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About Osteopathy History of Osteopathy

History of Osteopathy

The profession of Osteopathy was founded in 1874 single-handedly by an American doctor, with a mechanical background, named Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917). Still was the third son of a pioneer doctor, under whom he apprenticed at the culmination of the Jacksonian era (1829-1837). It was a time that encouraged independent thought and the development of new disciplines to improve the lot of mankind. Following Still's participation in the American Civil War, he began an empirical study of the human body, under the premise that by studying “God's work,” he would have a greater understanding of his “Creator.”

Andrew Taylor Still

Dr. Andrew Still disdained the common practices of physicians in the 1800s, such as venesection, emesis, and sedation with narcotics. He believed instead, that everything that was necessary to sustain human life was already present within the human body. Still sought to find non-medicinal and non-surgical avenues to enhance the body's innate ability to heal itself. 

Dr. Andrew Still focused on the mechanical removal of the impediments to the free circulation of fluids, and the elements carried within those fluids. He felt that once these “mechanical blockages” to the free flow of fluids were removed, that free circulation of all the fluids of the body would naturally return. This free flow of fluids was Still's key to the self-regulation and self-healing processes of the body. The application of this philosophy and methodology was successful in treating musculoskeletal problems as well as the major diseases of his era such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, dysentery, and typhoid fever.

Although his work was transmitted through writing that was primarily philosophical in nature, he seemed to adapt two main types of techniques. One focused on restoring the “position” of the bones in relationship to each other. The other restored the “place” of the organs in relationship to the major vessels and neural centres of the body's cavities. These two systems are now known as osteo-articular adjustments and visceral normalization.

The first school of Osteopathy was opened by Still in Missouri in 1892. Since then several of his original students have enhanced the profession through the introduction of other manual systems of techniques, such as cranial-sacral therapy and fascial release.

By 1910 it was recommended, through sponsored reports, that Osteopathic colleges within the United States adopt a system of higher education, licensing and regulation. By 1930, through a staggered transition, the American osteopathic profession adopted a medical model of Osteopathic education that incorporated all conventional diagnostic and therapeutic practices of medicine including pharmacology, surgery and obstetrics. For this reason, all graduates from Osteopathic Colleges or Osteopathic Universities in the United States are fully licensed medical practitioners and are recognized internationally as Osteopathic Physicians.