What is Osteopathy?

Is it like going to the chiropractor?

Is it a pseudoscience?

How can it help me?

These are some common questions we get around here as not everyone is familiar with the practice of Osteopathy.

Let’s take a look at what it is, how it started and what it can do for your health.

Osteopathy was founded on the philosophy that all body systems are interrelated and dependent on one another for good health. This philosophy was developed by Andrew Taylor Still in the late 1800s in Virginia. Still followed in his father’s footsteps of becoming a physician and served in the Union Army during the civil war as a surgeon. It was after the war and following the death of three of his children from spinal meningitis that he concluded allopathic (modern medicine) techniques were unsophisticated, often ineffective and sometimes even harmful. He felt that physicians had little understanding of disease and its causes. He dedicated the next decade of his life to studying disease, health and the human body.

Still felt it was imperative to have a deep understanding of anatomy to treat injuries and disease and that the body has an innate ability to heal itself if properly stimulated. He read as many books as he could and started his own systematic method of treatment using musculoskeletal manipulation. The
musculoskeletal system (bones, muscles, ligaments and connective tissues) is the largest collective system of the body, making up 60 percent or more of the body’s mass. By record keeping and comparing results he noticed the effectiveness of his mechanical corrections provided the same or better results than the use of medication. On June 22, 1974, he broke away from orthodox medicine and identified his technique as Osteopathic from the greek words ‘osteon’ meaning bone and ‘pathos’ meaning to suffer, which emphasizes that disease and physiological dysfunction are rooted in a disordered muscular skeletal system.

Osteopathy is based on 4 principles:

1) Unity of the body

No single part of the body functions independently, each separate part is interconnected with all others. Alterations in one part of the body may unfavorably influence other parts and eventually the body as a whole. When responding to an illness, a specific organ or system does not function alone.

2) The Body is Capable of Self Regulation and Self Healing

The body possesses complex, homeostatic, self-regulatory mechanisms that it uses to heal itself. In times of disease, when a part of the body is functioning sub-optimally, other parts of the body come out of their natural state of health in order to compensate for the dysfunction. During this compensatory process, new dysfunctions may arise. This principle implies that there must be adequate circulation to and from all tissues of the body, and there must be proper nervous system function in order to coordinate the actions of all of the body’s organs and systems.

3) Structure Governs Function This is one of the most unique aspects of osteopathy.

Abnormal structure manifests as dysfunction. The body’s ability to self heal will be inhibited if the body’s structure is sub-optimal. Disease, as we commonly think of it, is actually caused by bodily malfunctions, not the cause of them. For example, a abnormality in the body’s structure can decrease the ability of the nervous and/or circulatory systems to function properly causing a lack of blood flow to maintain healthy tissue.

4) Rational Treatment Approach

The osteopath examines, diagnoses, and treats patients according to these principles. These basic osteopathic tenets permeate all aspects of health maintenance and disease prevention and treatment.

When done right, osteopathy can correct postural imbalances, improve range of motion in the muscles and joints, treat migraines, IBS, plantar fasciitis and tendonitis, relieve sciatica pain, accelerate healing from injuries or trauma, prevent hypertension and cardiovascular problems, and relieve chronic pain to name a few things. The practice is done alongside regular medications and surgeries but often can replace the need for them. Osteopathy is for all ages, even babies because it is a gentle and subtle but effective technique. It is considered an alternative medicine and complementary medicine and becoming a much more popular form of treatment in recent decades.

A healthy and balanced diet along with adequate exercise and regular visits to the osteopath can keep you in top shape or help bring you back to good form. Find an osteopath who is accredited and you are comfortable with and allow them to put your body into alignment so you can self heal.

What Is Osteopathy