Who We Are
What We Do
What is an Osteopathic
History of Osteopathic Medicine
Osteopathy--or Osteopathic Medicine--is a system of medical diagnosis
and treatment that works within the anatomical framework of the human
body. Osteopathic philosophy maintains that proper mechanical function
is essential to good health, and that problems within that framework can
disturb the neuromusculoskeletal, circulatory, respiratory, and lymphatic
systems to any part of the body--thus disturbing health. Osteopathic physicians
work to restore the structure of the body to a state of balance and functional
harmony, helping the body to return to a state of optimal well-being.
During the mid 1800's, Andrew Taylor Still was a typical frontier physician
living in Kansas and Missouri. The son of a Methodist preacher and pioneer
physician, he was trained early on through apprenticeship and self study.
His medical practice, performed amidst his farming, mechanical, and Civil
War duties, included caring for both settlers (friend and foe) and American
Indians. He faced epidemics such as cholera, malaria, pneumonia, smallpox,
diphtheria, and tuberculosis, as well as treated many of the trauma casualties
of the Missouri-Kansas border wars and the Civil War. It was shortly after
the end of the Civil War that spinal meningitis claimed the lives of three
of his dearly beloved children. In his grief, and in light of his many
medical experiences (especially in the war) it seemed evident to him that
the medical care offered his children actually hastened their death. He
began from that time to search for a better system of medicine.
This new system focused on supporting health rather
than fighting disease. The theory was simple enough, and was based in
large part on Andrew's idea that the human body has much in common with
a machine, and that it ought to function properly if it is in a mechanically
sound condition. Unfortunately, the mid to late 19th century frontier
was a place of rampant medical competition (theories such as phrenology
and mesmerism were making their way across the country) and mistrust of
Faced with the apprehension to his science, Still became
an itinerant physician. He tried out his mechanical skills (he was very
mechanically inclined, and apt to invent better machines that those in
existence) and he talked to anyone who would listen about his new methods,
which centered around treating or supporting the body by improving its
own natural functions and healing mechanisms. He continued to use some
drugs at first, but gradually he achieved good results without them. In
time, he came to condemn nearly all the drugs used in his day.
Still's treatment methods, which included manipulation
designed to improve circulation and to correct altered biomechanics, began
to show results. In 1889 the number of patients traveling to see Still
at his newly-founded infirmary became so great that he was forced to stay
in Kirksville, Missouri rather than traveling to see patients. He became
busier, and people began to speak of him with respect and understanding.
Three years later, Still opened the American School
of Osteopathy. Early students focused their attention on anatomy and physiology,
and learned manipulative skills while working with Dr. Still and other
physicians. Andrew taught them that when they understood how the body
machine was put together and supposed to function, that they would be
able to find the dysfunction that caused or perpetuated disease, and remove
them, allowing the body to return to its normal function, and heal itself.
Graduates from the school earned a D.O. Degree (then a Diplomat of Osteopathy
Degree--now a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Degree).
Once the study and practice of osteopathy were well
under way, education, research, organization, documentation and recognition
of the new healing art continued to grow with the help of professionals
dedicated to treating people as a whole.
Today there are 22 schools of osteopathic medicine across the country.
D.O.s practice every specialty of medicine, but retain the central teachings
or tenets of osteopathy, which are:
- Every individual is a unit composed of mind, body, and spirit; each
part of which is interdependent in maximizing true health
- Every individual has self-healing and self-regulating mechanisms that
direct the body toward health when given essential materials and support
- The individual's body structure determines how the body functions,
and likewise, functional demands on the body can modify its structure
- Rational treatment approaches to maximize health involve considering
and applying the three other osteopathic tenets listed above
While all students at osteopathic schools learn osteopathic
manipulative medicine, some go on to be residency trained and board certified
in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine and Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine.
These specialty trained physicians are experts in neuromusculoskeletal
manipulative medicine, and focus on natural healing processes and the
restoration of body structure and function to maximize the body's ability
to return to optimal health.
Conditions treated with Osteopathic
OMM is used to treat an array of injuries, painful conditions, and diseases.
A few examples of conditions treated with OMM include:
- Low back pain
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Generalized pain disorders
- Traumatic injuries
- Repetitive injuries
- Postoperative pain
- Developmental problems in pediatric patients
- Functional and organic bowel disorders
- Menstrual disorders
- Plantar fasciitis
- And many others
To learn more about Osteopathic Medicine, please visit
the following sites:
Academy of Osteopathy