AAH specializes in alternative and conventional healthcare, including osteopathic manipulative medicine, cranial osteopathy, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and hypnotherapy

Updated: 01-Apr-2011


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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.

Dr. Andrew Taylor Still examining a femurDuring 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 new ideas.

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:

  1. Every individual is a unit composed of mind, body, and spirit; each part of which is interdependent in maximizing true health
  2. Every individual has self-healing and self-regulating mechanisms that direct the body toward health when given essential materials and support
  3. The individual's body structure determines how the body functions, and likewise, functional demands on the body can modify its structure
  4. 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 Manipulative Medicine
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
  • Arthritis
  • Headaches
  • Asthma
  • Tinnitus
  • Depression
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Sacroiliitis
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • And many others

To learn more about Osteopathic Medicine, please visit the following sites:
American Osteopathic Association
American Academy of Osteopathy


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