Osteopathic medicine, or osteopathy, takes a holistic approach to the human body. It emphasizes the prevention and treatment of illness by using a combination of manual and physical therapies and traditional medical practices, like drugs and surgery. Practitioners believe that the neuromusculoskeletal system is key to one’s general health and well being. Osteopaths strive to maintain healthy body mechanics with a both holistic healing and traditional Western medicine.
Osteopathy was founded by Andrew Taylor Still, M.D., D.O., after he became disillusioned with traditional medicine. Osteopathy took off in the 19th century in the Midwest region of the United States. In the 20th century, the American Osteopathic Profession adopted medicine and surgery into its treatment plan.
Today, the training and scope of osteopathy in the U.S. is similar to allopathic or bio-medicine. There is, however, an additional emphasis on the musculoskeletal diagnosis. Internationally, osteopathic training today incorporates biomedical sciences and emphasizes nonsurgical orthopedics.
Principles of osteopathic medicine
These eight major principles are taken from the curriculum at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine:
- The body is a unit.
- Structure and function are reciprocally inter-related.
- The body possesses self-regulatory mechanisms.
- The body has the inherent capacity to defend and repair itself.
- When the normal adaptability is disrupted, or when environmental changes overcome the body’s capacity for self maintenance, disease may ensue.
- The movement of body fluids is essential to the maintenance of health.
- The nerves play a crucial part in controlling the fluids of the body.
- There are somatic components to disease that are not only manifestations of disease, but also are factors that contribute to maintenance of the disease state.
Osteopaths apply different techniques to the musculoskeletal system. These techniques can be applied to: the joints, their surrounding soft tissues, the muscles and the fascia. These treatments are especially effective when combined, and allow the therapist to restore normal contact within the body.
Osteopaths use a wide range of treatment options, which, when employed with dietary, postural and occupational advice will help minimize pain and disease. Most osteopaths use manual therapies as a complement to physiotherapy and use pharmaceuticals and surgery where necessary.
Types of osteopathy
- Manual therapies are an effective treatment for many musculoskeletal pain syndromes along with other rehabilitative techniques. Such therapies are controversial when it comes to the treatment of conditions like asthma, period pain and pulmonary infection.
- Cranial osteopathy is a contested issue and many medical insurance companies will not reimburse for it.
- Visceral osteopathy is said to relieve restrictions and imbalances in the interconnections between the motions of all the organs of the body.
Osteopathic medicine around the world
There are two distinctly different schools of thought when it comes to osteopathic medicine and treatment.
- In the United States, practitioners hold a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree; a doctor with a DO is a fully licensed physician.
- Internationally, osteopaths continue to rely on non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical approaches and view themselves as manual medicine specialists.