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wards, and the anterior ends being confined to the sternum or breast-bone, the right edge of the sternum will be drawn forwards, and the left edge consequently turned backwards. The fore-parts of the left ribs will be gradually forced inwards or backwards, and thus the left side of the chest distorted and contracted.
I am aware how difficult it is to have a distinct notion of these intricate changes in the human machinery, without an exhibition of the parts concerned in them; but it is my duty to represent the train of phenomena as they exist in nature; and I think they are sufficiently intelligible to excite consideration and inquiry.
Perhaps it may be imagined, that the cases I have described are of rare occurrence, and that we have no occasion to alarm ourselves about a few strange distortions, the consequence of peculiar and accidental causes. If such were in fact the truth, I would not have occupied your time with the minute details of these unpleasant subjects. Unhappily they are very common. I feel warranted in the assertion already intimated, that of the well-educated females within my sphere of experience, about one-half are affected with some degree of distortion of the spine. This statement will not be thought exaggerated when compared with that of one of the latest and most judicious foreign writers. Speaking of the right lateral curvature of the spine, just described, he tells us, “it is so common, that out of twenty young girls who have attained the
of fifteen years, there are not two who do not present very manifest traces of it*.”
As the bones serve to contain most of the great organs, any change in their forms will be likely to produce changes in the condition and healthy action of these
* Lachaise, Sur les Courbures de la Colonne Vertebrale, p. 23, VOL, I,
organs, The spine gives lodgment, as has been said, to the spinal marrow; and this sends out nearly all the nerves that carry the influence of voluntary motion, and many of those that convey energy to the great organs of respiration, circulation, and digestion. When the containing part is distorted, the part contained is likely to be disturbed, and this disturbance must produce important effects on the nerves issuing from it, and of course on the organs to which these nerves are distributed. If the compression be slight, the operations of the organs will be partially disturbed. Hence proceed shortness of breath ; palpitation of the heart; the phenomena of indigestion, flatulence, acidity, &c. These again give rise to the uncomfortable feelings called nervous; though I believe they are sometimes the direct consequence of partial compression of the spinal marrow. When this pressure is considerable, the bad consequences are more obvious and formidable. In such instances the muscles supplied with nerves from the part below that compressed lose their activity. The circulation in the lower limbs is retarded, and they grow cold and livid, and swell. Sometimes even a complete paralysis, or loss of the power of motion, occurs in one or in both of these extremities.
The ribs and the breast-bone enclose and guard, as we have said, the organs of the chest. Their position being altered by the deviation of the spine, the cavity they form becomes deranged. Its left part, where the heart is placed, being diminished in extent, this organ is embarrassed in its movements, and, striving to relieve itself, produces painful and dangerous palpitations, and a general disturbance in the circulatory system. The lungs, for the same reasons, cannot fully expand. This
function is partially performed, and the blood imperfectly oxygenated-an irregularity of itself sufficient to bring on a low state of health, and a disposition to disease.
The want of conformity between these organs and the bones they are in contact with, causing interference between the parts, an irritable condition of the lungs may be engendered, disposing to acute inflammation, or to the slow development of chronic disease.
Having given some notion of the nature of the affections brought on by mistakes during the time of education, I shall advert now to their causes.
The general causes of these derangements are those things that weaken the constitution. They may be physical or mental. Among the most important physical causes are, want of the exercise proper to develop the powers of the body, and the taking of food improper in quantity or quality. The mental causes may be a too constant occupation of the mind in study; the influence of feelings or passions of a depressing nature, &c.
The facts that show the want of exercise to be one of the greatest causes of these affections, and of the weakness that induces them, are very numerous. On the one side, we observe that young people, brought up to hardy and laborious occupations, whether they are males or females, do not suffer in this way. The sons and daughters of farmers and labourers, for example, never exhibit the deformities spoken of, except in cases where there is a great scrofulous defect by inheritance.
A still more remarkable fact of a general nature may be seen, on a comparison in this respect between the
two sexes. The lateral distortion of the spine is almost wholly confined to females, and is scarcely ever found existing in the other sex. The proportion of the former to the latter is at least nine to one. In truth, I may say that I have scarcely ever witnessed a remarkable distortion, of the kind now spoken of, in a boy. What is the cause of the disparity? They are equally well formed by nature; or, if there be any difference, the symmetry of all parts is more perfect in the female than in the niale. The difference in physical organization results from a difference of habits during the school education. It is not seen till after this process is advanced. The girl, when she goes from school, is, as we have before said, expected to go home, and remain, at least a large part of the time, confined to the house. As soon as the boy is released, he begins to run and jump and frolic in the open air, and continues his sports till hunger draws him to his food. The result is, that in him all the organs get invigorated, and the bones of course become solid; while a defect exists in the other proportionate to the want of physical motion.
A question may fairly be asked, why these evils are greater now than formerly, when females were equally confined ? The answer, in reference to the young females of our country, is, that they then took a considerable share in the laborious part of the domestic duties; now, they are devoted to literary occupations, of a nature to confine the body, and require considerable efforts of the mind.
I shall not, in this place, say anything of the second of the physical causes of weakness spoken of, as it will be adverted to hereafter. The next of these causes which presents itself to our view, is of a moral nature ;--the influence of too great occupation of the mind in study, and that of feelings and passions of a depressing nature.
The operation of mental causes on the bodily frame is not unknown to any of us ; though they may not perhaps have been thought, in regard to education, to be of very great importance. As it is not in my power to enter fully into the subject, I would barely present it for your consideration, .
The effects of anxiety, grief, and other feelings, in diminishing strength and wearing away health, are quite familiar. The loss of property and of friends has been known to bring on diseases ; and it has sometimes happened, that an agreeable reverse or a favourable incident has speedily removed them. Confidence in a physician is a great help towards receiving benefit from his prescriptions; and many of the cures wrought by empirical or quack medicines are to be attributed rather to the operation of the mind than to the action of the medicines on the disease.
The production of physical changes in a sudden and sensible way, by the action of moral causes, is comparatively rare, and difficult to comprehend. Yet medical men do sometimes have an opportunity of observing changes effected by this power, which might appear incredible, and almost miraculous, to those not aware of the force of mental operations on the human organs. I could adduce many such cases.
Perhaps it will be proper to state one or two in detail.
When, some years ago, the metallic tractors were in the height of their reputation for the cure of diseases by external application to the part affected, the following