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Gentle bonesetting

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[Shoulder mobilization with bonesetting] [Image for printing]
Source: On bone-setting, Fig. 3.

What is bonesetting?

Bonesetting is a traditional healing method in which joints are mobilized or manipulated, i.e. their mobility is improved. Several types of bonesetting also involve the mobilization of soft tissues. According to the World Health Organization, it is characteristic of traditional medicine that it is based on the tradition of the country in which it is practised. This is what distinguishes it from complementary medicine, which is not part of the country's own tradition. Complementary therapies include, for example, osteopathy and chiropractic, in which mobilizations are in part the same as in bonesetting.

Bonesetting used to be more popular than conventional medical treatment for musculoskeletal problems in many countries, because it was cheaper, more available and often more successful. As conventional medical treatments became more available and successful, bonesetting disappeared from many countries. But bonesetting itself has also evolved with the times. Current training courses also include knowledge of the anatomy of the musculoskeletal system and contraindications to treatment. That is why bonesetting is nowadays as safe as, for example, massage. The results of the treatments are also generally good. Clinical studies have shown that bonesetting can help with chronic low back pain and neck pain just as well or even better than physiotherapy and massage.

Scientific basis

Originally, bonesetting had no scientific basis. But in the 19th century, the American physician Andrew Taylor Still developed osteopathy from bonesetting. Chiropractic also stems from the the bonesetting of the 19th century. Thanks to osteopathy and chiropractic, we now have a good understanding of how the techniques of bonesetting work. In the 21st century, research into the fascia has gained tremendous momentum. It has discovered mechanisms by which gentle forms of manual therapy, such as Kalevala bonesetting, affect the body. As late as the last century, it was generally believed that manual techniques mainly worked by stretching the tough fibres in, for example, muscles and fascia, which requires a lot of force. Today we know that all contractile fibres in muscles, fascia and connective tissue are ultimately controlled by the brain. For these fibres to relax, we need to send a message to the brain via the nervous system that relaxation is possible without danger. Instead of forcing the tissue to do something, we enter into a conversation with it, so to speak.

My approach to bonesetting

[Back massage in the Kalevala style] [Image for printing]

I graduated from the three-year Kalevala bonesetter training in 2016. Kalevala bonesetting uses mainly gentle techniques, most of which target the subcutaneous loose connective tissue and the superficial fascia. I still like to use many techniques from Kalevala bonesetting. But since my certification in Kalevala bonesetting, I have also learned many other gentle techniques to mobilize joints and soft tissue. Some are alternatives to mobilizations of the Kalevala bonesetting and some enable mobilizations that are not permitted in Kalevala bonesetting. Most of these techniques come from osteopathy and various methods of fascia treatment. Osteopathy, fascial therapies and Kalevala bonesetting have a common goal: to restore the body's natural balance. But there are many differences. Kalevala bonesetting is based on the assumption that symptoms like pain are mainly caused by postural abnormalities, whereas osteopathy and fascial treatments nowadays consider mobility restrictions to be more important. Kalevala bonesetting always follows the same scheme of mobilizations, allowing only techniques taught at the Kansanlääkintäseura association courses. I have a different approach, which fits in better with my background as an engineer. First, I combine the information from interview, observations and tests into a hypothesis about the cause or causes of my client's symptoms. Then I make a treatment plan. During the treatment, I may obtain new information that makes it necessary to adjust my plan. My working method requires flexibility and not a fixed scheme of always the same techniques. I decide for myself, if necessary in consultation with the client, which techniques from which types of manual therapy are most suitable for her or him at which time.