Some Amish Travel 1000+ Miles For Chiropractor Visit

The Ortman Chiropractic Clinic can be found in the small town of Canistota in southeastern South Dakota. As described in this piece in Mennonite World Review (“For Amish, long trip to chiropractor can be fun”), the clinic is noteworthy for the many Amish and other Anabaptist people it draws:

The Ortman Clinic, which celebrated its centennial in 2015, has been attracting Amish patients for 70 years. Today Amish, plus black-bumper Mennonites from Arkansas and some Hutterites, make up 40 percent of the practice.

Its popularity among the Amish is especially striking since none lived in South Dakota until 2010, when several families from Wisconsin established a new community about 60 miles southwest of Canistota.

Amish people from as far off as New York and Delaware make the 1,000-mile-plus journey to seek relief at the clinic. But why are they coming so far, with much more conveniently-located options at hand?

Ortman Clinic postcard, circa 1950s

For one, Amish people can be quite motivated to solve health issues, sometimes traveling across the country, or even out of it, in pursuit of a potential remedy. One unnamed man from Ohio admits to nine trips to the clinic since 2000…adding that some come every six months.

Personal recommendations factor heavily into Amish health care decisions, as Steven Nolt explains: “Who you trust . . . may be based as much on what kind of medical care your aunt received as on other factors.”

Nolt also suspects that Amish are going so far because they don’t mind the chance to take a fun journey.

The idea of a regular “vacation” is not an ingrained part of the Amish mentality as it is among non-Amish Americans. But if the trip has a practical purpose, it makes it a lot easier to justify.

Amish people enjoy travel and seeing new places as much as you or I do. “They just seem to have a great time when they’re here,” says Tom Ortman, grandson of one of the business’s founders.

As far as accommodation while in town, I found this quite interesting:

The clinic draws thousands of patients a year to Canistota, a town of fewer than 700 residents. Four motels are located within a block of the clinic, and a fifth is four blocks away on the edge of town.

Gale Bouma, owner and operator of the Depot Inn next to the clinic, said 85 percent of her business is Amish. “Some people even clean their rooms before they leave,” she said.

And if you’ve ever wondered what Amish people do for church when so far from home:

The lobby of the Ortman Hotel is stocked with books and games. A popular group activity is singing, for which the Ortmans keep a supply of hymnbooks. Tom’s cousin Ivan, another chiropractor at the clinic, noted that the Amish have their own worship services if one of the patients is a minister. Amish have even accompanied doctors to their own congregations on Sundays.

Chiropractic services are quite popular in Amish communities. Local clinics as well as visiting practitioners serve the need for those not willing or able to trek to the Mount Rushmore State.


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    1. Amish Girl - Rebecca

      Ironically, my parents just returned from a trip to Ortman a few weeks ago. My Mom sings their praises. My uncle (who has some kind of muscle disease) goes every year and it really helps him. So , they went with him and some others. They met people from all over Amishland. My grandparents used to go years ago, in fact when my parents and I traveled with them when I was 3 months old, I rolled over for the first time in Minnesota. They also did some sightseeing that time. I always tease Mom that I picked up the travel bug/wanderlust way back then already.

      1. Neat to hear that Rebecca. I found it interesting that this place has had such a long tradition of serving Amish and other Anabaptists. I didn’t find an exact year, but the postcard photo I posted is probably from close to the time Amish started going to Ortman.

        Also interesting from the article was the history of the Ortman family–some members had apparently been Amish while still in Europe.

    2. Ken Tibbetts

      Local Chiropractics

      I have many good Amish friends with whom I share outings, frolics, meals, local shopping trips, etc.. I also chauffeur them and their children to dentists, medical doctors and…chiropractors. They sometimes go out of state for operations. I don’t ask why they don’t just go to local hospitals for surgical procedures; I figure if they want me to know, they’ll tell me. Last year Amish friends took their daughter to the University Hospital in Madison for very delicate surgery on their daughters larynx. Having very recently arrived back in Green Lake County I have yet to go visit my friends and find out how their daughter is.

      Regarding the ‘travel urge’ of the Amish, a good friend in the furniture manufacturing business is on his way down to Florida with a load of cabinets to a couples’ home in Florida…that’s about 1400 miles from Markesan, Wisconsin. The two days it takes to get down there can be somewhat boring, riding in a big truck. Be that as it may, they tell me that they’ll enjoy the trip there and back and the little time they’ll spend there.

    3. Al in Ky

      I’ve found chiropractic treatment to be much used in several Amish communities I have regularly visited. I was surprised one day a couple of years ago when I was leaving some Amish friends’ home in southern Ind., a chiropractor had just arrived to make a home visit. I observed him taking his bag of work items as well as a portable treatment board into the house to do his treatment on one (or more!) patients.

    4. Alice Mary

      REAL social media...

      I can certainly understand how word-of-mouth advertising for any kind of medical care is sought out and respected in Amish culture. I suppose it could be considered the precursor to online social media. Face-to-face beats Facebook, in my humble opinion!