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Naturopathic Physical Medicine: An Interview with Leon Chaitow, ND, DO - Leon Chaitow

Leon Chaitow, ND, DO, a regular contributor to Naturopathy Digest, is just about to see the culmination of three years of his work, in the form of a new textbook, Naturopathic Physical Medicine: Theory and Practice for Manual Therapists and Naturopaths.

He took some time out of his busy lecture and research schedule to discuss with Naturopathy Digest this latest endeavor.

ND: Can you give us the basic book information (title, publisher, price, etc)?


Naturopathic Physical Medicine: Theory and Practice for Manual Therapists and Naturopaths
Paperback: 608 pages
Publisher: Churchill Livingstone (May 16, 2008) US, approx. June 27
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0443103909
ISBN-13: 978-0443103902
USA: $83.95, UK: £41.99

ND: Who are the principle author(s) and can you give a little background on everyone who was involved?

LC: I am the editor and wrote over half of the book. The opening chapter sets the scene of physical medicine in a naturopathic context, as well as outlining clearly what is naturopathic medicine. My co-authors for this chapter were Pamela Snider, ND, and Jared Zeff, ND – both major figures in modern American naturopathy.

Among the other principle co-authors are Eric Blake ND, a gifted young educator based in Portland Ore. Eric is the lead author of chapters covering Naturopathic Hydrotherapy and Electrotherapy Modalities, as well as a fascinating chapter on the History of Naturopathic Physical Medicine. This describes naturopathy in the early 20th century, when manual approaches were major features, including massage, early osteopathic and chiropractic methods, exercise and what was known as “physical culture.”

Another chapter author is Paul Orrock, ND, DO, who is a leading educator in naturopathic medicine, from Southern Cross University, Australia. Paul is lead author of a chapter offering a conceptual overview of naturopathic physical medicine. A major chapter, entitled Rehabilitation and Re-education (Movement) was compiled by Mathew Wallden, ND, DO, a UK-based practitioner and educator.

There are also 14 additional contributors from the US, Canada and Europe (almost all NDs, DCs and/or DOs) who provided key sections within the chapters described above, as well as on those where I was lead author. The foreword was written by one of the great pioneers of modern naturopathic medicine, Joseph Pizzorno, ND.

ND: How long have you been working on this book?

LC: The planning began in late 2005, at which time I recruited the wonderful team of co-authors and collaborators. It was written during 2006, bearing in mind that all the co-authors and contributors are very busy health care professionals, as well as being involved in education. After my initial editing, the manuscript was submitted to the publishers early in 2007.

ND: What topics are covered?

LC: The most important topic, which is a theme throughout the book, involves describing the unique characteristics of physical medicine in a naturopathic context, as well as explaining how manual methods can be used naturopathically. These modalities are used in ways that enhance self-regulation/homeostasis and reduce adaptive load. When these same methods are used in a more allopathic manner, primary causes are not addressed, the self-regulating aspects of recovery are ignored and the treatment adds to adaptive load.

Covered topics include:

  • descriptions of the core elements of naturopathic medicine
  • adaptation as a process that leads to most forms of dysfunction
  • evidence for use of the modalities involved in naturopathic physical medicine, such as massage and other soft-tissue methods, manipulation, and many forms of movement and exercise
  • assessment and palpation methods
  • hydrotherapy and electrotherapy
  • evidence for the use of naturopathic physical medicine in treating a list of major conditions
  • rehabilitation strategies in this context

It’s important to state that this is not a “cook book” and is most definitely not prescriptive. What is offered is detailed evidence of the value of many of the physical methods used in naturopathic medicine, in numerous settings. Ultimately these would be selected for use, depending entirely on assessment of the individual’s needs, rather than on the basis of named conditions. By providing evidence from research for all the methods discussed, a picture emerges of a huge range of safe methods and modalities at the disposal of the naturopath or any other health care provider.

ND: Why did you decide to take on this project? What did you feel was missing from the other textbooks that are already out there on the market?

LC: Naturopathy, particularly in North America, has increasingly focused its educational energy on a sort of green medicine – the use of nutrition, lifestyle and botanical methods of health care. Because of their licensing requirements, ND graduates need to demonstrate a certain level of knowledge and skill in physical medicine. However it has been my experience that graduates do not always take advantage of this, once they are licensed. By providing solid, exciting and compelling evidence that manual/physical methods are extremely efficient and successful when appropriately applied, one hope is that the book will inspire NDs to return to their roots and combine physical medicine with what they do so wonderfully in the biochemical field.

Many may not be aware, for example, of the astonishing success of simple immune-enhancing, osteopathic manual techniques (soft-tissue and mobilization), used in conditions such as pneumonia.1 These techniques are described in many textbooks but the context is not described.

ND: Give us some background on how this project got started and what you hope to accomplish?

LC: In 2005, I was invited by the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND) to make a presentation at their convention on the effects on health of breathing pattern disorders. It was my discussions with NDs and their educators at this event that led me to investigate further just what degree of physical medicine was actually being used by North American NDs, as compared with those in Europe and Australia. The answer was, “less than in the past,” and less than I believed should be available to patients.

Discussion with colleagues and friends in the profession led to the decision that it was time to present the evidence, so that individual educators and practitioners could decide for themselves whether something was missing from their therapeutic methodology. This book is the result. It also became apparent early on that many other health care professionals (LMTs, PTs, DOs) were using their skills in formulaic ways offering a manual version of allopathic medicine – treating symptoms rather than causes. Hopefully this book will illuminate this area of our work and work toward better standards of care.

ND: What do you hope the response will be from the complementary health care professions?

LC: That those NDs who have neglected the biomechanical/structural side of their work will re-examine what they do in the realm of physical medicine, resurrect old skills, retrain if necessary and/or learn new skills. Hopefully, other manual medicine practitioners and therapists will see the bigger picture and start to use these modalities in a more naturopathic, holistic manner.

ND: How can our readers purchase the book?

LC: It should be available in the US in late June 2008. It can be ordered from Amazon.com and major book stores, or via my website (www.leonchaitow.com), which links directly to the book’s page in Amazon.

ND: Anything else you would like to add?

LC: In the chapter on modalities, as well the one on physical-medicine treatment of specific conditions, there is a huge compilation of research evidence supporting use of those methods that falls under the umbrella of naturopathic physical medicine. Massage therapy is cited the most frequently. It seems increasingly obvious to me that massage is the manual method with the widest potential for offering benefit in almost all conditions. The massage profession should nurture its heritage and constantly raise its training standards, just as the naturopathic profession should!


  • Noll D, Shores J, Gamber R, et al. Benefits of osteopathic manipulative treatment for hospitalized elderly patients with pneumonia. J Am Osteopath Assoc 2000;100(12):776-82.

Original post: http://www.naturopathydigest.com/archives/2008/feb/interview.php