at the age of 64, after which he wrote
In addition to his indefatigable stamina he was
considered to have special powers of clairvoyance by those who knew
him. He used this clairvoyant ability on occasion, as Edgar
Cayce had, accurately diagnosing medical conditions of people in
distant locations. He told one pupil, Dr. Ellen Ligon, that
he could see a patient's aura and could tell from its appearance
whether the patient was sick or well.
During one period of his life, Dr. Still regularly
met with a local spiritualist group, and with a medium named Mrs.
Allred, who supposedly channeled an Indian spirit named "Metah."
Dr. Charles Teall wrote that "He was psychic to a degree and held
communion with unseen powers who helped him over the rough road
he was compelled to travel ."
In his Autobiography of A. T. Still, he stated,
'I was good at seeing visions all of my life.' Although these particular
talents of Dr. Still were never emphasized, they provide a more
profound understanding of the unique talents and insights of the
founder of osteopathy.
Note: The above information is not intended for self-diagnosis
or self-treatment. Please consult a qualified health care professional
for assistance in applying the information contained in the Cayce Health