Hands for Healing

Donald NorfolkI always enjoy reading the introductions to books, which often give a useful insight into their contents. Knowing how important these prefaces are, I wondered what sort of job I’d done with the introduction to my first ever book Hands for Healing, which is a layman’s guide to osteopathic treatment. This book was published in 1966 and has long been out of print, although second hand copies are still available on the internet at a bargain basement price. I’ve just ordered one myself, since I didn’t have a copy of the hardback edition!  My search was initially fruitless, because I’d totally forgotten that the book was written under the nom-de-plume ‘David Devon’. This was a matter of professional etiquette, since in those far off days it was thought to be tantamount to touting for trade, if doctors attached their own names to books written specifically for the general public. Here is what I wrote:-


Massage and manipulation are probably the oldest forms of therapy known to man. At one time they were the major weapons in a physician’s therapeutic armoury. Now, with the advent of a bewildering array of new drugs and surgical techniques, there is little call for a physician to study or apply manual methods of healing. In fact the average doctor today, as a spokesman at a recent medical congress, confessed, ‘uses his hands only to wield a pen or to drive a car.’  There is little time during a busy surgery for him to ease the pain of acute lumbago with anything but drugs; no opportunity for him as a student to learn the manipulative techniques which could be used with benefit in the treatment of chronic foot ailments, tension headaches or painful conditions of the knee.

It recent years it has largely been left to the osteopath to keep alive these ancient skills. In doing so he has often achieved cures in cases that have failed to respond to all forms of orthodox medical therapy. Some have credited him with near miraculous powers as a result. But there is, in fact, no mystery about the work of the osteopath. His skill, like that of the doctor’s, derives from years of training and study. He does not perform miracles, does not offer a panacea for all the world’s woes, or set out to provide a complete alternative system of medicine. Moreover, far from being in competition or conflict with the medical profession, as some believe, the modern osteopath regards his work as complementary to that of the doctor. What criticism he has of orthodox medicine, is of its current neglect of manual methods of healing.

Much of the chronic ill-health which abounds today – the backaches, sciatica, fibrositis, neuralgia and rheumatism – could be cured, or at least substantially relieved, by the manual methods of treatment which we have tended to discard in our march towards a more ‘scientific’ form of medical practice.

This book tells something of the treatment of

these complaints by the modern osteopath. Though it inevitably draws attention to a weakness in current medical practice, it does not do so in any spirit of condemnation, but in the hope that this may eventually help to lessen the toll of chronic ill-health and lead to closer co-operation between all who are concerned with the treatment of the sick and the promotion of health and happiness.

© Donald Norfolk 2010


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