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Physical Therapies Bodywork

Over The last centuries, elaborate systems to "work" the body to prevent and treat disease and illness have developed. Bodywork or physical manipulation used in therapy is usually described as being a manipulative technique, This is any system of treatment in which the practitioner uses his or her hands to bring about beneficial changes either in the client's muscles and skeleton, or, through them, in other parts of the body. From here a whole new philosophy of physical medicine was developed to integrate the body structurally, and through touch, to evoke muscular relaxation.

Ancient Traditions

All the ancient civilizations were well acquainted with bodywork: the Indians, Japanese, Chinese, Greeks, Egyptians, and the native peoples of both North and South America, all practiced manipulation, and Hippocrates described spinal manipulation in his work called the Corpus Hippocrateum.

In Europe, during the Middle Ages, manipulation, together with massage, became most closely identified with a group of healers known as "bone-setters." Such exponents of traditional forms of therapy were found worldwide, and they remained popular until modern conventional medicine came into its own in the 19th century. At that time, the new medical practitioners poured scorn on the methods and practices of bone-setters, and the therapy all but died out. In fact, it almost certainly would have died, had it not been for two men living in North America.

In the mid-1870s, Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917), an American doctor dissatisfied with contemporary trends in medicine, developed a new form of manipulation, which he called "Osteopathy." Osteopathy brought the practice of bone­setting into the age of science, training practitioners at formal schools where anatomy and physiology were taught in great detail.

In 1895, Daniel David Palmer (1845-1913), a Canadian magnetic healer, discovered that' "displacement of any part of the skeletal frame may press against nerves, which are the channels of communica­tion, intensifying or decreasing their carrying capacity, creating either too much or not enough functioning, an aberration known as disease." He called his method of manipulation "adjustment," and this method led to the establishment of a form of therapy known as chiro, practic. Less than a century later, both therapies are considered to be almost mainstream.

Further innovations in manipulative methods occurred later in the 20th century, mostly after World War II, and almost all are based on osteopathic and chiropractic theory, Ida Rolf, for example, a European who traveled to the United States before the war, devised a method that concentrated on relaxing deeper soft tissues of the body, thereby "expanding the body." She believed that when the body was realigned so that physical structures were in a straight vertical line, the earth's field of gravity could properly support the body's own energy field, establishing physical and psychological well-being.

Marion Rosen, also an American, introduced bodywork that incorporated a sense of touch to integrate the body with what she called die "psyche," or the soul. In Australia, an industrial chemist named Tom Bowen introduced a unique concept of having periods of rest between a series of moves within a treatment session.

Modern Methods

Manipulation today consists of many different procedures, each of which may constitute a full therapy in itself. Accordingly, there are massage therapists who specialize to the extent of administering massage only. Acupressure and shiatsu utilize energy points; myotherapy involves pressure on deep trigger points. Then there are physical therapists who combine massage and articulation. Some practitioners specialize in adjusting only specific joints in the body, and as the methodologies are refined, there is an increasing amount of overlap between the therapies.

Manipulation is gaining credence not only because there is a demand for it but also because it has been shown to benefit a large number of people.

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