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                                                            What is Osteopathy?



The Four Tenets of Osteopathy

  1. The human body is a unit composed of mind, body, and spirit.

  2. The body through complex equilibrium systems tends to be self regulatory and self healing.

  3. Structure and function are mutually and reciprocally interdependent.

  4. A rational treatment regimen is based on this philosophy and these principles.


All Doctors of Osteopathy (D.O.s) are fully licensed physicians, able to prescribe medication and to specialize in any branch of medicine from surgery to psychiatry. They undergo four years of training in a medical school, as do M.D.s.  D.O. physicians also spend an additional year of internship training in a hospital, and a variable amount of years in specialization, as do M.D.s.  What, then, is the difference?

Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, the founder of Osteopathy, was an M.D. physician and surgeon of the 1800’s.  A Major in the Union army during the Civil War, he observed first hand the failings of the traditional medicinal approach as more soldiers died from dysentery and wound infections than in battle. After losing three of his children to spinal meningitis in 1864, and faced with a profound despair in his profession, he undertook a reevaluation of the tenets of health.  He began assiduously applying himself to the study of anatomy, becoming convinced of the interdependent relationship between proper structure and healthy functioning of all parts of the body.

In 1874, Dr. Andrew Taylor Still started practicing a new approach to health.  He termed this new science “Osteopathy” after the Greek roots “osteo”- for bone, and “patho”- for disease.  He did this as he utilized the patient’s physical structure, including bone alignment, as a means of both diagnosing disease and as a handle to correct faulty anatomy – assisting the body to heal itself.  To him, this was a “sacred science”, of which he was merely the discoverer. He felt that in the practice of Osteopathy the physician interacted with a “healing power through all Nature”.  Basic to this science is the recognition that the body has inherent mechanisms to correct for disease, and that a normal anatomical structure, favorable environmental conditions, and proper nutrition are essential for the full

expression of health.  As an integral part of his art, Dr. Still used what he termed “Osteopathic Manipulation”.  This is a hands-on approach to restructure a patient’s anatomy under guidance of these inherent forces, and so favorably influence function.  The demand for Dr. Still’s unique services was such that he could not keep pace, and so started the American School of Osteopathy, in 1892 in Kirksville, Missouri.

As of 2018, fully a quarter of all U.S incoming medical students will be attending one of the now fifty-one sites of the thirty-four fully accredited American Osteopathic Colleges.  These colleges continue Dr. Still’s rationale of health as a force inherent in every individual.  D.O.s maintain a belief in the body’s recuperative abilities, in the functioning of the individual as a whole.  We believe that, given a chance, the body knows its own way to health – our function is to support the body’s inherent wisdom.

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