Osteopathy, also referred to as osteopathic medicine, is founded on the premise that almost all ailments and diseases are in some form or the other related to disorders in the musculoskeletal system, which includes the nerves, muscles and bones. Osteopathy aims to restore the body’s harmony by manipulation of the musculoskeletal system, proper nutrition, and changes in lifestyle rather than through surgery or drug therapy.
History of osteopathy
Frustrated by the inefficacy of medical remedies in the late nineteenth century, US physician Andrew Taylor Still experimented with osteopathy in 1874 and by 1892 had founded the American School of Osteopathy in Missouri. He believed that a doctor’s role in curing a disease was to set right the body’s musculoskeletal function through manual manipulation, changes in nutrition, and lifestyle modifications.
Today doctors use the musculoskeletal system manipulation techniques to complement more traditional forms of medical treatments. Although it was once used to treat all kinds of diseases, it is today more or less limited to treating musculoskeletal conditions, such as back pain.
How does osteopathy work?
Dr. Still was of the belief that most diseases or illnesses have their origin in structural disorders of the spine or the musculoskeletal system. Different nerves connect the spine to different organs in the body. So when there is a spinal disorder, the nerves send abnormal signals to the various organs in the body. He termed these spinal disorders as ‘osteopathic lesions’ (‘osteo’ for bone and ‘pathic’ for diseased), and created osteopathic manipulation techniques (OMTs) to treat them. He believed that these treatments would restore the normal functioning of nerves and allow blood to flow more freely throughout the circulatory system. With the musculoskeletal structure restored by manual manipulation, Dr. Still believed the body’s ability to heal itself would increase.
The practitioner of this technique would normally examine your bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons as well as your posture, spine, and balance. He will check your joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments, and may use his hands to manipulate your back, legs, or arms. He may order x-rays and laboratory tests. And when he has made a diagnosis, he will chalk out a treatment plan to set your musculoskeletal system right, and the plan may also include prescription medications.
Illnesses and disorders that respond to osteopathy
Patients suffering from back pain and neck pain are not the only ones who benefit from this therapy. There is some evidence to suggest that the technique may be useful in the following conditions:
- Ankle injuries
- Tennis elbow
- Neck pain
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Recovery after surgery
- Menstrual pain
However, osteopathy should be avoided if you have a fracture or dislocation, bone cancer, a bone or joint infection, damaged ligaments, rheumatoid arthritis of the neck, or osteoporosis. Osteopathic manipulation is also not recommended for people who have recently undergone joint surgery or for people taking an anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medication, such as aspirin.ax