What is Osteopathy?

Dr Andrew Still Founder of Osteopathy
Founder of Osteopathy: Dr Andrew Still

Osteopathy was founded in 1874 by Dr Andrew Still, a doctor whose life was dedicated to better understanding anatomy and its impact on body functioning. Despite being a medical doctor and surgeon himself, his 3 young children tragically died of meningitis; consequently Dr Still began looking for safe, non invasive and drug free ways to enhance the bodies self healing mechanisms. He was devoted to understanding health in terms of anatomy and physiology and held the belief that body structure influenced body function.

Lets suppose if a bone or joint is out of alignment, then imagine how it will affect local tissues surrounding the joint and also impact the entire body.

A fall on the tail bone may lead to restrictions in the cervical spine (neck muscles) leading to symptoms of a headache via possible restrictions of the fascia for example.

If a bone is out of alignment, then local blood flow into nearby cells and waste removal from surrounding tissues may be impaired, nerves could be irritated with associated symptoms of numbness and tingling. By restoring proper bone alignment and mobility; the restriction (and its impact on surrounding fluids and tissues) is eliminated.

Dr Stills years of research led him to found a discipline that he titled Osteopathy.

“The fascia gives one of; if not the greatest problems to solve as to the part it takes in life and death. It belts each muscle, vein, nerve and all organs of the body. It is almost a network of nerves, cells and tubes, running to and from it; it is crossed and filled with, no doubt, millions of nerve centers and fibres to carry on the work of secreting and excreting fluid vital and destructive. By its action we live, and by its failure we shrink, swell and die.” Dr Andrew T Still – Philosophy of Osteopathy

Manual Osteopathy is a very gentle non invasive, hands-on form of manual therapy that focuses on identifying areas of restriction and then uses specific techniques to restore motion to the area and related structures (including nerves, blood flow, lymphatic flow) and by doing so support and stimulate the bodies self healing mechanisms to restore and promote optimal health.

Manual Osteopathy does not involve pharmaceutical medications or surgery but instead focuses on removing restrictions to physical structure to assist the bodies self regulation abilities functioning within set homeostatic principles.

“The rule of the artery must be absolute, universal and unobstructed, or disease will be the result.”   A.  T. Still MD, DO, Autobiography

Dr Still recognised the essential importance of the circulation of fluids to keep tissues healthy, reinforcing the doctrine that the body’s fluids must be allowed to flow without restriction. Thus blood flow and its circulation from head to toe, lymphatic movement and neurological motor and sensory impulses must be without restrictions. The vascular system is involved in sending nutrients and needed oxygen to local cells and tissues as well as removing waste material from a cell for its elimination from the body. The nerves are involved in cell to cell and whole body communication through rapid electrical message relay.

  • Dr Still held the work of the nervous system in high esteem, viewing it as the messaging system or essentially the ‘internet highway’ of the body and spoke of the importance of safeguarding this communication pathway from inhibition.
  • Ligaments hold bones in position- regardless of whether the bones are set in perfect position for unhindered movement of fluids beneath.
  • One cannot work on the soma – the body- without facilitating a degree of change to tissues from head to toe; similarly, dis-ease also manifests as influencing the physical body and its function in some degree or another.

By utilizing the patient’s case history, physical assessment and orthopedic tests along with the use of palpation skills for detecting areas of diminished mobility; osteopathy focuses on finding the underlying cause of the symptoms, whether near to or distant from the person’s area of complaint. The gentle, hands on treatment is focused on assisting the body to normalize any areas of dysfunction.

Click here to read about the Philosophy of Osteopathy and learn about scientific research and clinical studies on Osteopathy and Craniosacral and Cranial Osteopathy.