Chiropractic in Mental Ailments

There is a considerable accumulation of evidence that chiropractic is effective in the handling of various mental ills, perhaps even more effective in certain instances than the medical battery of treatment which includes psychoanalysis, psychiatry, drugs, various types of shock therapy, and surgery. This evidence has been piling up since the days of D. D. Palmer himself, who wrote that in the case of insane patients it was usual to find “occlusion of the third, sixth, seventh, eleventh, and twelfth dorsal nerves.”

In 1952, a crusading book entitled Obsolete American Mental Health Systems made startling claims that both chiropractic and osteopathy were far superior to so-called “orthodox” procedures in the handling of mental ills. Written by John Stevenson, who was for many years a prominent figure in labor management in the State of Michigan, it made such direct comparisons as these:

“Under our present state mental health programs, seventy-five to ninety-five patients of every one hundred patients who enter state mental hospitals are doomed to an asylum prison for life, depending on which state the patients are confined in. The patient may be located in a state hospital where the average mental cure is the lowest per annum, beginning with Michigan, which has about one per cent cures per annum. Ranging across the nation to Massachusetts, we find approximately twenty-five per cent cures or satisfactory discharges. This costs the taxpayers $16,000,000 per annum in Michigan alone. Across the nation, involving every state, the total runs into hundreds of millions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money…

“Investigation reveals that the private sanitariums of the chiropractic profession show from 60 to 65 per cent satisfactory discharges per annum as against 1 per cent to approximately 25 per cent discharges from state mental hospitals.” (Italics author’s.)

Stevenson charged that organized medicine maintains what amounts to a virtual monopoly over most state mental systems and mental hospitals, and stated: “There are very few hospitals employing chiropractors and osteopaths and they only in limited numbers. The legislators and governors of almost every state have failed to legislate osteopathic and chiropractic doctors for state mental hospital staffs. The medical doctors and their associated psychiatrists would probably walk out of our state mental hospitals if our state legislatures enacted laws allowing chiropractic or osteopathic doctors to practice in- state mental hospitals. The medicos would probably strike, the same as labor does when there’s an unsettled issue with management.” (Italics author’s.)

Stevenson also called for what he termed a “Tripartite State Mental Health System” in which each state should have at least one mental hospital operated exclusively by chiropractors and one operated exclusively by osteopaths, in addition to the medically-operated setup. He has not progressed far in his campaign to date.

Over the years the increase in mental ills, ranging from those that do not incapacitate to those that re-quire total care and in many instances restraint, has been steady and frightening. In 40 years prior to 1931, the total of inmates in U. S. state mental institutions climbed 460 per cent as compared with a population increase of only 110 per cent. In 1926, we had approximately 500,000 mental cases; by 1946, the total had reached almost 10,000,000, a twenty-fold increase in two decades. Both alcoholism and drug addiction—indications of emotional disturbance in the opinion of many authorities—have increased alarmingly.

In World War II, the chief reason for draft rejections and medical discharges by our armed forces was not, as might be supposed, some major killer such as heart trouble or cancer. Instead, it was mental illness. According to the U. S. Public Health Service, there are between 20 million and 30 million persons in this country who are “borderline” mental cases on the verge of “nervous breakdown.”

Orthodox healers have consistently held the position that no connection exists between nervous breakdown and the nervous system. Their claim has been that there was no detectable difference between the nerves of the mentally calm and the mentally distraught. This position seems to be contradicted by the fact that chiropractic has had much success with “nervous breakdown” patients, who are so numerous and pre-sent a multitude of symptoms, such as irritability, insomnia, emotional flare-ups, muscular twitches, digestive disturbances popularly referred to as “nervous stomach,” headaches, and a general apprehension about “cracking up.”

Chiropractors state that clinical experience with many thousands of nervous patients has definitely established a direct connection between the nervous system and these disorders, demonstrating that the latter are not always of purely emotional origin. They also state that the physical alterations they are able to stimulate in the nervous system through spinal adjustment are highly successful in eliminating nervous symptoms, including those of long duration. This was stressed in a recent series of articles in the National Chiropractic Association journal titled “The Connection Between Nerves and Nervousness” and written by Dr. Herman S. Schwartz, President of the National Chiropractic Psychotherapy Council and author of the popular self-help book The Art of Relaxation.

Now it appears that there is definite laboratory evidence of chemical differences between the nerves of persons who are tired and irritable and those who are rested and calm. The Swedish nuclear physicist Dr. Torbjoern O. Caspersson recently perfected a fantastically precise device which can detect changes in the protein content of individual human cells amounting to no more than one ten-thousandth of a gram in a cell of one-millionth of a meter in diameter. He has described as “profound” the chemical differences between the cells of persons who are tired and the cells of those who are rested.

Since tension and exhaustion almost invariably ac-company “nervous breakdown” symptoms, the importance of the above discovery is obvious. According to Dr. Schwartz, Dr. Caspersson’s findings “put to an absolute end the old argument—that since there are no visible nerve changes inside neurotics, the malady is strictly `mental.’ ”

If chiropractic can do anything for patients with emotional and nervous disorders, then its record is worthy of attention. For, according to the Federal Security Agency’s pamphlet The National Mental Health Act and Your Community, “. . . from 30 to 60 per cent of all patients consulting all doctors do so primarily for complaints due to emotional disorders …” And the U. S. Public Health Service, in a June, 1948, statement, admitted frankly that, “Our knowledge (of mental illness) is limited and many of our conclusions rest on slender foundations. We must learn more about the causes, treatment, and prevention of mental illness if we hope to improve the mental health of the people.”

A valuable guide to the subject is a public-information booklet written by Dr. Schwartz with the technical and editorial collaboration of George W. Hartmann, Professor of Psychology, Teachers College, Columbia University. It is entitled 350 Nervous and Mental Cases Under Chiropractic Care and was published by The Chiropractic Research Foundation of Webster City, Iowa.

Dr. Schwartz cogently sums up chiropractic’s approach to mental illness. He says: “It is logical to ask how chiropractors correct nervous and mental conditions without resorting to psychiatry. The answer is that chiropractic is a neurological approach to these problems, operating on the independent assumption now an established scientific fact-that much emotional illness stems from nerve irritations maintained by distortions in the spinal column. By correcting these subluxations, the chiropractor eliminates intense and persistent pains of obscure origin which mental cases suffer. A person with a cinder in his eye sometimes shows temporary lack of emotional control. So does one who has his corn stepped on heavily. Perpetuate excitation with a less obvious source of trouble and one begins to understand why some of the mentally ill suffer.”

Of the 350 patients in the Schwartz survey, 212 or 60.5 per cent were “apparently cured” through chiropractic, 87 or 25 per cent “much improved,” 28 or 8 per cent “somewhat improved,” 19 or 5.5 per cent revealed “no change,” and 4 or 1 per cent were “worse.”

Thus in 93.5 per cent of these patients improvement was noted ranging from apparent cure to some betterment of the condition.

“The summation here,” observed Dr. Schwartz, “is that the chances are about 9 in 10 that `nervous’ cases of the sort considered, benefit from whatever the chiropractor does for them. Interestingly enough, every one of the 350 cases studied revealed subluxations of variable magnitude in spinal analysis.” (Italics author’s.)

The Schwartz study becomes even more impressive when it is noted that of the patients studied 33 per cent had been in mental institutions and another four per cent were on the verge of being committed at the time chiropractic was first applied to them. More than 55 per cent had received general medical care, 13 per cent had undergone some form of shock therapy, and six per cent had had psychiatric treatment. Of the entire 350, all but five had had at least some degree of medical and psychiatric attention. Under such treatment, 27 or 8 per cent of the entire group had worsened, 33 or 10 per cent had shown some improvement, and 285 or 81 per cent had shown no change either for better or for worse.

Following are several cases from the Schwartz study:

General nervousness: G. I., age 26, married. Subject was employed as an assistant hotel manager. Du-ration of illness: 15 months. Subject complained of sick headaches, pains in his neck and behind his ears. He was extremely nervous and given to violent out-bursts of temper without provocation. Inability to get along with people spelled a grave defect in his work and lessened job security. Subject’s illness stemmed from a personal fight overseas in which he was knocked down. The medical officer who examined him at point of discharge from service heard the specific complaints. Eye glasses were recommended but brought no relief. Subsequently, under chiropractic care, the subject received 10 adjustments and was discharged in 1947 as apparently recovered. He re-enlisted in the Army and at last report was handling administrative duties capably without a sign of previous distress.

Neurasthenia: Male student, age 23. Illness was of 18 months’ duration. Subject complained of severe head and back pains and imagined that he was suffering with a brain tumor. His mental condition was believed to have been precipitated by trying war experiences. Subject served in counterespionage for several years. This duty was of a consistently dangerous nature and held him in a state of high nervous tension over prolonged periods. Following the war, subject spent two months in a veterans facility and showed only partial improvement in this time. A throat specialist referred the case to a chiropractor in February, 1949. Subject responded favorably to the first of a series of adjustments and within six weeks was discharged as apparently recovered.

Schizophrenia: Male student, age 22. Violent and under guard. Suffered acute hallucinations. Accused family of trying to throw him into a lion’s den. Under care of a number of M.D.’s who diagnosed case as acute mania. Papers signed for subject’s commitment. Mother refused to have him committed. Patient came under chiropractic care in highly excitable state. M.D. administered anesthetic to facilitate vertebral analysis. Immediate improvement noted following first adjustment. Subject recovered in four weeks. Returned to college to complete studies.

Noting that “A community hospital belongs to all the people,” Dr. Schwartz called for the inclusion of chiropractors on the staffs of such institutions. “In many forward-looking institutions,” he wrote, “a therapeutic `team’ consists of a psychiatrist, psychologist, general medical practitioner, psychiatric nurse, social worker, and clergyman, all combined on the principle that the diversity of patient problems requires an organization of specialized skills. Add a chiropractor to the lineup, and the `team’ would be complete …”

One of the best-known chiropractic institutions dealing with the mentally ill is Forest Park Chiropractic Sanitarium in Davenport, Iowa. Its record in mental cases appears far superior than that of many, if not all, orthodox institutions. As far back as 1934, through the efforts of Hon. A. W. Ponath, County Judge of the Probate Court of Richland County, Wahpeton, North Dakota, 10 patients from the State Hospital at James-town, North Dakota, who had all been diagnosed as hopeless and incurable cases of dementia praecox, were sent to Forest Park in a test of what chiropractic could or could not accomplish. All of the 10 were chronic cases, and eight of the ten had been in the North Dakota state mental institution for from five to ten years. The remaining two were acute cases who had been mentally deranged for only a short time.

With these ten mental patients—all of whom had been diagnosed by state-employed medical doctors and psychiatrists as hopelessly incurable—Forest Park appears to have achieved 80 per cent complete recovery. The two acute cases were completely recovered by the end of the second month of treatment. Of the eight chronic cases, six were returned home as free from symptoms within one year.

Judge Ponath subsequently published a report titled Facts—What Chiropractic Has Done for Insanity in which he compared the overall records at Jamestown, N. D., (under medical supervision) and Forest Park (chiropractic). He found that during the years 1922-1934 the state mental hospital achieved 27.18 cures or satisfactory discharges, as compared with 65 per cent of the chiropractic institution over the same period.

Judge Ponath concluded, “And if this record, 65 per cent, can be obtained on cases where the large percentage are classed as incurable and had already spent much time in insane asylums and other sanitariums, how much more chiropractic could do if given the opportunity to handle the patients immediately after being brought to an insane asylum, rather than months or years later when their constitution has been run down by deterioration or prolonged mental disability or both.”

According to a recent survey by the National Chiropractic Association, of a total of 2,556 cases of mental illness reported to the Association, 1,702 were completely restored to normal through chiropractic, 431 were partially restored, and 423 obtained little or no benefit.