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Reference PP/JHC
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Level Collection
Extent 55 Boxes
Title Cyriax, James Henry (1904-1985), orthopaedic physician
Date 1925-1999
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Name Cyriax, James Henry (1904-1985)

Personal papers of James Cyriax, including a large number of patient records (arranged alphabetically). Also includes material relating to the Cyriax Foundation, an organisation set up to promote Cyriax's work and ideas, and publications by both Cyriax and his father, the physician Edgar Cyriax.

Historical Background

James Henry [formerly Hendrik Edgar] Cyriax (1904–1985), was an orthopaedic physician, born in London on 27 October 1904. His father was Edgar Ferdinand Cyriax and his mother was Annjuta Cyriax (née Kellgren) - both parents medical doctors whose practice focussed on treatment of musculoskeletal disorders by exercise and manipulation - whist his maternal grandfather, Jonas Henrik Kellgren, was a Swedish army officer who settled in London where he founded both a school of Swedish gymnastics and a private hospital. (His paternal grandfather, Julius Friedrich Theodor Cyriax, was a manufacturing chemist who emigrated to London from Germany and became one of Kellgren's patients.)

Cyriax was educated at University College School, London; Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge; and at St Thomas's Hospital medical school in London; he qualified MRCS LRCP in 1929 and graduated MD in 1938 with a dissertation on "The pathology and treatment of chronic sprain of the elbow" (a subject that he revisited for an essay that won the Heberden Prize in 1943). He was admitted MRCP by examination in 1954, but never became a Fellow, possibly as a result of difficult relations with his peers (who alleged a failure on his part to produce scientific validation for his methods).

Cyriax was appointed house surgeon to the department of orthopaedic surgery and was involved in the evolution of what eventually became a unified department of physical medicine out of the orthopaedic surgery service and the school of massage and medical gymnastics. He published on tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, the cervical and lumbar spine and the shoulder. He drew on the new concept of referred pain in this work. He considered that sciatica was due to a 'slipped disc' and could be treated by epidural injections of local anaesthetic, taking a leading role in disseminating this idea. He published extensively, his magnum opus being the two-volume Textbook of Orthopaedic Medicine, which described diagnosis through history-taking and physical examination (a major contribution, since the technology of the time was limited to techniques such as X-rays that were not helpful in this field) and guided doctors and physiotherapists through treatment by local anaesthetics, steroids, massage and so forth. It is perhaps in this area that his contribution was greatest and most lasting, although he also had a reputation as a flamboyant and theatrical practitioner.

Cyriax worked in the field of orthopaedic medicine at St Thomas's Hospital for virtually his entire career, retiring at 65. His career was perhaps impeded by his impatience with those who did not accept his methods or logic, and his willingness to irritate those whom he saw as "old buffers", and he was rather isolated from the medical mainstream. he did, however, play a role in relevant professional bodies. In the late 1960s he was co-founder of the Institute of Orthopaedic Medicine, then in the late 1970s he founded the Society of Orthopaedic Medicine; the latter included physiotherapists as well as doctors, and served to raise their professional status of physiotherapists (as a recognition of this Cyriax was made a fellow of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy). He was the first president of the British Association of Manual Medicine, founded to bring osteopaths, chiropractors and doctors together; this organisation was later renamed the British Institute of Musculoskeletal Medicine.

Cyriax died in 1985 and was buried in Hampstead cemetary.

Acquisition Details Donated to the Wellcome Library in January 2009.
Accession Number 1638
Access Status Certain restrictions apply
Access Conditions

PP/JHC/B/7 is closed until 1 January 2074.

PP/JHC/C/1-PP/JHC/C/229 are closed due to Data Protection considerations. See the item level records for details of individual closure periods.

The rest of the papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material.

Reproduction Conditions Images are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.
Related Material

In the Wellcome Library:

Papers of Cyriax's father Edgar Ferdinand Cyriax are held as MSS.2001-2025 and 6054-6060. Papers of his maternal grandfather Jonas Henrik Kellgren are held as MSS.5406-5409 and 7869-7872.

Papers of Jonas Henrik Kellgren's assistant Allan Broman are held as GC/6.

The archives of the British Institute of Musculoskeletal Medicine and its predecessor bodies the British Association of Manipulative Medicine and the British Institute of Musculoskeletal Medicine are held as SA/BIM.

The archive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is held as SA/CSP.

Subject Massage
Subject Physical Therapy Specialty
Subject Orthopedics
MaterialType Archives - Non-digital
System No. 834b43b2-14a8-42b8-8a13-80d2b0a0f6d6