The history of naprapathy


Naprapathy was founded in the beginning of the 20s century by dr. Oakley Smith. He was from the beginning working with chiropractors, but quickly abandoned the thought that ‘fetlocks can jump out of their place’, the so called “subluxation-theory”, which at the time was the customary theory within chiropractics. Instead, Smith believed that the reason behind dysfunction and pain in the neuromusculoskeletal system (muscles, joints, bone structure, connective tissue and nervous system) could, amongst other things, be explained by modifications in the connective tissues and states of tension in surrounding soft tissues. Today’s science can explain that big parts of his conclusions were correct. As a direct effect of Smith’s realisation that the causes of pain and other discomfort was much more complex than just fetlocks and their position, he widened the treatment techniques to also cover soft tissue techniques. This characterize the naprapathy of today when you combine specific joint techniques with soft tissue techniques such as massage.

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Oakley Smith

Oakley Smith (1880-1967) became a chiropractor 1899 when he graduated from Palmer School of Chiropractic in Iowa.

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He was accepted to Medical School at the University of Iowa that same year. He broke off his medical studies after three years to work with the founder of chiropractic, Daniel D. Palmer, at Palmer School of Chiropractic. Smith moved to Chicago a couple of years later and opened an own chiropractic clinic. At the same time Smith broke his connection with Palmer and his theory about mechanical disorder in the spinal column as only cause for discomfort. Oakley Smith had another theory and he would soon get support for his idéas. Under this period of time Smith researched and took part of a number of dissections, during which he made huge progress that lead to his theory regarding connective tissue, and how this could be the cause for pain and reduced function. During a study tour in Bohemia (today’s Czechia) he came in contact with manual treatment methods within the popular traditions.

Smith became fascinated and while back in the USA he looked up bohemian emigrants to learn more about their manual forms of treatment. The things he learnt would have a crucial importance to the development of naprapathy. Smith amongst other authors published a book named “A Textbook of Modernized Chiropractic” in 1906. The book described what Smith later came to call naprapathy*. Smith founded the first school within naprapathy in 1907, Oakley Smith School of Naprapathy in Chicago. Thus was the foundation of naprapathy laid, both as phenomena and course of treatment. 1949 an additional school started in Chicago, the National College of Naprapathy. When the schools were merged into one in 1971 the name changed to Chicago National College of Naprapathy (today: National College of Naprapathic Medicine). *The word naprapathy has its origin in the czech word “napravit” which means rectify, and the greek word “pathos” which means suffering. As its wholeness, naprapathy means “to rectify the cause of suffering”.

Naprapathy comes to Sweden

In the end of the 1950’s 17-year old Björn J:son Berg traveled to the USA to study. He eventually ended up in Chicago with the ambition of becoming an engineer. However, he started off by working a period of time, and then got struck by a lumbago. His neighbour happened to be able to help him, and Björn got better after a couple of treatments. The neighbour was a student under Oakley Smith at the School of Naprapathy. Björn became interested and began his naprapathy studies 1960. Björn graduated 1964 and after some years of working in the USA he returned home to Sweden in 1968 and started the first naprapathy clinic in Örebro. The interest for the form of treatment grew and in 1970 Björn decided to move to Stockholm and start the “Naprapathic School Stockholm”. During the first years Björn cooperated with Hans Axelsson and Axelssons’ Gymnastical Institut, but 1982 chose a different path. Instead he developed the school now called “Naprapathögskolan” with his wife Inger Berg. Naprapathögskolan is today the biggest school within manual medicine in the Nordic countries, and each year approximately 75 students graduate.

Naprapathy in society


After being introduced to Sweden in 1970 naprapathy has grown a lot, and today the naprapaths are an authorized professional group within swedish health care. The naprapaths are the biggest group within advanced manual medicine in the Nordic countries. In Sweden there are about 1200 authorized naprapaths and in Finland there are approximately 180. The naprapaths as a group has grown very quickly in Norway, and include about 500 persons today. In Sweden the naprapaths give around 450 000 patients between 1.5 and 2 million treatments per year. Naprapaths often work in cooperation with doctors and physiotherapists. Except from all the private naprapath clinics in Sweden there are today a lot of examples in other ways a naprapath can work. A few examples are naprapaths working in companies within for example occupational health services, naprapaths who are employed within the sports movement, and naprapaths who work as consultants within care financed by the county council. A phenomenon that becomes more common is naprapaths who run bigger clinics where they hire other naprapaths, but also doctors, physiotherapists and other groups of profession.

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Svenska Naprapatförbundet
Götgatan 22 A
118 46 Stockholm
Tel: +46 8-549 013 75
E-mail: kansli@naprapater.se


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