Osteopathic Fundamentals: Origin, Philosophy & Principles


Osteopathy is an Holistic Manual Medicine, meaning the Osteopath will assess all the factors that could cause or contribute to your current problem/ache/pain, as well as previous injuries, traumas (physical & emotional) that could still have an impact on your current situation.
Once the Osteopath has evaluated by a detailed confidential case history all the potential causes, reasons, roots, origins that leaded you to your current situation, he/she will perform a physical examination based on observation, and specific tests to either refer you to a specialist or refer you to do further investigations or giving you an osteopathic treatment if it is safe to do so. This Osteopathic treatment include different types of techniques that your Osteopath will decide to use depending on his/ her assessment.

In the United Kingdom, courses in Osteopathy have become integrated into the university system. Instead of receiving a Diploma in Osteopathy (DO), with or without a Diploma in Naturopathy (ND), graduates now become Masters or Bachelors of Osteopathy, or Osteopathic Medicine, (BOst or MOst) or else Bachelors of Science (BSc) in Osteopathy or Osteopathic Medicine, according to the institution attended, in this case osteopathy and osteopathic medicine are synonymous, but these degrees do not lead to prescribing rights.

The recognition of Osteopathy also means that doctors can now refer patients to osteopaths for treatment.


Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO (August 6, 1828 – December 12, 1917) was the founder of osteopathy and osteopathic medicine. He was also a physician and surgeon, author, inventor and Kansas territorial and state legislator.
Still was also one of the first physicians to promote the idea of preventive medicine and the philosophy that physicians should focus on treating the disease rather than just the symptoms.

Still founded the American School of Osteopathy (now A.T. Still University of the Health Sciences) in Kirksville, Missouri, for the teaching of osteopathy on 10 May 1892. While the state of Missouri granted the right to award the MD degree, he remained dissatisfied with the limitations of conventional medicine and instead chose to retain the distinction of the DO degree. In 1898 the American Institute of Osteopathy started the Journal of Osteopathy and by that time four states recognized osteopathy as a profession.

Still defined osteopathy as:

“ […] that science which consists of such exact, exhaustive, and verifiable knowledge of the structure and function of the human mechanism, anatomical, physiological and psychological, including the chemistry and physics of its known elements, as has made discoverable certain organic laws and remedial resources, within the body itself, by which nature under the scientific treatment peculiar to osteopathic practice, apart from all ordinary methods of extraneous, artificial, or medicinal stimulation, and in harmonious accord with its own mechanical principles, molecular activities, and metabolic processes, may recover from displacements, disorganizations, derangements, and consequent disease, and regained its normal equilibrium of form and function in health and strength.”

Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT in the U.S. or simply “osteopathic treatment” elsewhere) is the therapeutic application of manually guided forces by a practitioner, intended to improve physiologic function and/or support homeostasis that has been altered by somatic dysfunction. Somatic dysfunction is defined as impaired or altered function of related components of the somatic (body framework) system: skeletal, arthrodial and myofascial structures and their related vascular, lymphatic and neural elements. Acute somatic dysfunction is an immediate or short-term impairment or altered function of related components of the somatic (body) framework. It is characterized in early stages by vasodilation, oedema, tenderness, pain, and muscle contraction (inflammation, acute presentation). It is diagnosed by history and palpatory assessment of tenderness, asymmetry of motion, restriction of motion and tissue texture change. Chronic somatic dysfunction is the impairment or altered function of related components of the somatic (body framework) system for months or years. It may be characterized by fibrosis, asymmetry of motion, restriction of motion, no pain locally.


While there are many osteopathic treatment techniques, OMT methods utilized may broadly be classified as active or passive and direct or indirect in nature.

Active Method: A technique in which the person voluntarily performs an osteopathic practitioner-directed motion.

Passive Method: Based on techniques in which the patient refrains from voluntary muscle contraction.

Direct Method (D/DIR): An osteopathic treatment strategy by which the restrictive barrier is engaged and a final activating force is applied to correct somatic dysfunction.

Indirect Method (I/IND): A manipulative technique where the restrictive barrier is disengaged and the dysfunctional body part is moved away from the restrictive barrier until tissue tension is equal in one or all planes and directions

Different techniques will be used depending on the somatic dysfunction(s) present as well as different attributes of the individual being treated.


Techniques include:

Muscle Energy
High-Velocity, Low-Amplitude
Myofascial Release
Lymphatic Pump
Ligamentous Articular Strain/Balance Ligamentous Tension
Articulatory/Still’s Technique
Facilitated Positional Release

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The Osteopathic Principles are:

1/ The Body is a Unit and the Person is a combination of Mind, Body and Spirit.

2/ The Body Structure (Anatomy) and Body Function (Physiology) are reciprocally interrelated.

3/ The Artery and Nerves rule is supreme.

4/ The Body’s possesses physiological healing mechanisms and is capable of self-regulation, self-healing and health maintenance. The physiological balance is also called Homeostasis.


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