Osteopathy is a system of healthcare based on the belief that disease is the direct result of the relationship between physiological function and anatomical structure. In osteopathy, function and structure are interdependent. A healthy musculoskeletal system plays a pivotal role in recovery and disease prevention. ‘Structure governs function’ – this is the tenet of osteopathy. By structure, this means muscles, ligaments, bones, organs and fascia.
The credit for initiating this system of healing is given to Andrew Taylor Still, who started this treatment at the end of the American Civil War. According to Still, disease happens when the bones are out of place thus disrupting the flow of the blood or hampering the flow of nervous impulses. He therefore concluded that diseases can be cured by manipulating the bones, which in turn, helps to restore the flow.
This system has much in common with Chiropractic techniques where the correct alignment of bones is given the utmost emphasis. Originally Osteopathy used strictly manipulative techniques for correcting abnormalities. However, over the past years, Osteopathy has embraced all aspects of modern medicine including drugs and corrective surgery.
Doctors who practice Osteopathy know how important it is to have a proper and correct understanding of the exact position and correct function of each of the structure in the body. Those who practice Osteopathy look for abnormalities in the working relationship within and between the various structures. According to these physicians, the physical integrity of the entire musculoskeletal system is one of the most important factors that contribute to good health.
Osteopathy has a lot in common with orthodox medicine as well. However, Osteopathic doctors are not merely bone-specialists. Instead, they are grandmasters in the ‘biomechanics of the human machine’. The way in which they approach disease and carry out treatment is therefore completely different from orthodox medicine.
The holistic approach to healing aims to take advantage of the body’s ability to heal itself. Osteopaths believe that health, not disease, is the natural heritage of every living thing. They focus all their attention on tracing any changes in function that have taken place within the structures. Within certain limits, the human body, like every other organism, has the ability to repair and correct itself. If given enough ‘support’, it can create its own remedies. The ‘support’ to be given includes:
– A balanced diet
– Good circulation
– Positive attitude
– A pollution free environment.
This self-healing is the backbone and sustaining principle behind all the applications of Osteopathy. According to these doctors, disease basically originates from within the individual himself. So, their main focus is the patient and not the micro-organism that invades his body. If the disease has reached a stage where the micro-organism has changed the structure beyond the point of no-return, Osteopathy tries to help the person function as best as he can.
Osteopathy differs to chiropractors in that the therapist uses massage during a treatment session to help the muscles retain the memory of the manipulation done to the bones and hence restore the flow of nerve impulses through the body to promote healing.
Osteopathy relies on various techniques that are combined with postural, dietary and occupational advice. Counseling patients who are recovering from illness and injury and those who are under excruciating pain is also a very useful part of this healing technique. Osteopathy also allows the use of invasive therapies when all else fails.