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A historical review

The ability to correct the cause
Naprapathy is well established in the Scandinavian countries, especially in Sweden where the first naprapathic college outside the United States was founded in 1970. Naprapathy was originally initiated in 1907 in the United States by Dr. Oakley Smith, who rejected the “subluxation-theory” used as an explanation for pain and disability in manual therapies at that time. Instead, he believed that the reason behind dysfunction and pain in the neuromusculosceletal system (muscles, joints, bone structure and nervous system) could be explained by modifications in the connective tissues and states of tension in surrounding soft tissues.

Smith based his comprehension on changes in the tissue of the body, which he proclaimed to be the reason behind different types of pain. He realized that these conditions could not be treated with manipulation of joints only. To achieve long lasting effects Smith combined spinal manipulation and mobilization with neural mobilization and Naprapathic soft tissue techniques. This way of combine different manual techniques still is characteristic for naprapaths.

Oakley Smith and the history of naprapathy

Oakley Smith (1880-1967), graduated from Palmer School of Chiropractic, Iowa, in 1899. The same year he was accepted at the Medical School University of Iowa. After three years of medical studies Smith started working with Daniel D. Palmer, the founder of chiropractic, at Palmer School of Chiropractic.
A few years later, Smith moved to Chicago where he initiated his first chiropractic clinic. At this time he also separated himself from Palmer and from the thought of mechanical dysfunction in the spine being the only cause of disease. Oakley Smith had another theory and was soon about to get support for his ideas.
During a study tour in Europe, he got in contact with manual treatments that were part of a popular tradition in Bohemia (Czechia). Smith was fascinated and back in the United States he spoke with several Bohemian emigrants in order to learn more about their manual treatments. What he learned was going to be essential for the development of naprapathy. In 1906, Smith published “A Textbook of Modernized Chiropractic”, along with a few other writers. The book described what was later to be called “naprapathy”.


In 1907, Smith initiated the first education in naprapathy, Oakley Smith School of Naprapathy, in Chicago. Thereby, the foundation of naprapathy was set, both as a medical system and as a method of treatment. This was notified in 2007 through the celebration of the 100 year anniversary of naprapathy.
In 1949, another school was initiated in Chicago, the National College of Naprapathy. In 1971, the schools were syndicated and the name was changed into Chicago National College of Naprapathy (today: National College of Naprapatic Medicine).

*    The word naprapathy comes from the Czech word “napravit”, which means “correct” and the greek word “pathos”, which means suffering. Put together naprapathy means “correct the cause of suffering (pain)”.