Robert Byrnes has been providing bodywork in a professional setting since 1994, and integrates several modalities for a unique treatment that is individualized to each client’s needs. He provides therapeutic treatments by appointment in his Mill Valley, California office. Call 415-360-4389.
Myopractics is a gentle form of dynamic manipulation and soft tissue techniques. Myopractics restores the body’s normal movement and flexibility, and eliminates tension and pain. You will wear clothes for this treatment.
A basic principle of Myopractics is that life is motion. The body is a fluid and dynamic system that is in constant motion. Anything that obstructs this life movement and restricts body tissue will manifest as aches and pains, tension and stress, or limited mobility. When there is a lack of motion in the body, this is referred to as a “restriction”. A restriction causes an imbalance in the body that typically results in increased muscle tension in the area of the restriction and in adjacent areas. The body will typically produce this muscle tension in an attempt to counteract the restriction and re-establish structural harmony.
For example, many back problems are directly related to some structural imbalance from restrictions in the pelvic region. This area is especially important to the Myopractor. The pelvis is the foundation and weight bearing center of the human body. If there is a lack of motion in the pelvis, the body may shift the burden and tension of weight bearing into another area, such as the back. In this way, muscle tension is created in the back in an attempt to maintain balance and to establish normal posture. Once proper weight transfer of the body into the pelvis is restored through Myopractic techniques, the structural relationships are anatomically correct and harmonious, and the rest of the body structure can become normalized.
Myopractics brings one’s entire body into balance and harmony. Through Myopractic techniques, motion is restored in the body so that one regains freedom of movement, maximum functioning and, consequently, freedom from stress.
THE ROOTS OF MYOPRACTICS
In this section, I will introduce Andrew Taylor Still, the Father of Osteopathy and Osteopathic Medicine. I will describe what made his approach to health and well-being unique, and how it lost its uniqueness as it conformed to the rigors of science and the demands of conventional medicine. I will tell a personal story of how Still’s original teachings continue to live on in Arizona, as they do in other parts of the world today. Lastly, I will compare the principles of early Osteopathy to Traditional Chinese Medicine.
A Brief History of Osteopathy
The principles and methods of Osteopathic Medicine were first created in the late 1860’s in the American mid-west by a man named Andrew Taylor Still. Andrew T. Still was born on August 6, 1828, in a log cabin in Lee County, Virginia. In his mid-twenties, Still decided to become a physician and began his studies under his father who was already a practicing physician. During the Civil War in the 1860’s, Still served in Kansas as a hospital steward, a captain, and a then a major. Still’s first wife died during childbirth in 1859, and in 1864, Still lost three of his children to spinal meningitis, and a fourth to pneumonia. Still’s inability to save his own family, and his harsh experiences as a Civil War doctor, inspired him to discover and create a better form of medicine and healing that did not employ the use of drugs (Museum of Osteopathic Medicine, 2012).
Still was influenced by many alternative medical theories of the time, including the practice of bonesetting. Still believed that the body was designed by God, and given the proper conditions, the body would heal itself. Still was particularly interested in the mechanics of the body and the inter-relationship of structure and function. Like yin and yang in Traditional Chinese Medicine, structure and function are intimately interdependent. An anomaly in the structure of the body will cause dysfunction and ill health. Impaired functioning and ill health will lead to a break down in the body structure. “The key was to find and correct anatomical deviations that interfered with the free flow of blood and “nerve force” in the body.” (Museum of Osteopathic Medicine, 2012). Still’s medicine was practiced with his hands, a method known as joint or tissue manipulation; a technique very similar to today’s Chiropractic adjustment.
Andrew T. Still wrote, in 1892: “An up-to-date osteopath must have a masterful knowledge of anatomy and physiology. With a correct knowledge of the form and functions of the body and all its parts, we are then prepared to know what is meant by a variation in a bone, muscle, ligament, or fibre or any part of the body, from the least atom to the greatest bone or muscle. By our mechanical skill, preceded by our intelligence in anatomy, we can detect and adjust both hard and soft substances of the system. By our knowledge of physiology we can comprehend the requirements of the circulation of the fluids of the body as to time, speed, and quantity, in harmony with the demands of normal life.” (p. 21).
Still’s new theories and techniques were met with considerable opposition, but by 1875, in Kirksville, Missouri, Still began to get his footing and slowly built up his reputation as a healer. In 1885, his system of drugless, manual medicine was officially named Osteopathy. The American School of Osteopathy (ASO) was founded in Kirksville in 1892 and the first class of twenty one students included five women (Museum of Osteopathic Medicine, 2012). The philosophy and methods of osteopathy spread throughout the United States and across the globe.
Today, there are currently 29 colleges of osteopathic medicine, offering instruction at 37 locations in 28 states (AACOM, 2012). As of 2012, there are approximately 80,000 Osteopathic physicians, a third of them women (American Osteopathic Association, 2012). Osteopathic physicians (DOs) in the United States are licensed to prescribe medicine and practice in all areas of specialty including surgery. DOs are trained to consider the health of the whole person and use their hands to help diagnose and treat their patients. Osteopathic physicians have a little more training in anatomy compared to a conventional medical doctor (MD). Osteopathic physicians also receive unique training in manual manipulation that conventional medical students do not (Blaivas, et al., 2013). But beyond that, there is little difference between the educations of a DO and an MD, and the way they practice medicine. Most consumers of conventional allopathic medicine, as it’s delivered by the insurance industry today, wouldn’t know the difference between a DO and an MD, unless they saw these initials after the doctor’s name.
I believe that Osteopathic manipulative techniques are underutilized by the medical profession for four reasons. First, it must be understood that Osteopathic manipulative techniques require a certain type of skill that borders on artistic. Expert training and consistent practice will help, but not guarantee a qualified practitioner. A certain type of talent is required; one that seems to be granted at birth. And like any art form, such as music or painting, just because you’ve been well trained doesn’t mean people are going to want to hear your music or view your paintings. Second, Osteopathic manipulative technique also requires a lot more physical effort on the part of the practitioner. Third, it takes a lot more of the practitioner’s time to work with a patient’s body in this way. It is more efficient and financially productive to analyze blood and other lab results, or to make use of modern technology that takes pictures inside the body. And lastly, most patients have been trained to expect a pill or an injection to make them well. Many demand it. I also believe, however, that a good Osteopathic physician has the potential to be a better doctor because she is liable to spend more time with her patients and understand the body from a holistic perspective. A patient with harmonious structural integrity in their body, who exercises regularly, eats a healthy diet, gets plenty of rest, and avoids stress, will live a long and prosperous life!
Dr. William J. Huls
An Osteopathic physician of particular interest to the people of Arizona was a man named Dr. William J. Huls. Huls, who began his career as a veterinarian at 21 years of age, graduated from the Kirksville College of Osteopathy and Surgery in Kirksville, MO in 1927 at the age of 31. Huls was taught the osteopathic technique by Dr. Roscoe Lyda, “the osteopathic prodigy” of Dr. A.T. Still. After Huls graduated from the Kirksville College, Dr. Lyda turned his practice over to Huls and retired. Huls grew his practice for ten years and eventually moved during the depression to Davenport, Iowa where he continued to practice the osteopathic method for the next 23 years before moving to Scottsdale, Arizona in 1960 (Zipf, W., 1970). Huls maintained an active practice into his late seventies and eventually passed away in November of 1976 at the age of 80 (Scottsdale Daily Progress, 1976).
A book about Dr. Huls can be found on Amazon: Dr. Huls – God’s Mechanic: The Manipulative Practice of William J. Huls
Shortly before Huls died, however, he spent two years teaching everything he knew about manual medicine to two young aspiring healers, James Marinakis and Joseph DeBruin. After Huls death, these two young men took over Huls’s practice. In 1977, Marinakis renamed the work “Myopractics,” and founded the Southwestern University of Natural Therapeutics in Tempe, Arizona, and began teaching Huls’s methods to others (Marinakis, 1981). In 1994, James Marinakis’s sister, Rhonda Marinakis, began offering Myopractic training at her massage school, the Institute for Natural Therapeutics, in Mesa, Arizona. I graduated from her Myopractic program in 1996. Several of the students who trained under James Marinakis and Joe DeBruin also taught Myopractics at the Institute for Natural Therapeutics. The most notable of my Myopractic teachers were Don Hirschi, Forrest Wellington, William Gajewski, and William Domke. Through an unbroken chain of just five people, (Don Hirschi – James Marinakis – Dr. William J. Huls – Dr. Rosco Lyda – Dr. A.T. Still,) I am connected to Andrew T. Still and his original teachings of manual medicine!
Life is Motion
In Myopractic training, we were taught that life is motion. And when motion is restricted, the flow of life is restricted. So when we restore motion to the body, we restore life. Motion, then, is the manifestation of life. This has been a guiding principle for me as a Myopractor and a bodyworker throughout my practice. I have applied this principle of motion – whether there is a lack of motion, or an anomaly of motion – from the most subtle level of the CranioSacral rhythm to the gross anatomical level of the joints. What I love about the philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the flow of blood and chi in the body is how much it seems to have in common with my understanding of motion in the body, and the principle that “life is motion.” When either of the vital forces of chi or blood stagnant, move too quickly, or move in the wrong direction, there is disharmony in the body and the potential for discomfort, pain, or illness. The movement of these vital energies is palpable, and when there is disharmony, this condition is also palpable. Dr. Huls would take his patient’s pulse before, during, and after their treatment to determine what needed attention and to monitor the effectiveness of his methods. In Myopractic school, we were taught seven of these pulses and how to interpret their quality, and what they corresponded to in the body. Lastly, Myopractics, like early Osteopathy, views the body as an integral whole, not merely a combination of parts to be analyzed separately. TCM understands the body in the same holistic, integral manner. TCM and the methods of early Osteopathy recognize the interrelationship of all the systems of the body and treat the entire person as a whole unit.
We have a rich history of medicine in this country, and many marvelous technological advances. However, as doctors come to rely solely on technology to understand their patients, they lose their sensitivity. As their ability to know the condition of their patient through palpation diminishes, their ability to deliver appropriate and effective care degrades. Because these high tech docs rarely touch their patients, they end up overlooking a valuable trove of information regarding their patient’s condition. It is my hope that the art of palpation in medicine is not dead.
The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM). (2012). Retrieved from: http://www.aacom.org/about/colleges/Pages/default.aspx
American Osteopathic Association. (2012). 2012 Osteopathic Medical Profession Report of the American Osteopathic Association. Retrieved from: http://osteopathic.org/inside-aoa/about/aoa-annual-statistics/Documents/2012-OMP-report.pdf
Blaivas, Allen J., et al. (2013). Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. Retrieved from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002020.htm
Marinakis, James. (1981). Myopractics: Health Care for the 21st Century NOW. Self-published pamphlet.
Museum of Osteopathic Medicine. (2012). Andrew Taylor Still The Father of Osteopathic Medicine. Retrieved from: http://www.atsu.edu/museum/index.htm#bio
Scottsdale Daily Progress. (1976). Obituaries. November 23, 1976.
Still, Andrew T. (1892). The Philosophy and Mechanical Principles of Osteopathy. Hudson-Kimberly Pub. Co., Kansas City, MO. Retrieved from: https://archive.org/details/philosophymechan00stiliala/page/n6
Zipf, Walter. (1970). The Zipf Code. Still a Busy Doctor at 74. The Mesa Tribune, Mesa, Arizona.
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