What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is a system and philosophy of healthcare that uses “holistic manual medicine” to treat neuro-musculo-skeletal disorders, as diagnosed through biomechanical, orthopaedic and neurological clinical assessment. It was founded by Dr Andrew Taylor Still in 1874, with other disciplines of therapy like Chiropractic and Physiotherapy branching out of it later. Dr Still believed strongly in the innate healing power of the body (one of the principles of Osteopathy), and looked for ways to remove structural imbalances or restrictions that were impeding with the body's ability to heal/recover.

 

One of the fundamental principles of Osteopathy is that the human being represents a combination of body, mind, and spirit. Related to this principle, the body is regarded as a unit in which no part functions independently (the principle of body unity). This implies that all systems of the body, the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, neurological, cranial and visceral, are functionally connected and interdependent. Osteopathy therefore uses a whole person approach to health, as opposed to a symptom centred approach.

 

Another fundamental principle of Osteopathy is that structure and function are reciprocally interrelated. In health, the body is able to maintain a balance within and between each of the above mentioned systems. However, prolonged stress or unhealthy demands on any one of these 'structures' will eventually lead to compromises in the overall functioning of the body, also effecting the other systems. For example, restriction/congestion of the viscera (organs) of the body would also affect the musculoskeletal system, and abnormalities in the structure or function of the musculoskeletal system could also adversely affect the viscera.

 

An Osteopath uses a wide array of manual therapy skills, and a detailed knowledge of anatomy, physiology and biomechanics, to remove restrictions to vascular, neural, musculoskeletal and visceral structures that are responsible for the experience of ill-health symptoms of pain, dis-ease or dysfunction. The ultimate goal of these normalization techniques is to restore functional balance, as well as the body’s integrity to self-regulate.

 

Other principles underlying the practice of Osteopathy are:

  • movement of body fluids are essential to the maintenance of health;
  • the nervous system controls the body at all times; and
  • ligaments maintain the position of the bones, whether in alignment or not.

Treatment is therefore aimed at improving the flow of blood, lymph and cerebrospinal fluid, supporting the nervous system, mobilizing joints, and reducing muscular tension and inflammation, through the use of gentle, manual Osteopathic techniques. Since the nervous system is in control of healing and restoration, Osteopathic manual therapy always aims to stimulate the parasympathetic part of the nervous system, which makes the treatment experience very relaxing for patients.

 

The use of an holistic approach in Osteopathy also includes positive advice about nutritional and lifestyle habits that might be perpetuating or causing the patient's condition. This might involve the recommendation of specific supplements that could assist the restoration of balance. There is often also a psychosomatic component to disease, either as a manifestation of, or as a contributing factor of disease. Due to the importance of this mind-body connection, Osteopathic practice aims to encourage emotional healing to accompany physical healing.

 

Dr Still arrived at this new perspective of healing (later called Osteopathy) through a long series of discoveries and ideas which started at age 10 and spanned decades. Andrew's father, Abram was a Methodist Traveling Preacher and doctor (as was expected of Methodist preachers of the time), and moved his family to the poor Frontier of America, Virginia and Kansas. Scratching out a living in Missouri, the Stills got use to living a very simple and humble live, and young Andrew learned a lot about nature. Although Dr. Still later studied anatomy in books, he once said “the Great Book of Nature was my main teacher”. Here he also got exposed to the Shawnee Indians, whom his parents were ministering too. It is postulated that their knowledge of nature and forms of healing also contributed to his later discoveries.

 

Although Andrew was also trained as a medical doctor and surgeon, he became troubled by the realization that medical treatments of that time were largely ineffective and in many cases, harmful. It was after loosing four children in one month, three dying from Meningitis (from his first wife Mary who died in 1859), and his 11-months old baby (from second wife Mary Elvira) dying from Pneumonia, that both Dr. Still and wife Mary Elvira pledged to work together to find a way to provide better healthcare to people. His goal was to restore the body to optimum health with minimal surgery and medicine, and would eventually incorporate mind, body and spirit into his method of healing and treatment of patients.

 

Dr. Still founded the American School of Osteopathy in 1892. A student of his, John M. Littlejohn moved back to Britain with his family in 1913, and helped found the British School of Osteopathy. From England, schools of Osteopathy were later founded in Europe and other parts of the world. In the British and European schools, Osteopathy has stayed true to its manual therapy origins.  In the United States, training of osteopaths has evolved to align more closely with conventional medical training and manual therapy techniques are less often seen as a primary therapy approach.

Why did I choose to become a Osteopathic Manual Therapist?

As X-competitive rugby player who endured many traumas on the field, I was left with lots of damage on musculoskeletal and neurological levels. My personal journey of recovering from these over the more than 20 years since my rugby career ended, has allowed me to gain expert knowledge of a vast array of therapeutic systems or disciplines. This experience taught me that no other discipline of health care or therapy uses such a wide range of manual therapy skills as is taught in Osteopathy.

 

I certainly found the principle of structure governing function to be true in my body, as I've struggled for years with digestive issues and insomnia as a result of damage and strain to soft tissue and joints of the spine, as well as trauma to the cranium. Addressing these issues with the holistic approach of Osteopathy has proven to bring the best lasting results for me, not only on a structural level, but also on a functional level.

 

Even before being introduced to Osteopathy, my professional experience of around two decades as player, sports coach, movement trainer and manual therapist, led me to the understanding that an holistic approach that addresses the needs of an athlete on all levels, brings best sustainable results. Osteopathy was the only therapeutic discipline that spoke a similar language to what the university of life already taught me about the most effective way. It was therefore the logical next step for me to embrace what Osteopathy has to offer. I am very grateful that God provided for me to learn these skills.

 

The Osteopathic studies I did is based on the European style (as is practiced in Southern European countries and Canada), which is a very gentle approach to restoring balance in the body. Although the qualifications at National University of Medical Sciences (Spain) lays a strong scientific emphasize on Orthopedics (as in the British schools of Osteopathy), I was also taught all the traditional Osteopathic manual therapy skills, including Visceral and Cranial therapy.

Cranial Therapy
Cranial Therapy
Joint Mobilization
Joint Mobilization

 

"The human spirit controls the human mind, and the human mind controls the human body, for better or for worse."

 


Dr A.T. Still
Dr A.T. Still