Stephen Opper

B.A., NCLMBT #2955

Stephen Opper practices Structural Bodywork, and teaches Therapeutic, and Natural Movement Systems in Asheville, North Carolina

        Manual Medicine – history



            Manual Medicine is one of the oldest forms of medicine, (just after herbal medicine, and movement medicine, which many other animals do as well) and is a cornerstone of every system of medicine in the world. This includes the western medical tradition; Hippocrates, the father of the western medicine, used manual traction and leverage techniques to treat spinal disorders.

 It has been postulated that manual medicine fell out of favor among European physicians during the time of the plague epidemics when physicians were (understandably) reluctant to come in close physical contact with their patients, preferring to dispense medication at a safe distance(Greenman, Principles of Manual Medicine). During this time only the lowest class of citizen would come into direct contact with a sick person.

            Unfortunately, this stigma stuck around after the epidemics, and western medicine lost a valuable art which had taken thousands of years to develop.  Thankfully, not all cultures had this same experience, and in the last century the west has experienced a resurgence in manual therapy procedures as practiced by osteopaths, chiropractors, naprapaths, as well as some physical therapists, and massage therapists. 


            I was originally trained in Tui-na, Chinese medical massage which has a rich history of manual medicine procedures treating both physical and physiological ailments. 

         Chinese Medicine is based on the concept of holism, that each part affects and is affected by the whole system.  It tracks the permutations of yin and yang, excess and deficiency, through the body to gain an overview of the person’s state of being.

            In the west, there have always been small groups of practitioners and researchers   who embraced this holistic approach, but they had to swim against the current of accepted medical knowledge. In recent years, this more systemic approach to anatomy, bio-mechanics, and the modalities which deal with them, has been gaining greater influence, and proving its validity with results.  It is an exciting time to be a student of the body!