Principles of Osteopathy

Dr Andrew Taylor Still – Founder of Osteopathic Medicine

What is osteopathy? What do osteopaths do? These two questions are asked often and covered a lot. I believe the most useful approach to answering them is to look back at the genesis of osteopathy. The photos above are of Andrew Taylor Still MD DO, the founder of osteopathic medicine, he was a 19th-century American physician, surgeon, author, inventor, and legislator. He introduced his philosophy of medical care, which he coined Osteopathy, due to his belief that the medical practices of his day often caused significant harm by failing to identify the root cause of disease or provide an effective treatment. 

Dr A. T. Still once stated that,

“My object is to make the Osteopath a philosopher, and place him on the rock of reason.”

A. T.  Still – Osteopathy, Research and Practice

With this in mind, he endeavoured to train osteopathic physicians to use and understand all current medications and surgical procedures to promote health, fight disease and support an individuals physiology. However, in addition to the above, osteopaths are trained in palpatory (hands-on) and manipulative/manual therapy skills which can effectively be used to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of localised dysfunction or systemic disease. 

By studying anatomy and physiology from the philosophical vantage point of osteopathy, a unique perspective of health is achieved, which includes the following goals:

  1. To support the body systems that are stressed by the pathophysiology of disease
  2. To support the natural protective and homeostatic reactions to disease
  3. To neutralise detrimental responses to disease processes
  4. To provide a synergistic approach in conjunction with conventional medical and/or surgical management
  5. To provide a rapid and long-lasting benefit toward improving the overall level of health and comfort

With these elements in mind, the clinical application of osteopathy is to interpret all available signs, symptoms and somatic clues to formulate a “rationale”, which includes an accurate diagnosis, and thereby provide an approach to treatment that considers an individual in their entirety to offers a purposeful direction for any therapeutic intervention. Rather than simply diagnosing and treating symptom complexes, the osteopath seeks to augment the health that is found within the individual.

Dr A T Still inspecting a femur (thigh bone)

Osteopaths work hard to figure out all possible contributing factors to then offer a management plan that is based upon a holistic investigation. This is why I like this photo of A T Still inspecting a femur (thigh bone), as he took the time to look closely at the individual parts in an attempt to discover how everything is connected. Observing the relationship between individual parts and the whole is what A T Still aimed to invest within osteopathic healthcare, and it is still vital to our approach to patient care to this day.

“An osteopath is only a human engineer, who should understand all laws governing his engine and thereby master disease.”

A. T. Still – Autobiography

NOTE: Excerpts of this text were taken from Kuchera & Kuchera – Osteopathic Considerations in Systemic Dysfunction.