What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is a profession that makes extensive use of manual assessment and treatment guided by the principles set forth by its founder, Dr. Andrew Taylor Still. Osteopathy emphasizes the interrelationship between structure and function of the body. Osteopaths are functional anatomists who use manual therapy. They find the health, rather than focus on disease. Osteopathic treatment works to restore proper body mechanics, nerve impulses and the circulation of body fluids.

Osteopathic Manual Therapy is meant to be a part of the patient’s total health system. OstCan strongly advises all patients to work with their family doctor as it pertains to all health concerns.

What is Osteopathic Manual Therapy?
Members of the Ontario Osteopathic Association are Osteopathic Manual Therapists. Practitioners of Osteopathic Manual Therapy follow the theory that imbalances in the human structure contribute to or are directly related to the development and/or maintenance of disease. Anatomy and physiology is the foundation of Osteopathic treatment. Practitioners recognize that the human body is self-regulating and self-healing – and will strive for health if given a chance. Our role is to encourage this self-healing capacity through manual treatment – to convert the physical into the physiological. We allow nature to do its job of removing any and all obstacles and obstructions that will interfere with the proper nutrition and drainage of the body’s tissue. Understanding and adjusting the anatomical unity of the human structure is our job.

What is Manual Osteopathy?
Manual Osteopathic Practitioners are educated and trained to work exclusively without the use of drugs or surgery by using manual methods for structural assessment and treatment. This is the predominant method of education worldwide (outside of the USA) and it is what is currently present in Canada. An Osteopathic practitioner in this context is different from an Osteopathic physician.

What is an Osteopathic physician?
Osteopathic physicians are educated in schools of Osteopathic Medicine and are licensed and credentialed to an unrestricted scope of medical practice in the USA. This is the only country in the world offering a recognized medical degree in Osteopathic medicine. Most of these practitioners work in medical settings in much the same way as an M.D. does, practicing in almost all medical specialties. Additionally, these practitioners may be eligible for medical licensing in many countries outside the USA.

History of Osteopathy

Dr. Andrew Taylor Still was born in Jonesboro (now called Jonesville), Lee County, Virginia on August 6, 1828. After moving to Kansas in 1853, Andrew Taylor Still decided to become a physician. He was aged 25, a married man with two small children. His father, Abram Still, a circuit-riding Methodist minister, had also been a physician for the best part of his life and so Andrew Taylor Still became his father’s apprentice.

It was common practice in those days for a would-be-doctor to train simply by working with a practicing physician and studying medical books, but it is thought by some that Dr. A.T. Still also received some formal medical training at a school in Kansas City; however, no records remain to confirm this training. As an apprentice, young Andrew Taylor Still learned the medical treatment techniques of the time: bleeding, blistering, and purging – and was taught the use of compounds such as mercury, arsenic, heavy metals, as well as some natural elements such as simple herbs and tree bark.

In 1861, the Civil War in the United States began. Andrew Taylor Still enlisted on the side of the North and served using his medical and leadership skills in the union army. These were distressing circumstances certainly, but they were circumstances that immersed Dr A.T. Still in an environment that further expanded his medical experience.

Dr. A.T. Still remained immersed in this environment for four years until he received the news that his regiment could disband and go home. Upon his return home, Dr. A.T. Still was faced with an even greater trauma. Within a short period of time, three of his sons died of what we now know to be spinal meningitis, his daughter died of pneumonia, and his wife died giving birth.

Distraught that his medicine had been unable to save his family, and coupled with his grim experiences in the Civil War; Dr. A.T. Still rejected most of what he had learned about medicine and began to search for a new method of healthcare to improve the medicine of his day.

There were a number of alternative medical theories in circulation at this time – magnetic healing, bone-setting, Grahamism, hydrotherapy and homeopathy. There is evidence to believe that in his searching for a new way of healing, Dr. Still investigated several of these systems adopting, whether consciously or subconsciously, those components which seemed to him to have validity.

Dr. Still established an approach to medicine based on ideas that date back to Hippocrates, such as building on a foundation of natural medicine and the “vis medicatrix naturae” (the healing power of nature). Dr. Still’s main principle was that structure and function are interdependent on each other; that is to say, the shape of something affects how it works and vice versa. He also recognized the body’s ability to heal itself and that a key to health resides in the correction of the anatomical deviations that interfere with nervous system actions and the free, unimpeded flow of blood and other fluids in the body. He promoted the idea of preventative medicine and endorsed the philosophy that physicians should focus on treating the patient rather than the disease.

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