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News & Press: History of the Osteopathic Profession

Lawrence “Larry” Jones, DO - History of the Osteopathic Profession

Monday, March 26, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: John Stiger, DO
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In the 1940's the Osteopathic Profession began to flourish as never before.  During those war years they were called on to fill the void left by MDs who were called into the military.  In many small towns in Oregon the only doctor in the town was a DO. The public quickly recognized that these young doctors knew what they were doing and accepted them wholeheartedly. Dr. Jones came to the Eastern Oregon town of Ontario where he practiced for many years. This essay will address his practice there and describe the incredible events that led to his discovery of a new Osteopathic technique, officially called “The Jones Strain/Counterstrain” technique - a technique which is now an important part of the curriculum being taught in every osteopathic medical school in the country. It is utilized by physicians and physical therapists around the world.


Dr. Jones was born and raised in Spokane, Washington. His father was a civil engineer and his mother was a school teacher. At age ten, his father died leaving his mother to support and rear a family of four children on a teacher’s salary. It was the time of the great depression and so to help with family expenses, all of the children had jobs of various kinds. Like so many teenagers of the time, Larry was able to find summer work in the apple orchards of Yakima.  It was there while thinning apples that Larry witnessed the effectiveness of osteopathic manipulation.  A companion fell from a nearby tree and was unable to walk.  Larry’s friend, whose father was a DO, called his dad who came to the orchard with his table and after one treatment his companion was able to go back to work!  Right then Larry decided that he wanted to make osteopathic medicine his career.


After completing the required premed classes, Larry applied to and was accepted to the California College of Osteopathic Medicine in Los Angeles, California. He received his DO degree in 1936, graduating at the age of 24! Interestingly, his least favorite subject in school was anatomy yet later he became an expert in the field as his studies of manipulation progressed.


He completed a rotating internship at LA County Hospital in 1938 an was licensed in the State of Oregon by reciprocity. He had contacted the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce and with their help, identified two candidate communities where he might successfully set up a new practice.  One was somewhere on the Oregon coast and the other was Ontario, Oregon. He asked his sister if she had heard of Ontario – she had not and suggested instead the town of Huntington. He visited both towns and found that Ontario was a bustling, thriving town while Hunting was dismal railroad town already in decline. He decided to locate to Ontario and his first office was above a barber shop.  Because of his skill at manipulation and medicine he soon had a thriving practice.


Through a patient who was a school teacher, Larry was introduced to Katherine Quast and soon they were engaged. They married in 1940 after they found a place to rent and were able to purchase an entire houseful of furniture for $150!   During the war years Larry was called upon to practice as a general practitioner. He covered the emergency room at the local hospital and delivered many babies. Needless to say he worked very hard and was widely accepted as a physician. He used his skills at manipulation when there was time but he found that he could not devote the time that he would have liked.

This all changed in 1945. The MDs returned from the war and he found that he was no longer accepted or wanted at the local hospital. Many of the patients that used his services as a GP continued to follow Dr. Jones despite this discrimination. For a time he was allowed to attend the weekly morning CME sessions at the local hospital. After a time he was no longer invited to these sessions so he stopped attending. During this time he attended various osteopathic CME gatherings including the meetings of the American Academy of Osteopathic medicine. He worked very hard to stay current. The Jones had three children the youngest, Barbara, married Ed Goering a local veterinarian who later became a DO and in subsequent years has played an important role in the promulgation of the Counterstrain method.


After WWII Dr. Jones began to devote more and more of his time to manipulation. Because of his skill he was widely known and appreciated by the folks in the area. To further his knowledge he studied anatomy in greater depth and was a regular attendee at the AAO conferences where new ideas were constantly being developed. In early 1955, a patient was referred to him by a DO practicing osteopathic manipulative medicine in the State of Idaho. The patient’s problem was a persistent psoas strain/spasm that despite all efforts was not responding to methods in use at the time. Dr. Jones treated him on six occasions with no success. By this time the patient stated that if only he could get more than 15 minutes sleep at a time he would be happy. Dr. Jones decided to experiment. With the patient lying down Jones moved him gently in various ways until he finally found a position where the patient experienced no pain. He propped the patient with pillows so that he could remain in that position while he left to see another patient. When he returned the patient was sound asleep. Finally he wakened, gingerly got up and found that the pain was gone!  The patient said “it’s a miracle” Jones was flabbergasted!  (There is a video recording where Jones himself tells this story). 


That night Jones paced the floor trying to account for what had happened. Whatever it was, he was going to try it on other patients to see if it could be replicated. What followed was a series of successes where he used this technique on more and more patients in more and more places. Daughter Barbara, age 5 at the time recalled that she had injured her neck on a Disneyland ride and had been unable to turn her head since.  Dr. Jones decided to treat her and over her mother’s concerns placed Barbara on his treatment table and proceeded to move her in various positions. When her head was in a position of extreme extension she  cried out, “that’s the goodest of all” and her neck pain was gone! Soon he was using his method almost exclusively, rarely using the old High Velocity Low Amplitude techniques that had been the mainstay of the curriculum at  the DO schools.  Apparently a visit to the Jones home included a treatment of guests and family included as Jones perfected his treatment methods at every opportunity.


This was an important time in the history of the profession. McGoon, Sutherlin, Korr, Denslow, Mitchell, and others were all in their prime and the literature was replete with their findings and their theories explaining the mechanism of action of OMT. They all were well aware that it was very effective but exactly why was still controversial. To this group came Dr. Jones and his technique of Counterstrain. In 1966 he published his first paper in the DO magazine titled “Spontaneous Release by Position”. The concept was not well received by many of his colleagues but some were so impressed that they came to the first class that Jones gave at his home in Ontario. There were four students.  They worked on Jones’ patients and had dinner most nights at the Jones residence.  These doctors became disciples returning to their homes and using this amazing technique. Scott Heatherington, DO was in that first group and was instrumental in teaching students, interns and residents at Eastmoreland Hospital.


Soon Dr. Jones was called upon more and more frequently to give classes on his techniques in other parts of the country and ultimately to DOs and others around the world. Early on he wrote and published a book on the subject. The second and revised edition of this text is now available in several languages.


Despite the proven success of his methods he was still not widely recognized by the AAO. Jones feared that his method would die with him. In frustration at the lack of acceptance, he began  to present his concepts to other groups including physical therapists. Because of the nature of their practices, PTs are able to take more time with their treatments and the application of Counterstrain to their patients was an instant success. Sadly, because of his reaching out to the physical therapists he was even more vehemently opposed by the AAO.


During this time, his daughter, Barbara began to date a young veterinarian from Nampa, Idaho,  Dr. Ed Goering. Soon they married and Jones and his new son in law discovered they shared a lively interest in physiology and biomechanics. Ed injured his back rather severely and at the request of Barbara, Jones made a house call. After just one treatment Ed was up and working and burning to learn more about this miraculous technique. Not long after that, Ed moved his wife and children to Pomona where he enrolled in the The College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP). After receiving his DO degree, the family moved to Portland where he completed a three year residency in family medicine at Eastmoreland Hospital.  Ed now practices in Milwaukie, Oregon, teaches and gives seminars on Counterstrain all over the world.


Despite increasing success, Dr. Jones continued to care for his patients and refine his Counterstrain technique. In 1995 he self-published a second version of his book. Like the first it has been translated into many languages. He continued to teach his methods in seminars and increasingly at Osteopathic Medical Schools. It was especially well-received by female students because upper body strength was not an important prerequisite.


Jones was reared by parents who espoused the Christian Science belief. Their belief that the body has the intrinsic ability to heal itself seemed to jibe with the concepts taught by Still. As a result, he rarely prescribed medication. Despite his busy practice he was a member of Toastmasters and later Kiwanis which he supported throughout his career. These memberships also helped him to hone his public speaking skills as well. 


He often paraphrased the biblical saying that a prophet is not loved in his own country. Typical of bright creative people, he was impatient with the slow progress of acceptance of his method.  Finally in the early 1970s he became a fellow in the AAO (FAAO) and began to receive the recognition and respect he so richly deserved. He was never recognized by the medical establishment in Ontario. You can imagine their surprise when physicians and patients from around the world attended his memorial service in that town.

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