Osteopathy (literally "bone sickness") is based in the belief that the position of the various bones of the skeleton in relationship to each other have an important, even overriding influence on the function of the internal organs and that realignment of the skeleton has a beneficial effect in all areas of health. Osteopaths believe that a poorly aligned skeleton can block the flow of blood and lymph and that this accounts for many disorders. The manipulate the skeleton and believe that properly done the function of the nervous, digestive, cardiovascular, and pulmonary systems are returned to health through the more efficient elimination of toxins.
Osteopathy makes more sparing use of medications than allopathic (standard) medicine. Many of the specialties found in allopathic medicine are also found in osteopathy. One can think of osteopathy as a midway point between allopathic medicine and chiropractic, although many osteopaths practice nutritional medicine in place of drug based medicine.
The founder of osteopathy was Andrew Taylor Still. Born in Virginia in 1828, Dr. Still pursued the career of a standard medical doctor. At the age of 46 in 1874 he experienced a revelation which led him to the tenets of osteopathy which are:
- that the body is a unit
- structure and function are reciprocally interrelated
- the body possesses self-regulating mechanisms
- the body rationale therapy is based upon knowledge and use of the above three principles.
Although his departure from standard medicine brought many disruptive changes to his life (divorce, poverty) recognition from his patients in Kirksville, Missouri followed steadily and the growth of his ideas progressed steadily. He wrote several books which helped spread the new paradigm among which were The Philosophy of Osteopathy in 1899 and Osteopathy, Research and Practice in 1910. His sons became doctors and, similar to the history of chiropractic, helped establish the new profession. After the usual monumental struggle with the conservative medical establishment, jealously guarded by that trade union for doctors, the A.M.A., osteopathy has been widely accepted and D.O.s (doctors of osteopathy) practice a different style of healing side by side with M.D.s (medical doctors) with all the privileges bestowed by licensure in all 50 of the states of the U.S.