Bonesetter History of Chiropractor

Bonesetter – Wikipedia 6 November 2017

A bonesetter is a practitioner of joint manipulation. Before the advent of chiropractors, osteopaths, and physical therapists, bonesetters were the main providers of this type of treatment.[1] Traditionally, they practiced without any sort of formal training in accepted medical procedures.[2] Bonesetters would also reduce joint dislocations and “re-set” bone fractures.


The practice of joint manipulation and treating fractures dates back to ancient times and has roots in most countries. The earliest known medical text, the Edwin Smith papyrus of 1552 BC, describes the Ancient Egyptian treatment of bone-related injuries. These early bonesetters would treat fractures with wooden splints wrapped in bandages or made a cast around the injury out of a plaster-like mixture. It is unknown if they performed amputations as well.[3]

The original spinal adjustment was a variation of a procedure known today as spinal manipulation. This form of treatment has documented use as far back as Hippocrates[4], the ancient Egyptians and Asian cultures and was carried through the ages by families of bonesetters. The modern form of spinal manipulation techniques have characteristic biomechanical features, and are usually associated with an audible “popping” sound.

The Middle Ages development of bone setters was within a body well regulated in the form of the bonesetters guild[5]; this guild served as a means of training, disciplining, adjudicating and mastering its craft. The bonesetters guild records were held in Austria[6] and surrounding towns, and was generally opposite the physicians guild, due to their closeness in cooperation.

The mainstay of the craft was seven-year apprenticeships by boys 12–17 who lived within guild huts and travelled with master craftsmen to spend time with various teachers[7]. Its history was not interesting, and no craftsman made an entry in respectable society[8]. It derived its training from the Roman and Greek “skeleton men[9]” and the ancient Egyptian “men of the hands[10]“. They entered university training along with physicians four hundred years before medical practitioners[11] then known as allopaths. The guilds’ models were adopted but americanised by chiropractic[12]. The bonesetters guild was present at the foundation year of the University of Notre Dame[13]. and Paris

Bonesetters[14] are noteworthy for three terms: stipendary[15], orthopaedis[16][c], free health care and the garotte. In middle European times life of an infant was entered by a midwife, but life was deemed to occur at seven days by the physician. If the first son, the physician and bonesetter would examine and confirm life and prosperity on the son, and the father would enter a stipendary of payment to the two healers to deliver to him a healthy son on his seventeenth birthday, then the physician and bonesetter would financially guarantee it with a money back return on all of the stipendary if the son died for any reason or was so deformed he could not carry on the family work to support the ageing father

The best bone setters, that is approved by royalty, would confer the title orthopaedis which is now orthopaedic meaning carer of the spine of the baby boy. These bonesetters were able to charge more and held high office in the guild.

Free health care occurred in the Middle Ages in that the then bone setters gave free care to the mans wife and daughters but not the sons[17], simply as a courtesy to the community.

The garotte was given to the bone setters and physicians in the French and European Revolution, where five thousand two hundred bone setters were garotted in the same time, as well as four thousand eight hundred physicians, as both were political nieve middle class crafts[18].

Napoleon in 1802 sacked their respective guilds and persecuted their members until 1806. The ‘fourth book of the dire of the craft’ was entrusted to one body[19], and the ‘six books of constellation’ were spirited away to private collectors[20]. There are nine large volume books by the craft in safekeeping today mostly in Greek, Latin and Gaelic[21]

In some older Eastern families and communities bonesetting was learned in conjunction with acupressure / acupuncture as the main healing art and treatment for the remote location and family members. For many years this type of training was normal practice in these families and communities being passed on from generation to generation. These teachings and uses could be easily found in regular use in the Samurai culture of Japan. This type of ancient formal training has almost completely vanished due to the modern chiropractic / medical boards and certifications. However you can still find a small number classically trained martial arts practitioners[22] practicing this art in traditional ways today.

In the 16th century, monks and nuns with some knowledge of medicine went on to become healers and bonesetters after the dissolution of monasteries in the British Isles. However, many bonesetters were non-religious and the majority of them were self-taught. Their skills were then passed on from generation to generation, creating families of bonesetters. Notable families include the Taylor family of Whitworth and the Matthew family of the Midlands.[23]

With the advancement of modern medicine beginning in the 18th century, bonesetters began to be recognized for their efficiency in treatment but did not receive the praise or status that physicians did. Some of these self-taught healers were considered legitimate, while others were perceived as “quacks“. In Great Britain, one of the most famous was the bonesetter Sally Mapp (d. 1737).[24] Known as “One Arm Sally”, she learned her skill from her father and was known for her arm strength[25] and ability to reset almost any bone. Though she lacked the medical education of physicians, she successfully treated dislocated shoulders and knees, among other treatments, at the Grecian Coffee House in London and in the town of Epsom.[24][25]

Bonesetters treated the majority of the common people since they were cheaper than licensed physicians. Royal families would employ bonesetters when the court physicians were inadequate or inefficient.[26]

The Apothecaries Act 1815 in Great Britain called for surgeons to take courses similar to physicians – a move that would raise the status of surgeons to be more in line with that of the elite physician. This allowed for some bonesetters to transition into the medical profession and encouraged interest in bone and joint surgery. As a result, most bone setter craft tools became surgical instruments and tools for bone-related injuries were then developed.[27]

21st century

In developing parts of the world, traditional bonesetters are widely popular and often the only address for treatment of bone-related injuries. In Australia most casualty wards have an area for resetting dislocations with ambulance paramedics and doctors watching. These bonesetters are usually orderlies with a history of working with footballers. Since the advent of the paramedic whistle of pain relief dislocations are easly set.[28] Most often it will be the case that there is a shortage of orthopedic doctors and surgeons in the country and so the two practitioners coexist in the same setting. In parts of South America, Asia, and Africa, traditional bonesetters treat musculoskeletal injuries in general, not just fractures and dislocations.[29] Traditional bonesetters are also known to offer cheaper services and allegedly faster treatment options.[30]

In Japan, bone-setting is known as sekkotsu. In China, it is known as die-da, and is practiced by martial artists.[31][32]

See also


  1. Jump up ^ Pettman, E (2013-08-12). “A History of Manipulative Therapy”. The Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy. 15 (3): 165–174. doi:10.1179/106698107790819873. PMC 2565620Freely accessible. PMID 19066664. 
  2. Jump up ^ Agarwal, A; Agarwal, R. “The Practice and Tradition of Bonesetting”. Education for Health. 
  3. Jump up ^ Phillips, S-A; Biant, L.C. (2011). “The Instruments of the Bonesetter”. The Bone & Joint Journal: 115–119. doi:10.1302/0301-620X.93B1.25628. 
  4. Jump up ^ see Wikepedia on Hypocrates
  5. Jump up ^ Bone Setters Guild Austra mentioned in Napoleonic Diaries 1832 and list of English Guilds
  6. Jump up ^ see Austrian Medieval Guilds by town
  7. Jump up ^ see Guild’s in Wikipedia
  8. Jump up ^ University of Antwerp medieval history of Guilds
  9. Jump up ^ see Caesar’s antipodes drawings and crafts. Renaissance library Rome in Latin
  10. Jump up ^ see Egyptian History Libraries scrolls and temples Egyptian Antiquites Library of Ancient Art Cairo.
  11. Jump up ^ Medicine Schools in America started in mid to late 1800″s but were not affiliated to universities until after their civil war. The surgeons came from Barbers. See medical care of civil war
  12. Jump up ^ chiro means done by hand and praxis means practitioner. Chiropraxis then evolved chiropractic. See chiropractic. Bone Setters were decimated during the French Revolution around 1792-95 and survivors fleed to Canada emigrating to America thru the decades
  13. Jump up ^ restoration on opening after the Reign of Terror at Notre Dame Cathedral around 1815-20
  14. Jump up ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. Jump up ^ the term applies to regular payments over a set period of time. In this case 17 years. With conditions.
  16. Jump up ^ in Latin it means care of the babies spine. A term used by Physicians and Bone Setters in the middle ages
  17. Jump up ^ see Burgereons stories in the French Republic library in Lyons
  18. Jump up ^ for a fill list of executions of the French Revolution Reign of Terror see the stories in French inside the Fort of Bastion archives second basement
  19. Jump up ^ Vatican Library. French quarter. Universities and Guilds section
  20. Jump up ^ Masonic libraries of antiquity. French Wars. Virginia USA
  21. Jump up ^ see D.D. and B.J. Palmer home library. Davenport Iowa USA
  22. Jump up ^ see Samurai Schools Japan
  23. Jump up ^ Phillips, S-A; Biant, L.C. (2011). “The Instruments of the Bonesetter”. The Bone & Joint Journal: 115–119. doi:10.1302/0301-620X.93B1.25628. 
  24. ^ Jump up to: a b Hartley, Cathy (2003). A Historical Dictionary of British Women (Revised ed.). Psychology Press. p. 297. ISBN 1857432282. 
  25. ^ Jump up to: a b The Cabinet of Curiosities: Or, Wonders of the World Displayed, Forming a Repository of Whatever is Remarkable in the Regions of Nature and Art, Extraordinary Events, and Eccentric Biography. J. Limbird. 1824. pp. 187, 189–190. 
  26. Jump up ^ DiGiovanna, Eileen (2005). An Osteopathic Approach to Diagnosis and Treatment. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. pp. 75–76. ISBN 978-0-7817-4293-1. 
  27. Jump up ^ Phillips, S-A; Biant, L.C. (2011). “The Instruments of the Bonesetter”. The Bone & Joint Journal: 115–119. doi:10.1302/0301-620X.93B1.25628. 
  28. Jump up ^ Queensland Health Casualty Services
  29. Jump up ^ Nwachukwu, Benedict (2011). “Traditional Bonesetters and Contemporary Orthopaedic Fracture Care in a Developing Nation: Historical Aspects, Contemporary Status and Future Directions”. The Open Orthopaedics Journal. 5. PMC 3027080Freely accessible. 
  30. Jump up ^ Agarwal, A; Agarwal, R. “The Practice and Tradition of Bonesetting”. Education for Health. 
  31. Jump up ^ Aries MJ, Joosten H, Wegdam HH, van der Geest S (2007). “Fracture treatment by bonesetters in central Ghana: patients explain their choices and experiences”. Trop Med Int Health. 12 (4): 564–74. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3156.2007.01822.x. PMID 17445148. CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  32. Jump up ^ Huber BR, Anderson R (1996). “Bonesetters and curers in a Mexican community: conceptual models, status, and gender”. Med Anthropol. 17 (1): 23–38. doi:10.1080/01459740.1996.9966126. PMID 8757711.