What’s so special?
The way that Osteopathy places importance in seeing the patient as a whole person – and how parts of the body which are apparently unconnected or distant to the area of complaint can be contributing to the problem.
The human body is very resilient and is biologically capable of adapting to many life events – accidents, illnesses, emotional stresses and occupational and school stress too. Often these events leave their mark on the body even when all the pain has gone.
An osteopath has very extensive hands-on skill. They can interpret information about the way your body’s tissues feel, in the same way that an orchestra conductor can hear if one violin is not keeping up with the others. This isn’t magic, it’s a learned skill from years of training.
The key skills are a deep knowledge of anatomy, particularly the bones, muscles and joints and the nerves and blood vessels that serve them and knowing in detail what everything should feel like to the trained hand when it is normal and healthy. This enables a clinician to confirm by touch when an area is not working at its very best.
Osteopathic treatment is a hands-on correction of altered tissues so that the body’s resilience is set to better function. For example this lets the body’s own biology, the circulation, go to work carrying in nutrients and helper cells and removing waste products. Or by calming overactive areas of the nervous system and signalling systems to reduce inflammation and sensitivity responses.
Osteopathy was developed in the USA by Andrew Still, a doctor who had served in the Civil War. After the tragedy of losing his children to meningitis, he set about finding a new approach to medical treatment which would be better than the applications of opium and mercury that were common at the time. He had a moment of inspiration after being relieved of a headache when he rested his head on a suspended rope, and finding the gentle traction helped him feel better. He went on to expand his work and develop the application of hands-on techniques for improving the way the body works.
His first Osteopathic College, in Kirksville Missouri, opened in 1889 and Still made sure his students had the newly published Grays Anatomy to study from. Later he bought an X-ray machine too. I like to think that he would be very excited about all the advanced imaging and modern understanding of physiology that we have today.
The first British School was opened in London in 1917 by Martin Littlejohn, a Scottish doctor. Today there are a number of register approved colleges offering degree status courses.
Osteopathy is an independent state regulated profession, like doctors and dentists, having independent rights of diagnosis and a Member of the Allied Health Professions (AHP) like Physiotherapists and Radiographers. All Osteopaths in Britain are qualified and regulated by the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC).