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Media Review

Lectures on Osteopathy -  Volume One

“Lectures on Osteopathy - Volume One”

John Wernham
John Wernham College of Classical Osteopathy, 1996.
ISBN 1909052000, 978-1909052000
Hardcover. 158 pages.

Perspective: Osteopathy, Osteopathic Principles


Available from:

John Wernham College of Classical Osteopathy


Selected excerpts:

From the chapter 'The Articular Mechanics of the Spine' (p.57) - A lecture delivered to the Members of the Institute of Applied Osteopathy in 1957
“'In the normal spine the vertebrae are held in proper relation with each other by the cartilages and the discs between the bodies. The mechanics of the spinal curves provide both pressure and resistance sufficient to keep the foramina open and allow free passage for the nerves and blood vessels. Where the spinal articulation is imperfect the binding tissues have a tendency to become over-contracted and rigid. This contractile tension is the cause of impaction and misalignment in the column, the resultant compression and obstruction operating at a localised point, and thence along the pathway of least resistance to produce disturbance in some organ or tissue.
In its broadest sense the osteopathic lesion is a maladjustment in any field of the body which causes perversion of the physiology.”

From the section 'The Physiological Movements of the Spine' (pp 66-67)
“The movements of the spine depend on changes from the erect position in relation to the central and anterior gravity lines. In bending backwards, the forward or laterally, the centre of mass is moved in the opposite direction, in order to keep it in line with the base of support, the important factors here being the centre of gravity at 3L, the arches of the feet and the pelvis. In the normal anatomical position, the dorsal flexion dominates the lumbar and cervical extension, and the dorsal is hyper-flexion. In backward bending of the trunk the dorsal is thrown into extension and the lumbar and cervical into hyperflexion.
In any given area of the spine when in easy flexion and sidebent, the bodies of the vertebrae rotate towards the convexity of the curve. The cycle of movements is easy flexion, sidebending and rotation.
In any given area of the spine when in extension or hyperflexion and sidebent, the bodies of the vertebrae rotate towards the concavity. The cycle of movements is extension, rotation and sidebending.”

© 1995 John Wernham


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Reviews posted:

An excellent book to gain insight into the principles of Classical Osteopathy. And also something about the life, personality and teaching of John Martin Littlejohn, to whom this book is dedicated.
Included in Lectures on Osteopathy Volume One are discussions on Osteopathic Mechanics, Articular Mechanics of the Spine, the Vertebral Column, the Sacrum, the Mechanics of the Sacro-Illiiac joint. In the section on the Vertebral Column Wernham describes in detail specific vertebrae (2C, 7C, 1D, 3,4,5,6,7 and 8D, 9D,10D,11D,12,D and the Lumbar area.
In the section 'The Physiological Movements of the Spine' (please see passage quoted above) the spinal laws of motion are outlined. Littlejohn (and later John Wernham) of course both knew of the American osteopathy Harrison Fryette (1875-1960) who originally studied osteopathy with Littlejohn in America, and was a graduate of the American College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery in 1903.
In fact it was Wernham's friend and colleague Ted Hall who revisited these laws and published them in the 1956 yearbook of the Institute of Applied Technique. (Wernham himself would have helped publish the yearbook, as he did all the yearbooks of the Institute). Ted hall had had a long association and friendship with the American osteopath Harrison Fryette, who first developed these laws of spinal motion as early as 1918.

To summarise the laws:
1) When the spine in is neutral, sidebending to one side will be accompanied by horizontal rotation to the opposite side.
2) When the spine is (fully) flexed or (fully) extended (non-neutral) sidebending to one side will be accompanied by rotation to the same side.
This describes exactly the same motion as Wernham does in the passage quoted above (Lectures in Osteopathy, Volume One, 'The Physiological Movements of the Spine' p 66 - 67). These laws are known as Fryette's Laws of Motion (Fryette H.H. Principles of Osteopathic Technic. The Academy of Applied Osteopathy 1954 p 16). (This book by Fryette, 'The Principles of Osteopathic Technic' is also reviewed here, in this Osteopathy Bibliography section. Please see this, and the commentary on Fryette's Laws of Spinal Mechanics.)
3) In the 1940's a 3rd principle was added by CR Nelson: 'When motion is introduced in one plane, it will modify (reduce) motion in the other two planes.'

These first two laws apply only to the thoracic and lumbar spines. The third law applies to the entire spine.



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