What Is Bonesetting?

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  • Written By: Melanie Smeltzer
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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Bonesetting is a form of joint manipulation that has become less common. This practice is used to relieve discomfort by adjusting bones and placing them in their proper places. Additionally, bonesetters may reset bone fractures and readjust dislocated joints. Although this was a common practice prior to the start of osteopathic treatments, it has since fallen out of favor due to more advanced medical discoveries.

An ancient practice that dates back more than 3,000 years, bonesetting is the art of rearranging misplaced bones and joints. Traditionally, this form of alternative medicine was performed by an unlicensed practitioner with informal training. This is still true today in many developing countries where medical resources are few.

Although there is some debate about the validity of bonesetting, many traditional and modern practitioners believe that alleviating pain and restoring the natural functioning of bones can help improve the function of arteries and nerves, thus improving health as a whole. When the body is subjected to injuries or unhealthy lifestyles, it is said to become imbalanced. Bonesetters believe that this imbalance may be corrected by placing bones back in their proper places. The idea is that nerves, lymphatic, and blood circulation will be improved, which may increase the health of the patient.


The practice of bonesetting can be found in most countries throughout the world. Each location, however, has its own name and manner of practicing this treatment. For instance, in China and India, bonesetting is mostly used to help treat fractured bones, though it is occasionally used in the treatment of sprains and joint dislocations.

Chinese forms of bonesetting are generally done by readjusting broken bones so that the individual pieces of bone match up. When this is done, a splint is placed over the affected area to keep the bones in place. This simple process was, and in some areas still is, a popular choice for mending fractures. The practice remains popular largely because no surgery is performed and no anesthesia used, and it is a relatively quick and inexpensive procedure.

In India, this practice is known as Bhagna and is considered an important part of ayurvedic medicine. This form of medicine is more complex in India than in other regions, demanding a study of bone structures and different types of trauma. Different bandaging techniques are used to help ensure that bones heal properly.


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