In the late 1800s a doctor named Andrew Taylor Still developed the field of osteopathic medicine and is considered its founder. He was a pioneering doctor in the study of how the attributes of good health could help doctors understand disease and illness.
Through his experience with patients and research, he decided there was a better way to treat patients than the medical practices of the time. Because his new ideas were not accepted in the medical community, he established a new philosophy of medicine in 1874 called “Osteopathy.”
These principles are thought to be the underpinnings of the osteopathic philosophy on health and disease. Manual osteopathy is not just a set of techniques; rather it is a philosophy based on these principles. This philosophy is simple and sensible. When applied in practice, osteopathy can make profound changes in a person’s health.
Osteopathy embraces the philosophy that the body has an innate or natural ability to self-regulate and to heal itself. The key factor that permits this process to proceed unimpeded is the ability of the body to circulate all of its fluids and liquids. These fluids include the blood, lymph, synovial fluid, digestive juices, cerebrospinal fluid, axoplasm, and all the other intra and extracellular fluids of the body.
These liquids carry many of the body’s life-sustaining compounds, such as hormones, enzymes and their secretions, immune and anti-inflammatory factors, neural impulses, nutritional elements, and dissolved gases such as oxygen. These fluids are involved in all aspects of life, from the DNA that is suspended within the intracellular fluids, to the fetus which floats in the amniotic fluid. In addition these body fluids serve as mediums for excreting all the bi-products of digestion and cellular respiration.
Any obstruction that impedes the circulation of fluids within the body is the focus of osteopathic assessment and treatment. These impediments may take the form of structural or non-structural blockages. Structural or physical impediments include generalized twists, curves or pulls within the body as well as specific bones, organs or tissues that are misaligned. These faults may either affect the control of a system that controls fluid circulation, or affect the circulation of liquids along with the life sustaining and regulatory products that they carry.
Non-structural impediments may include emotional patterns that are responsible for maintaining the body in a certain adaptation of defence, such as a predisposition to holding the breath. These adaptations are quite often responses to stressful incidents of the past, present, or are of a repetitive nature, such as raising the shoulders in times of stress or cold temperatures.
Over time, the body gradually loses its ability to efficiently self-regulate and to self-heal. Some of this loss may be due to the aging process, the prolonged influence of gravity on posture, trauma, accident, illness, surgical scarring, childbirth, repetitive activity, or the cumulative effects of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual stress.
In most cases the patient has had some combination of the above experiences. The result of these experiences may manifest themselves locally in the body or more frequently, the symptoms are experienced far from the site of the original site of occurrence. For this reason, the Osteopathic Manual Practitioner is said to assess the whole body. Although treatment may be directed toward several specific areas, the effect of that treatment is often felt throughout the body. It is for this reason that the Osteopathic Manual Practitioner is also said to treat the whole body.
Where there is life, there is motion. Osteopathy appreciates the significance of even the smallest motion within all the tissues and cells of the body, and applies this understanding in it’s unique form of medical care. Simply put, when the body’s motion is in balance, a state of health exists. When this motion is disturbed, health is affected and a state of disease can arise.