About Osteopathy

Osteopathy (including Cranial Osteopathy) takes advantage of the body’s natural tendency to strive toward a state of health and homeostasis. The Osteopath is trained to palpate (feel) the body’s “living anatomy” (i.e. flow of fluids, motion and texture of tissues, and structural makeup). They address health problems with a non-invasive system of medicine called, “Osteopathic Manual Medicine” in order to restore normal function in areas impaired by trauma, chronic illness, acute health problems, etc.

This site offers an explanation of traditional Osteopathic medicine in the treatment of a myriad of health problems, cases of typical medical problems resolved through treatment, the history of this medical specialty, and insights in research in Cranial Osteopathy.

Why Choose An Osteopath?

Millions of patients today are turning to Osteopaths as their physicians of choice. They recognize that a DO, doctor of osteopathy, offers a variety of non invasive healing treatments not available from allopathic (conventional) doctors.

Long before it was fashionable, DOs advised their patients that the “best drugs” are contained in the body’s immune system. So strongly do Osteopaths believe in the body’s innate healing ability that many have devoted years of additional training, after medical school, to specialize in Osteopathic Manual Medicine (OMM).

Are You A Real Doctor?

DOs and MDs are both fully licensed physicians who are authorized to prescribe medication and perform surgery.

While attending their own medical schools, DOs are responsible for the same academic discipline as their MD colleagues and receive an additional 300 to 500 hours in the study of the body’s musculoskeletal system. Physicians who wish to pursue the field of Cranial Osteopathy must train an additional five years while in practice to be certified in this area of expertise.

How Does Osteopathy Work?

Osteopaths hold to the common sense principle that a patient’s history of illnesses and physical traumas are written into the body’s structure. It is the Osteopath’s highly developed sense of touch that allows the physician to palpate (feel) the patient’s “living anatomy” (i.e. flow of fluids, motion of tissues, and structural make-up). In more clinical terms, a DO can even detect physical problems that fail to appear on an X-ray.

The Osteopath’s job is to “set” the body up to heal itself. To restore this normal function, the Osteopath gently applies a precise amount of force to promote movement of the bodily fluids, eliminate dysfunction in the motion of the tissues, and release compressed bones and joints. In addition, the areas being treated require proper positioning to assist the body’s ability to regain normal tissue function. This treatment modality is called Osteopathic Manual Medicine (OMM).

The first principle of the primary respiratory mechanism, the fluctuation of the cerebrospinal fluid, has a potency with an intelligence.

William Garner Sutherland

What Happens In Treatment?

After a thorough evaluation, the patient lies down on the examination table ready for treatment. DOs treat the dysfunction in the patient’s body taking advantage of the body’s natural tendency to strive toward a state of health and homeostasis.

Many patients frequently report feeling a deep sense of relaxation, tingling, and/or flow of fluids as their pain is relieved. Although treatment varies, Osteopaths primarily concentrate on normalizing the body’s “mechanism” or put in more clinical terms, The Five Components of the Primary Respiratory Mechanism (as pioneered by William G. Sutherland, DO).

Since the late 1800s, Osteopaths have been able to successfully diagnose and treat medical problems with their hands, much to the disbelief of their MD colleagues.

How Does The Body Treat Itself?

The rhythmic motion of the brain and spinal cord along with that of normal breathing is transmitted to the rest of the body through the continuity of membranes (dura and fascia). Fascia is literally one piece of connective tissue that lines the body cavities, surrounds all the muscles, organs, bones, vessels, and nerves, somewhat like a large piece of shrinkwrap. The fascia is continuous with the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges), thus allowing the different motions (and tension) of the body to be transmitted everywhere. This motion gently pulls and lets go on all the areas of the body in order to work strains and tissue restrictions structurally free. This is enhanced when a person sleeps as the affects of gravity are reduced.

What Does Osteopathy Treat?

Treatment is aimed at the structural problems present, not the disease entity. By removing the obstructions to health, Osteopathic Physicians are able to treat virtually any illness or trauma. The body is a unit, whose parts integrally affect each other. Therefore, dysfunction in one area affects other areas as well. For example, a young man suffering from pain due to a cervical disc problem wanted to know why his practitioner was spending time treating his legs when it was his neck that hurt. The doctor explained that past unreleased trauma was causing the man’s legs to pull on his neck, restricting its motion, and that unless he freed up that area, the pain would persist. Much to the patient’s amazement, a great deal of his pain disappeared, before his neck was treated.

Some common illnesses successfully treated with Osteopathy include:

Somatic Pain

  • Back Problems
  • Headaches
  • Joint Pain Syndrome
  • Musculoskeletal Pain
  • Neck Problems
  • Overuse Syndrome
  • Post surgical complications
  • Sciatica
  • TMJ Dysfunction
  • Traumatic Injury
    • PTSD
    • Head injury, concussion
    • Falls and strains
    • Whiplash

Systemic Problems

  • Chronic Infectious Diseases
  • Digestive Disorders
  • Genitourinary Problems
  • Head Trauma
  • Post Concussion Syndrome
  • Neurologic Syndromes
  • Seizures

Respiratory Illness

  • Asthma, COPD
  • Allergies
  • Bronchitis
  • Colds, Flu Bronchitis
  • Pleurisy

Ear, Nose and Throat Problems

  • Chronic Ear Infection
  • Frequent Colds
  • Recurrent Sore Throats
  • Sinusitis

Pregnancy and Nursing

  • Back Pain
  • Digestive Upset
  • Edema
  • Groin Pain
  • Mastitis

Pediatric Problems

  • Asthma
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Birth Trauma
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Colic
  • Delayed Development
  • Ear Infections
  • Headaches
  • Learning Disorders
  • Seizures
  • Spitting Up
  • Sport’s Injuries
  • Sucking Difficulty
  • Trauma
    • Birth trauma
    • Plagiocephaly, Torticollis, Shoulder and Hip Strain
    • Head injury/concussion
    • Falls and strains
    • PTSD
    • Whiplash

How Long Does It Take To Get Better?

A chronic condition often takes years to develop. With this in mind, it stands to reason that it will require time to resolve: the ratio is often one month of treatment for every year of illness. (Although every body has its own time table, this is the average course of treatment). For a patient with an acute problem (flu, muscle strain, etc.), the course of treatment is shorter because the condition is not as deep as a chronic illness. Much is also dependent on a patient’s level of vitality (i.e. immune system). In other words, a patient in generally good health will respond more quickly to treatment than a patient with lower vitality (i.e. weakened immune system).

How Popular Is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy has changed the lives of such well-known figures as Mark Twain, John D. Rockefeller, former presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The growing demand for Osteopathic services among our population reflects an increasing desire by patients to resolve health problems without drugs or surgery. Osteopathic Medicine continues to gain national attention and remains the fastest growing health profession in both the U.S. and abroad.

How Did Osteopathy Begin?

Civil War Surgeon Andrew Still, MD (1828 to 1917) founded Osteopathy on the principle that the best way to fight disease was by naturally stimulating the body’s immune system. In the late 1800s, Dr. Still broke from traditional medicine when he decried the widespread practice of purging and leeching. For his efforts, Dr. Still was ostracized from his profession. Undeterred, Dr. Still spent years developing a healing science that could restore normal function and freedom of tissues through a practitioner’s sensitive manual diagnosis and manipulation of tissues and fluid. He founded a school for osteopaths over the objections of his colleagues. Dr. Still maintains a loyal following of physicians throughout the world. His work has been advanced by several generations of Osteopaths. Their reward for practicing Osteopathy has been the recovery and well being of many of their patients.    

How Do I Find a DO?

The Osteopathic Cranial Academy lists DOs specializing in Osteopathic Manual Medicine who have also been trained in Osteopathy in the Cranial Field. Listings are U.S. and international. Other resources include the American Academy of Osteopathy.