History of Osteopathy
The role of the physician is to find the health within the patient.
The Osteopathic medical profession was founded by Andrew Taylor Still, MD in the 1870’s. He was a country doctor, and served as a surgeon in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was frustrated that the medical practices of that time were frequently ineffective and sometimes harmful. He set out to find more effective ways to help people regain health, devoting the next ten years of his life to further study.
Dr. Still spent many hours re-reading the medical texts of the time and studying cadavers and the animals he hunted. He was guided by the wisdom he observed in the natural world. He said, “Osteopathy is to me a very sacred science. It is sacred because it is a healing power through all of nature.” Dr. Still believed that the role of the physician is to find the health within the person, and that the body contains all of the elements needed to maintain health. He taught himself to feel deviations from normal in the living anatomy and physiology. Then he used various manual techniques to restore normal structure and function, allowing the body to regain its self-healing capacity.
Dr Still called this new medical science Osteopathy. He had great success, and people came from all across America to be treated by him. He helped people regain health from all types of medical ailments, totally without the use of drugs.
Dr. Still was unable to convince the medical schools to include his ideas, so he opened a separate Osteopathic medical school in 1892. Unusual for the time, women were welcomed as students. The school included all medical training, such as anatomy, physiology, pathology, surgery and medicines. He did not emphasize specific manual techniques, but rather the recognition of health within a person by putting the hands on and observing. The techniques followed as a way to help restore the health.
An example of the effectiveness of osteopathy was the influenza epidemic of 1917-1918. Only 0.25% of those treated by osteopaths died, as compared to 6% of those under MD care. The ability to help restore a person’s health is a very powerful tool. It is the health within a person that does the real healing.
In the United States today, physicians who practice medicine hold either the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree (DO) or the Doctor of Medicine degree (MD). Currently about 11% of physicians in the US have a DO degree. Both are trained in all aspects of modern medicine including prescription drugs, surgery, and the use of technology to diagnose disease and evaluate injury. In addition, DO’s learn Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM), using their hands to help diagnose, treat and prevent illness and injury. Unfortunately most osteopaths do not continue to use OMM to treat their patients once they are in practice.
A Traditional Osteopathic Practice
Today, about 5% of DO’s in practice use osteopathic manipulation to help each person they see regain health. This specialty is often called “traditional osteopathy” and is much in demand.
A thorough history, a review of any diagnostic work-up, and a hands-on evaluation of each person is done. Knowledge of embryology, anatomy and physiology is used to evaluate all systems within the body. This includes the bones, muscles, fluids (cerebrospinal fluid, blood, lymphatics), organs, connective tissues, and the nervous system. It is also important to evaluate the integration of these systems.
Traditional osteopaths are able to feel deviations from normal in the living anatomy and physiology. Various manual techniques are used to restore normal structure and function, allowing the body to regain its self-healing capacity.
Much of medical care today simply suppresses a person’s symptoms. It is best to find the cause of a medical problem. This may be lifestyle choices a person is making, and it may be changes in the body. Usually it is both.
The goal is to support full expression of a person’s health.