Origin of Osteopathy
Traditional Osteopathy was founded by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still in 1874. Dr. Still believed that the human body had everything necessary within to sustain health in contrast to the theories of common medical practices at that time. Still began to focus on the removal of physical impediments and restrictions within the body to allow free circulation of fluids. When unobstructed fluid flow was restored, the body possessed the ability to function as a unit and self regulate.
Osteopathy in the U.S.A. versus Canada and Europe
An Osteopath in the United States is a Medical Doctor (M.D.). In Canada, and most other countries worldwide, Osteopathy is not a medical degree, but rather a specialist trained in manual therapy techniques. "Osteopath" is a term reserved by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (C.P.S.O.) for those who have graduated from an Osteopathic Medical Program in the United States. In Canada and other countries worldwide, Osteopathy is practiced as a manual therapy, rather than a conventional, allopathic approach.
What is Osteopathy as Practiced in Canada?
Osteopathy, as defined by the Canadian College of Osteopathy, is: “A natural medicine which aims to restore function in the body by treating the causes of pain and imbalance. To achieve this goal the Osteopathic Manual Practitioner relies on the quality and finesse of his/her palpation and works with the position, mobility and quality of the tissues.”
Natural medicine implies that nothing is added (medication, remedies) or removed (surgery). Instead, Osteopathy embraces the philosophy of Dr. Still that in health, the body has the natural ability to self heal and self regulate.
An Osteopathic Manual Practitioner will palpate gently, but with specific intention to tissues (musculoskeletal, visceral) to assess position, mobility and quality of these structures. Treatment methods will often use a gentle contact with tissues along with small, very specific and deliberate motions to the intended tissue. Osteopathic assessment and treatment greatly focuses on the entire body, rather than only the area(s) of pain. By assessing and treating in a holistic manner, treatments focus on many areas that may be contributing to symptoms rather than only the area where symptoms arise. Once proper position and mobility are restored, the quality and vitality of the tissue improves.
Treatment may use cranial-sacral methods, osteo-articular adjustment, visceral normalization or fascial release. Through each form of treatment, the practitioner must have an extremely thorough understanding of human anatomy, physiology and biomechanics.
Osteo-articular adjustment - Rather than attempting to physically move bones with large amounts of force, an Osteopathic Manual Practitioner will deliver a precisely timed and placed “impulse” on the intended articulation. This impulse allows the joint to return to its natural position as well as restoring mobility without strain to the tissue or other areas of the body.
Cranial-Sacral - Osteopathy, as well as some other forms of manual therapy, practice based on the notion that the cranial bones (as well as other tissues) remain in a constant, subtle motion. Through precisely yet gently applied force, the practitioner aims to restore cranial mobility.
Visceral normalization - Visceral treatment intends to allow organs adequate space and mobility to perform their specific functions while removing any obstruction/restriction that may impede vasculature or nerve. This form of treatment often requires a very sensitive, precise palpation to be effective.
Fascial Release - This is a generalized term used for different types of treatment used to restore mobility and remove tension in the connective tissue of the body. An Osteopathic Manual Practitioner will utilize various sub-types of techniques that are effective in soft tissue release.
Who May Benefit from Osteopathy?
Musculoskeletal pain/injury (shoulder, elbow, knee, foot/ankle etc.)
Since its origin, Osteopathy has continued to grow from Still's theories. Two main practical techniques were often discussed in his writings: restoring the proper position of bones in relation to each other, while the second involved restoring the position of the organs in relation to major vasculature and neural centres of the body. These two types of treatment are now known as osteo-articular adjustments and visceral normalization.