Osteopathic medicine is a complete system of medical care based on a philosophy that emphasizes the interrelationship between structure and function while utilizing the body's own ability to heal itself. This approach supports each patient's unique need at any given time in order to provide the most effective treatment.
Dissatisfied with the effectiveness of medical treatments of his time, Andrew Taylor Sill M.D. A Civil War surgeon founded Osteopathy in 1874. Dr. Still would diagnose and treat his patients by using their musculoskeletal system to restore proper physiologic activity, plus allowing the body's self-correcting self-regulating mechanism to operate unimpeded.
The philosophy and practice of modern osteopathic manupulation incorporates four principles into its application.
1. The body is a unit
2. The body possesses self-regulatory mechanisms
3. Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated
4. Rational therapies are based upon an understanding of the body's unity, self-regulatory mechanisms, and the interrelationship of structure and function
The body is a unit. Each patient's illness will present a unique treatment approach specifically directed to them. A particular symptom may have various causes which will require different treatment. A specific organ or system will have far-reaching and diffuse effects on the whole person. The body's circulatory, neural, endocrine, and immune system work in concert to respond to illness. As a result, the individual may need more support in one or more of those systems. Another aspect of this philosophy is to recognize that psychological and socioeconomic issues and personal behavior impact health.
The body possesses self-regulating, and self-correcting, healing mechanisms. Osteopathy emphasizes the inherent capacity for maintaining health and to recover from illness. An example of this is seen when we heal a cut or recover from a cold. The role of the osteopathic physician is to promote, and enhance this capacity to overcome disease and maintain health. It is these self-correcting mechanisms that are utilized during an osteopathic treatment which bring about healing in the affected structure.
Structure and function are interrelated. This initial principle of Dr. Still holds true today as demonstrated through careful study that structural abnormalities are associated with various diseases. Dr. Still noted, "Disease is the result of anatomical abnormalities followed by physiologic discord." These abnormalities are referred to as somatic dysfunction. Examples of this interrelationship can be seen in conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle tension headaches, or shoulder blade pain with gallbladder disease. So when a patient complains of a headache the treatment might be focused on an old injury to the pelvis.
Based on the principles of the interrelationship between structure and function, the body is a unit, and the self-regulating self-correcting mechanisms; the osteopathic physician has knowledge of this unique system of diagnosis and treatment to assist the patient in recovering from illness or injury. By using a hands-on approach in assessing that the structure of the body moves freely, all innate healing systems are free to work unhindered.
William Garner Sutherland D.O. was a Student of Dr. Still. He was intrigued by the complexity of how the bones of the skull were joined together. Throughout his years of practice with diligent research and study he gradually developed a revolutionary expansion of the osteopathic concept. He called his discovery "Osteopathy in the Cranial Field." At the core of cranial osteopathic manipulation is the concept of Primary Respiration. He determined that there is a palpable movement within the body that occurs in conjunction with the motion of the bones of the head. This rhythmic alternating expansion and contraction of all tissues that exists in every cell of the body can be felt and utilized by trained physicians. Almost imperceptible alterations of the skulls natural configuration or movement could lead to disorders such as colic, or delayed development in children. Trauma affecting this mechanism may later cause low back problems, headaches, breathing problems, fatigue, digestive disorders, joint pains, menstrual dysfunction, and repetitive strain injuries such as tendinitis.