Osteopathic Manual Practitioners (OMPs) recognize that the structure of the body governs how well it can function. Muscles, ligaments, connective tissues and the skeletal structure must be working smoothly together to support the circulatory, respiratory, digestive, lymphatic and nervous systems.
When there is pain or a problem, OMPs look at the whole body not just the symptoms. The aim of treatment is to restore health by addressing areas of dysfunction with manual therapy.
Treatment can include
Soft tissue techniques
Muscle energy techniques
Fascial release techniques
Principles of Osteopathy
The cornerstone of the osteopathic approach is the philosophy that the body has its own self-healing, self-regulating and adaptation mechanisms. It is these mechanisms that keep the body in a state of 'health'. The wellbeing of an individual relies on the whole system (bones, muscles, ligaments, connective tissue, neurological and internal structures) functioning smoothly together. Therefore, body structures are closely interrelated with their function.
Four main osteopathic principles
Each structure in the body supports the body’s functions. If a structure is damaged, irritated or otherwise not working properly, the body will not function at its best.
The natural flow of the body’s fluids – lymphatic, vascular, and neurological – must be preserved and maintained.
When the body has no restrictions, it has the inherent ability to heal itself.
The human body is an integrated whole. Its physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and cognitive systems don’t work independently, they work in harmony.
When all of the body’s components are in balance, a person is complete and in total health.
Osteopathy aims to influence these structures and their function to put the body in a position where it can utilise its inherent mechanisms to promote restoration of normal function. If this is achieved, pain should stabilise or reduce as a result. See the next paragraph to understand more about how this might be achieved..
History of Osteopathy
Osteopathy was founded in the late 1800s by physician and surgeon Andrew Taylor Still in Kirksville, Missouri (USA).
The son of a surgeon, Still soon realised that all parts of the body should work together harmoniously in order to achieve optimal health. His goal was to restore the body to maximal health with minimal surgical and pharmacological intervention. He was influenced by the realisation that medical treatments of that time were largely ineffective and in some cases even harmful.
A.T. Still treated patients with a wide range of conditions from dysentery to sciatica and arthritis. He soon gained a reputation as an effective practitioner. Patients from all over America flocked to Kirksville for treatment. Soon boarding houses were built and train routes were altered locally to cater for the high demand of people seeking treatment.
In 1892, Still took on the first class of 22 osteopathic students at the American School of Osteopathy (now known as the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine). The first class (of both men and women - which was symbolic of Still’s strong sense of liberalism) were taught over a two year course. Some of his teachings are still used today and the original principles of osteopathy developed by Still are highly influential in current osteopathic practice. He managed to establish the right to practice for his students and upon graduation awarded them the title of D.O (Doctors of Osteopathy).
Around 25 years later (1917), the British School of Osteopathy (now called the University College of Osteopathy) was founded and helped set the foundation for modern day osteopathy in Europe.
Osteopathy was previously considered to be outside of mainstream medical practice in Britain and was not a legally regulated profession until the introduction of the Osteopaths Act in 1993. The General Osteopathic Council now regulates the profession in the UK. The profession is growing in Canada as well.
Osteopathic education and regulation has continued to improve and as such, the profession has continued to grow over time.