The Illinois Naprapathic Association was incorporated in the State of Illinois on November 25th, 1935. Certificate Number 3639. It was filed and signed by Harry W. Nelson, Irvin C. Lamon and Wallace L. Severance. The object was the development and perpetuation of the science and profession of Naprapathy by concerted educational, Legislative and legal efforts.
The Constitution of the I.N.A., By-laws states that: The name of this Association, incorporated under the laws of the State of Illinois, shall be the Illinois Naprapathic Association, Incorporated. This Association shall be the Illinois chapter of the American Naprapathic Association, Incorporated.
The I.N.A. functioned as a corporation of the State of Illinois completely on its own until 1984. Then on November 7th, 1984 it received its non-for-profit status by the federal government. Since then the I.N.A has held both, filing annual reports to the state for the corporation status and to the IRS for the non-or-profit status.
The I.N.A. has been a pillar of strength in moving the profession forward, guarding the assets of the Illinois Profession of Naprapaths and growing the educational development of the Naprapathic Doctors of Illinois and those from other states.
Founder Dr. Oakley Smith D.C., D.N.
Dr. Oakley Smith was born on January 19th, 1880 to parents named Robert Bankinson Smith, and Ann Beeson Smith on a farm in West Branch, Iowa. Oakley was a strong child until, at the age of four years, he suffered an attack of scarlet fever which made him weak, pale, skinny, and puny, and he remained that way for 16 more years. His Parents took him to doctors from state to state to find something that would improve his health and make him stronger again. They tried different medications, multiple natural springs of water in different states, and then he was taken to an Osteopath, Chiropractor, and enrolled into Medical school to find out what was wrong with him. Dr. Smith said if no one else could help him he was going to find out what would.
Naprapathy was established in the early 1900s by Dr. Oakley Smith, an osteopathic student and early chiropractor. Dr. Smith was one in a handful of early chiropractors to study under Daniel David Palmer (D.D. Palmer), considered to be the founder of modern Chiropractic. In time, Dr. Smith developed his own theories on Palmer's concepts of vertebral subluxation, one which focused more on healing and repairing connective tissue. In the fall of 1899, he was 19 years of age at that time; he enrolled as a special student at the Medical School, University of Iowa. There he took classes in anatomy, physiology and dissection. He also witnessed two to three hundred surgical operations during his two year stay at the university.
Oakley talked his, engineering student brother Horton, into doing some manual manipulation on him that Dr. Smith had developed himself. Oakley would give Horton specific direction and input to as the treatment and how it felt. Horton gave Oakley treatments everyday five days a week for the two years of Oakley's medical school training. Within two or three months his paleness began to subside, and then his cold hands and feet began to warm. His vitality increased and before you know it, he was getting cured. By the time Horton finished his degree in engineering Oakley was able to work all day and way into the night. Oakley states, "I was a recipient of a miracle." This with a little forming of the method of treating Dr. Oakley Smith had branded a new Health Profession. He quit medical school in 1901and moved to Chicago, Illinois where he started to treat patients in a clinic for free. Then many of his patients wanted to be taught by him and eventually he opened a school. He named the school, “Chicago College of Naprapathy."
He invented the charting of a recording of what your fingers felt when taking an examination and giving a treatment. It was called "Chartology". He had letters of Patents from the U.S. Government; this was a breakthrough in the science of diagnosis and treatment of disease. Prior to his invention no healing profession had any method for recording what their fingers felt. On November 16th, 1905 at 11:45 p.m. Dr. Smith discovered through extensive anatomical research, that fibrous, or dense, connective tissues (ligaments, tendons, and muscles) when damaged or over-used, led to a rigid, scar-like condition in the body that often interfered and aggravated closely aligned nerves. Thus, the discovery of the "Ligatite" which constituted the beginning point of the "Profession of Naprapathy."
In 1907, after devising a system of treatment for evaluating and healing damaged connective tissue, Dr. Smith founded the science of Naprapathy. Dr. Smith was an avid traveler. He liked learning about other cultures and health care practices around the world. While traveling in Bohemia, he learned about an old healing practice called the "Napravit Thrust". Dr. Smith observed the practice of "Napravit me". A person would lie on the ground after a long day’s work in the field and the other fellow worker would work up the spine with gentle pushes. Dr Smith found it to be similar but different to the technique he had been developing in United States, a gentle manipulation of constricted joints to loosen and relax. But it gave him the idea for naming it "Naprapath".
In the Bohemian language, napravit means "to correct, or fix." Dr. Smith took "napra" from napravit (to correct the cause) and added the Greek word pathos (suffering, or pain) to coin the name naprapathy, to correct suffering or pain.
In what was probably a self-referential moment, Saul Bellow, Chicago’s Nobel Prize winning novelist, once remarked that Chicagoans rarely acknowledge their heroes. Well today I bring you a new candidate. Beyond a small circle of naprapathic physicians, it’s unlikely many of us have ever heard of Dr. Oakley Smith, who, as a young chiropractor in the early 20th century first formulated the principles of naprapathy, a homegrown bodywork therapy.
The Chicago History Museum credits Chicago with the first blood bank, heart bypass surgery, deep dish pizza, and Tootsie Roll, but its search engine draws a blank on Dr. Smith. And yet it’s virtually impossible to live here without having seen someone’s name on a store or office window followed by the initials DN (Doctor of Naprapathy). You may have been curious, wondering what the initials meant. You also likely mispronounced it–it’s “nuh-PRAH-pa-thee.”
The forgotten Dr. Smith cobbled together an entire system of health and illness, combining the Czech word naprapavit (to correct) and the Greek pathos (suffering) to produce a term that means “to correct the cause of suffering.” At chiropractic college years ago, he’d learned that all illness was caused by misalignment of the vertebrae, the bones in the spine. If you had chronic heart disease, for example, a misalignment of the vertebrae at the level of your heart blocked not only the blood and nerve pathways to the heart, but also your body’s own subtle energies. These are the same energies the Chinese call qi, Indian Ayurvedic physicians call prana, and a variety of US and European practitioners manipulate through Reiki and Healing Touch.
Smith disagreed with the spinal misalignment theory (chiropractic history refers to this event as “Smith’s Schism”), believing the real source of chronic illness to be comparable blockages in the body’s soft tissues (muscles, fascia, ligaments, and tendons). A naprapath, or someone trained in myofascial release therapy, feels these blockages as chronic muscle contractions. They occur as a result of old but unhealed injury, psychological conflict, poor nutrition, or poor posture.
I expect to receive some irritable comments from naprapaths with this comparison to myofascial release, but in both therapies the practitioner gently palpates connective tissue, feeling for areas that are contracted, rigid, and painful. Then, using a series of rhythmic manipulations, the contraction is stretched and released. Once the tension is cleared, there’s restoration of proper nerve and blood flow, healing energies travel without obstruction, and the body begins to function again.
The difference between a naprapath and a myofascial release therapist is an important one. First, the correct term for a naprapath is naprapathic physician. And as a physician–similar to a chiropractic physician–he or she is licensed to diagnose and treat symptoms. On the other hand, myofascial release therapists are usually specially trained massage therapists or physical therapists who rely on their client’s physician to make a correct diagnosis and prescribe therapy.
Smith would go on to establish the first of two schools of naprapathy, the Chicago College of Naprapathy on Milwaukee Avenue. A rival school formed across the street a couple of decades later, the Illinois College of Naprapathy, and then, finally, bygones being bygones, the two merged into the National College of Naprapathy, still on Milwaukee Avenue. (I mean, Milwaukee and Belmont, how “Chicago” can you get?)
The problem naprapathy faced during its 100+ years is the same threat all alternative practitioners have endured—the medical establishment. Interestingly in the case of naprapathy, opposition came not only from the usual suspects, including medical doctors (MDs and DOs), but also from chiropractors (DCs), who resented Smith’s apostasy, and physical therapists, who routinely side with the establishment.
The result of this many-fronted assault is that after all these years, naprapaths are officially licensed in just two states, Illinois and New Mexico. Curiously, naprapathy was exported decades ago to Sweden, where naprapaths now outnumber chiropractors. Interested readers residing in those vast areas where no naprapaths practice should look for a myofascial release therapist. The commonest remarks I hear after a patient has experienced a session of myofascial release from our own Helen Streitemeier and Samson Wong: “That’s like no massage I’ve ever had before. It was amazing. My muscles feel like they’ve opened up.”
Exactly. Whether you call the session naprapathy or myofascial release, what it definitely is not is a massage.
One compelling offshoot of both naprapathy and myofascial release therapy centers on the emotional issues that can be trapped in locked and contracted muscles. This has its origin in the “muscular armoring” theory of Wilhelm Reich, a colleague of Sigmund Freud. In fibromyalgia, for example, patients often have unconsciously locked memories of a dreadful childhood event literally into their muscles. Releasing the muscles releases the memory and the patient can start on a fast track to getting well. I discuss muscular armoring at length in my book Healing Fibromyalgia.
Now you know something about naprapathy’s Chicago history that has eluded our otherwise excellent Chicago History Museum.
David Edelberg, MD