History of Osteopathy

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Posted by Mia Ponzo | Posted in Complementary Alternative Medicine, Natural Health | Posted on 03-03-2014

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osteopathy Osteopathy 2

Before getting into the details of how the complementary medical treatment called osteopathy came about, we must reiterate that body work has been done for thousands and thousands of years. There is evidence of its practice since far before recorded history and probably since the very advent of human history itself. Thus, it is clear that the basis for the manipulation of various parts of the body is strongly established and has been throughout medical history. So, it should come as no surprise that a variety of manipulative procedures have come about over the years, with some being more successful than others.

            We can say with authority that osteopathy is one of those therapies that have definitely proven themselves over the years. Osteopathy can be employed with any and all diseases, and is quite successful in treating things from headaches to stomachaches, heart disease, and basically everything else too!  Osteopathy is both a treatment and a preventative medicine as well. It is the history of this extremely effective treatment that we will talk about here this week. But before we get into the story of the treatment’s inception, we need to know what it is!

Atlas of osteopathic Techniques

Atlas of Osteopathic Techniques

            Osteopathy is based on the idea that the body is a whole and the body parts (organs) necessarily act together in order to function. When there is something wrong in the body then these parts can’t function properly, and over time this malfunctioning of the body turns into disease. Once the complete picture is understood, only then can the cure be found. This investigation is the responsibility of both the patient and the medical practitioner, or, in this particular case, the osteopath. In osteopathy, as in most other holistic therapies, the source of the disease is sought out and treated, not only the symptoms, as is almost always the case when dealing with allopathic medicine nowadays. The basic theory behind osteopathy is that the musculoskeletal system of the body can be responsible for all kinds of problems that most people would never even remotely connect. But the main idea here, as is with most other complementary therapies as well, is that the osteopath is simply a catalyst whereby the body is able to heal itself.  Osteopaths utilize several different methods of treatment, depending upon what the patient is suffering from, including: massage, spinal manipulation, movements and “re-education” similar to physiotherapy, and more.

Manipulation of the spine

Manipulation of the Spine, Thorax and Pelvis with DVD: An Osteopathic Perspective, 3e

So, at the middle and towards the end of the 1800’s, there was a physician who went by the name of Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917), who practiced his medicine on the American frontier. He was unusual in that he didn’t approve of all the medicaments that most doctors of his time were administering to their patients, preferring instead to opt for more natural alternatives. He was fascinated with the human body, particularly with the skeleton and its system of muscles. He found that the manipulation and adjustment of the skeleton helped a great many aches and pains, and thus began experimenting more and more. He realized that the more the musculoskeletal system was out of whack, the more disease that would occur in the body. He found that when the spine was out of alignment certain important nerves and blood vessels would be blocked, and without that important flow bodily organs would soon begin to ail. Although he found some success in his therapy, he was considered a heretic in the realm of the medicine of those times. It wasn’t until later when he cured a prominent minister’s daughter of a crippling ailment that his methods began to be appreciated.

 Anatomical Skull

Human Medical Anatomical Adult Osteopathic Skull Model, 22-Part Didactic Colored

In 1874 he began his open practice of what he had deemed osteopathy. And in 1892 Dr. Still established the first school of osteopathy, which was not only progressive in its thinking and teaching, but also in the fact that they admitted women! Thereafter the practice grew by leaps and bounds as, over time, the teaching curriculum improved and expanded.

            After Dr. Still’s death, the practice of osteopathy was carried on, and before long its practice was widely accepted. By 1974 the practice of osteopathy was licensed in all 50 US states as an equivalent to “allopathic” medicine, and was being practiced by thousands. Right now there are 19 accredited colleges of osteopathic medicine, all of which require students to complete a well rounded medical education (the same as any other medical college), along with specialized training in osteopathic medicine. Osteopaths are trained in surgery and the administering of drugs, just like “conventional” doctors are, although, most of the time these are not needed.

At the present time, osteopathy is being practiced by an estimation of anywhere between 20,000 and 35,000, although other statistics claim the numbers to be as high as 42,000 registered practitioners in the USA alone, with thousands more all over the world. This is certainly nothing to scoff at!

Cranial Osteopathy

Cranial Osteopathy: A Practical Textbook

So, the next time that you are suffering from an ailment of one sort or the other, think about trying an osteopath. You just might be pleasantly surprised with your treatment, and are likely to be cured without any medication (or painful supplementary treatments such as surgery) at all. Wouldn’t that be nice for a change?

And check out these other books on osteopathy for horses and more…

Osteopathy and  the Treatment of Horses

Osteopathy and the Treatment of Horses

Textbook of Pediatric Osteopathy

Textbook of Pediatric Osteopathy, 1e




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