By Rupali Patil June 1999 Traditional techniques for joint and spinal manipulations are now witnessing a resurgence under western names in India. BACKBONE CARE • Do not twist the body while turning. Instead, change the position of your feet and turn. • Just bending down and turning to one side should also be avoided. • When you want to lift any heavy object from the ground, do not stoop. Sit and lift the object. • Sleep on a hard bed covered with a carpet or a bed sheet. • Drink lots of water to flush the kidneys. Imagine this. You walk down the road. Overlook a banana peel, slip and fall. Result—a sprain. The next day a ball hits your child’s knee while he is playing. Result—a broken leg and a brawl. The same day, your friend bends down to lift up his heavy suitcase. Result—a sudden and searing backache. What do you do? You apply some ointment on your sprain, your kid wraps his knee in a plaster, and your friend, much to his chagrin, undergoes an operation. But why not opt for some traditional methods of treatment that could cure much better? Such as osteopathy and chiropractic? Osteopathy is a technique that uses body massage and bone manipulation. Dorling’s Pocket Medical Dictionary defines osteopathy as ‘a system of therapy based on the theory that the body is capable of making its own remedies against disease and other toxic conditions… (and) emphasizes the importance of normal body mechanics and manipulative methods of detecting and correcting faulty structure’. Explains Dr Krishna Murari Modi, an osteopath based in Mumbai, India: ‘Apart from a clinical examination, osteopaths depend on palpatory diagnosis: the feel of the tissue, the feel of the muscle, the feel of movements at the intervertebral joint. X-rays cannot detect minor spinal changes. So, once the defect is detected, adjustments are done by positioning the patient in a specific manner and giving sharp, short jerks. The patient begins to feel immediate relief.’ Until recently, Dr Modi was the only osteopath in the country. ‘When I came to Mumbai in 1975 and started practicing, there was no one in the country who offered osteopathic treatment.’ Dissatisfied with the limitations of orthopedic treatments, he decided to learn osteopathy. Osteopathy dates back to the early ’20s. It was created by Dr Andrew Tailer Still, an Army surgeon who got disillusioned with conventional medicine when his three children died of spinal meningitis. In his book, Cure Aches and Pains through Osteopathy, Dr Modi quotes from Dr Still’s autobiography: ‘I asked myself a serious question. In sickness, had God left man stranded in a world of guessing? To guess what the matter was? To guess what to give and guess what the result would be? I decided then that God was not a guessing God but a God of truth. All his works were harmonious. So wise a God had certainly provided remedies for all illness.’ Dr Manjit Sehmby, a resident doctor at Dr Modi’s health resort that offers naturopathy and osteopathy, explains: ‘Osteopathy offers a drug-free alternative to ailments such as migraines, spondylosis, shoulder pain, elbow pain, sprains and fractures. All these ailments occur mainly because we neglect our bodies. A bad posture accompanied by stress and tension gives rise to pain in the shoulder, the neck or the head.’ Backaches, however, are most common. Citing an example, Dr Modi says: ‘A lady who was two months pregnant suffered from severe backache. She was brought to me on a stretcher. The doctors opined that she should undergo abortion as she would not be able to bear the pain for the next seven months.’ But a few sittings with him and the pain disappeared. A classic example of the wonders of osteopathy is the case of former Indian cricketer Dilip Vengsarkar. Dr Modi recalls: ‘In 1976, Vengsarkar had been suffering from severe back pain and was out of the game for nearly six months. Doctors suggested that he undergo a slip disc operation. But he opted for osteopathy. After 6-8 sittings, he started playing again.’ A cricket fan himself, Dr Modi has recently written a letter to star Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar pointing out the benefits of osteopathy: ‘When Sachin was suffering from backache, he was given painkillers, laser treatments, and made to play. The best treatment is to allow him to rest.’ According to the doctor, osteopathy recognizes the structural abnormality of the spine and aims to normalize mechanical defects. But when this is not possible, it enables the body to adapt itself to structural weakness. ‘When we manipulate the spine,’ says Dr Modi, ‘we are not so concerned with putting the bone back into place as with removing the mechanical hindrance, if any, and restoring normal movements in the joints.’ In osteopathy, manipulation is usually done in four ways. ‘The direct method,’ says Dr Modi, ‘involves applying pressure directly on the spine. Chiropractors generally use this maneuver. The second method is where the manipulation is done indirectly through levers formed by hands, shoulders, pelvis and legs. No pressure is exerted directly on the spine. Instead, the patient is properly positioned and the osteopath manipulates in all directions. In the semi-indirect method, pressure is applied to the manipulated segment with the help of the hand, knee or the chest. Another method involves exerting constant pressure in the cranial region.’ Chiropractic, too, is a form of manipulative treatment. Says M.L. Kapoor, Mumbai-based chiropractor: ‘Chiropractic manipulations aim at removing disturbances within the nerves that stop proper circulation. And the pressure is usually applied with the help of knuckles.’ The healing power of nature then takes over, for, as Kapoor points out, chiropractic is essentially based on the philosophy of self-healing. ‘However, chiropractic existed in India long before the West discovered it,’ reveals Kapoor. ‘It was passed on from the guru to the pupil for several generations.’ A retired government official, Kapoor learned this technique from his wrestling coach at Peshawar. After Partition, he came to Mumbai. Since then he has been treating people free. Chiropractic cures ailments ranging from sinus, headaches to slip disc and muscular dystrophy. ‘Though,’ qualifies Kapoor, ‘you cannot cure polio totally, people suffering from slip disc are plenty and chiropractic is a perfect cure for them.’ Kamini Mathur, a former patient, says: ‘I was suffering from a slipped disc. But a few sittings of chiropractic, followed by a strict diet regime, has made all the difference.’ Anuradha Waghdhare, a housewife, says: ‘I suffer from sciatica and have recently started chiropractic. Nonetheless, the pain has decreased tremendously.’ Both chiropractic and osteopathy differ only in the form of manipulation—and in the fact that osteopaths are medically qualified. But manipulation has been an age-old technique for setting bones. Bonesetters existed in almost all parts of the world. Even Sushruta, the legendary Indian surgeon, used manipulation on several occasions, recorded in his treatise on bone treatment, called Asthichikitsa. An interesting tale goes that when Dr Corvisort, the physician-in-chief of Napoleon, was summoned to relieve the Emperor of lumbago, he asked Napoleon to disrobe and lie across a table. He then administered a well-aimed slap on his hips. The stunned Emperor turned in fury towards his doctor, but during this movement the painful contraction of his lumbar muscles disappeared. The moral of the story? It only needs a twist or two from safe hands to keep yourself straight and running all your life.
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