OSTEOPATHY: What Is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is a “hands on” system of manual medicine.

It was founded by Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917). His major realisation upon the key to health and disease occurred in 1874 which laid the foundations for what later was to become Osteopathy. The first school was opened in Kirksville, Misouri, America, in the fall of 1892.

Osteopathy is founded upon the following 4 principles:

  1. The body is a unit
  2. Structure and function are interrelated
  3. The body has self-healing and self regulating mechanisms
  4. Treatment is based on an understanding of the first three principles

Body Unity:

The body is comprised of numerous structural components, all of which need to be functioning in harmony (unity) for health to fully manifest. These components include all of the anatomy of the body, as well as mind and spirit.

Health = harmony, ease, function, and a balanced relationship between all components of the whole (unity of function).

Note: Although “Osteo” means bones, this does not mean only the bones are assessed and treated. A.T.Still used the bones as a framework upon which to build a sound understanding of the whole human unit. Osteopathy is wholistic and naturalistic. It adds to the bony framework an understanding of interrelationship between ligaments, fascia, muscle, nerves, vessels and all other organ systems of the body including the emotional, mental and spiritual.

Osteopathy, from one perspective, is knowledge of anatomy applied to healing diseases.

Structure and function are interrelated:

Structure can affect function and function can affect structure.
As long as the components are functioning in harmony with their structure, the body is balanced and health is maintained.

Health within a component of the whole means structure and function are in balance both with itself and in its relationship with the whole (it is balanced or compensating optimally in response to stresses elsewhere).

Dis-ease/dys-function means an imbalance in the structure/function relationship of any component with itself (structure does not equal function) and with other healthy components of the whole (this is a clue to primary dysfunctions).

Components that are not functioning in harmony with their structures are identified and addressed in an effort to return the body to unity.

Thus Osteopathy assesses the reciprocal interrelationship between structure and function to determine what components of the whole need treatment.

Rather than purely treating tissues causing symptoms, an Osteopath seeks to identify key areas of dysfunction predisposing, maintaining or contributing in some way to the symptom picture. The natural recovery process will be slowed unless these components are addressed in treatment. Thus, an Osteopath assesses and treats internal patterns of dysfunction that are contributing to the overall symptom picture (cause to effect). The Osteopath also considers external components that may be contributing to the pattern of dysfunction, such as gravity, sport, work and environmental factors. In this way any internal and external components contributing to the problem can be included in the treatment plan and promote optimal recovery from illness or injury.

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