Osteopathy

Historical-Scientific Reconstruction

Andrew Taylor Still & John Martin Littlejohn

Reconstructing the historical-scientific process, Dr. Still after serving his country as a major in the American Civil War in the spring of 1864, returned to civil life and medicine only to be confronted by tragedy which he described as the new enemy called spinal meningitis which led to the death of his three children. It was at this time that he began to question the medicine of his time and sought an alternative system of treatment, without drugs. Still was the first one of his time to make a remarkable discovery, affirming and defending the conscious contact of the hand on the patient was much more beneficial than the use of drugs and some surgeries. But there were obstacles. He was disowned and dishonored by his family and colleagues and he became an itinerant healer, only to be distinguished as a quack that invaded fairs. In spite of his humble origins, the new healer was successful and settled in the city of Kirksville (Missouri State), where he presented the Osteopathy to the world in 1874 and founded the first school of osteopathy in 1892. Lasting up to today, with the current name of Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine.

John Martin Littlejohn belonged to the past half of the nineteenth century, during which period he graduated from Scottish Universities in arts and languages. Native of Glasgow, living in Northern Ireland, faced with a humid climate inadequate to his poor health, was advised to seek a warmer and drier climate abroad.

So he left to America for only six months to live according to professional opinion. However he began to teach soon after arrival, continuing for a period of two years, until his health broke down. Luckily, the fame of Still attracted patients to Kirksville, where he recovered to become a lecturer, co-founder and student of osteopathy.
Still, the discoverer only saw a part of the truth in the discovery. Littlejohn, on the other hand, looking behind the physical skeleton, was faced with the invisible function that is inherent in physiology. Littlejohn spent over ten years in Chicago studying the fundamentals of life and movement in living organism, under which he laid the foundations of our technique and practice.

It was Littlejohn who observed the physiological domain in the function verse structure equation, and the importance of inhibition and stimulation in the nervous and sympathetic interaction. He also emphasized the role played by the vasomotion in the control of blood circulation. But perhaps his most important contribution to our principles is the statement that “You cannot adjust the abnormal to normal.

This was followed by an intention to integrate the body so that the “Body Adjustment” became a clinical need. In 1900 he founded “The Littlejohn College of Osteopathy and Hospital” in Chicago, where he taught and exerted until 1913; when he returned to London he founded the British School of Osteopathy in 1917. Between the two world wars, he was the central figure in osteopathic education and practice in the UK until his death, December 8, 1947.

In 1907 at the launch of his book The Principles of Osteopathy, he exposes the preparation of a scheme of his own in which correlates the Physiological Centers with the Osteopathic Centers. This complex scheme lasts until the present day, being the fundamental basis in the exercise of our clinical practice. We cannot fail to point out this simple but deep observation so often mentioned in his vast literature: “The underlying principle applied to Osteopathy is expressed in the word ADJUSTMENT”.

Image 1 - Andrew Taylor Still
Image 2 - John Martin Littlejohn

John Wernham started his professional career in Fleet Street, but was stopped at the invitation of J. M. Littlejohn to study Osteopathy in 1928. From that moment, for over 70 years, John Wernham studied, taught and exercised in accordance with the teachings of Dr. Littlejohn and also developed a considerable library of osteopathic works that approaches Principles, Techniques and Clinical Practices, as established by Dr. Littlejohn.

In 1984, he founded the Maidstone College of Osteopathy dedicated to the education of Osteopathy according to the bases of Dr. J. M. Littlejohn. The College was renamed The John Wernham College of Classical Osteopathy – JWCCO in 1996 in honor of his founder. Dr. John Wernham practiced, taught, wrote and published until the time of his death. He died on February 7, 2007 at 99 years old.

Image 3 - John Wernham

Classical Osteopathy

Principles of Osteopathic Philosophy

Littlejohn reminded us that the Order is the law of life, and that Harmony is the principle of body architecture and bodies activities. Any reality that drives this order and harmony to a disease condition is a fertile cause of it. In this context we use the word “injury” or “dysfunction” to indicate any “diversion” in the tissue or organ of the body out of the ordinary. A displaced bone, a tight, contractured, tetanizado muscle, or atopic body may form the basis of a lesion of this etiology, leading to various complications, especially involving body fluids: blood, lymph and nerve force that represent man power and control the body tissues.

The human body is not a machine, but a vital mechanism that is subject to mechanical law. This means that the human body is the support of the weight and tension lines present in the living organism, as they are present in all objects on this earth plane. Parallel, nonparallel, and curved lines are arbitrary in operation, having a direction and magnitude which may only be refused at the expense of the body and no corrective treatment will be sufficient in many cases if stress or tension remains.

Image 4 - John Wernham next to the portrait of J. M. Littlejohn
According to Littlejohn:

“Osteopathy can be defined as a system, or science of healing that uses natural resources of the body to adjust its structure in order to stimulate the preparation and distribution of fluids and forces of the body, with the purpose to promote cooperation and harmony in its mechanism. However, we should not see the body as a machine, but as a vital mechanism.”

According to our bases:

“Osteopathy is not manipulation. The osteopathic lesion is physiological and not anatomical. The key to success is found in the Adjustment, not in correction: the correction is impossible in the living organism. Clinically, the action is directed jointly to all tissues of the body employing the members as long leverages, directed to the vertebral column only with smooth joints.

You cannot adjust the abnormal to normal, which means that the local treatment remains local without general or permanent effects. We will only be able to reverse this point of situation through an integration process that begins at the dysfunctional point farthest of the primary lesion site (reflection of the permanent state of homeostasis of any vital mechanism), representing the last lesion, thus reversing the last disorder to first.

The loss of integrity and loss of balance in the body are due to an imbalance between the sympathetic central nervous system and to the appropriate interrelation between the laws of static and body dynamics. These two main “engines” are the basis of Classical Osteopathy.”

“There is only one Osteopathy, and the only way is through the Integration process”
John Wernham

Scroll to top