Osteopathy, or osteopathic
medicine, is a system of health care based on viewing the patient as a
whole individual, rather than as a collection of various parts. One of
the distinguishing features of osteopathic medicine is the use of
osteopathic manipulation (also known as osteopathic manipulative
medicine (OMM) or osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT)).
physicians, or D.O.s, are fully licensed medical doctors, like M.D.s,
able to prescribe medicine, deliver babies, perform surgery. They can
specialize in all medical specialties, including family practice,
cardiology, surgery, pediatrics, and so on.
theory focuses on the body's ability to heal itself. A.T. Still, M.D.,
the founder of osteopathy, claimed that the role of the physician was
to "find health." He viewed the body as a self-regulating, self-healing
organism that only needed to be given an optimum environment in which
to thrive. The goal of the osteopathic physician is to promote such an
Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine
manipulation is a medical procedure whereby the physician uses various
types of manual or manipulative techniques to enhance the body's
self-healing capabilities. Unlike chiropractic, which emphasizes spinal
"subluxations" as the major cause of problems in the body, OMM
encompasses the role of the bones, joints, muscles and ligaments, blood
vessels, posture and biomechanics, and nerves in promoting health and
The cornerstone of OMM is creating an
ideal structure-function relationship in the body. If the body's
structure is optimized, then optimum function should follow.
performing any osteopathic manipulative technique, the osteopathic
physician takes an appropriate history and performs a physical exam to
determine where problems may exist that could be interfering with the
body's self-healing ability. Unlike physical therapy or chiropractic,
where the same treatment is given on subsequent visits based on an
initial diagnosis, the osteopathic physician must perform a new exam
each time he or she see the patient. He must evaluate how the patient's
body responded to the previous treatment and determine what, if any,
further treatment is indicated.
History of Osteopathy
osteopathic profession was started in the late 1800's by an M.D.,
Andrew Taylor Still. Dr. Still was frustrated with the limitations of
what modern medicine had to offer at that time. He watched helplessly
as four of his children died from spinal meningitis. He embarked on a
long and detailed personal study of anatomy and physiology. He
eventually discovered that the human body is a wonderfully complex
structure that possesses an inner ability to heal itself if only given
the right environment to do so.
Dr. Still developed a
treatment approach that included not only what was useful from modern
medicine but also added manipulative treatment to help create an ideal
structural environment in order for the body's healing functions to
thrive. Known as the "lightning bone setter" for his manipulation
techniques, Dr. Still pioneered the use of medical manipulation in the
(Historically, the chiropractic profession
was started by D.D. Palmer, who was a student at the first osteopathic
medical school in Kansas. He left his osteopathic training before
completing it and went to Davenport, Iowa, where he started the
chiropractic profession. While chiropractors receive extensive training
in chiropractic manipulation, they do not learn medicine.)
osteopathic medicine includes not only OMM but also nutrition,
exercise, and - when appropriate - medicine and surgery for a truly
comprehensive medical treatment approach.
Osteopathic Education and Training
college, all osteopathic physicians complete four years of medical
school, followed by internship and residency training. There are
currently 19 osteopathic medical schools in the United States.
Osteopathic physicians make up about 10% of all U.S. physicians but 20%
of all primary care physicians, highlighting the emphasis osteopathy
places on preventive and primary care medicine.
M.D.s often train and practice in the same hospitals and have
comparable licensing and credentials. They are the only two types of
fully licensed medical doctors in United States.