Osteopathy - An Overview

The body is a complex network of communicating cells driven by an even more complex mechanism of communicating pathways with the PHYSICAL “orchestrator” being “the brain”.

The word “Osteopathy”, even though it literally translates as “bone disease”, is an unfortunate name for something which is so directed towards the of finding health.

The founder of Osteopathy, Dr A.T Still (1828-1917), was a man born before his time. He had great wisdom and a very lateral thinking mind; so despite the constraints of medicine at the time (which focused on treating symptoms, usually with very toxic drugs) he began to look at causes and encouraging health and the healing mechanism of the body to overcome the problem.

He had been looking at nature for years and observing how perfect nature is; be it plant, tree, animal, and he wondered why man was not also perfect with all that was needed for health and harmony being present in man as it is in nature. He spent years with the American Indians, watching how they worked in with nature and taking only what they needed, and using the gifts of nature to heal. He began to realise that if man was supported through the illness and the body was encouraged to come into balance in ways perfect for that individual (rather than filling a person full of toxic drugs to attack the problem) that in most cases the person would heal themselves.

Therefore, it lead him to understand that the “body is always striving towards health” and that it “contains all it needs to maintain health”. This is the underlying philosophy of Osteopathy. In the process of his life experiences with healing, he also saw that an unimpeded blood supply was all so important in the body; be it to an organ, tissue, bone etc… as this allowed the body’s healing intelligence to send in whatever was needed to the area to restore health. This was years before anyone even thought about the “immune system”.

This makes sense but was far from the thinking of the time. He understood that structure and function were completely interrelated and that if one was out of balance, so too was the other. He understood that nothing worked or functioned separately in the body – everything affected everything so there was no point in thinking one area could be addressed without realising the effect it would have on everything else. These are some of the principles which underlie the practice of Osteopathy.

To this day, this philosophy and these principles stand true, despite the complexities of life; where modern technology and speed have replaced hard physical work and deprivations of many kinds, in what is called the “civilised world”. People are living longer and life appears to be easier than it was then. However, the changing world has brought its own share of trouble into the health arena.

  • allergies
  • injuries where forces relating to speed are involved
  • nervous system dysfunction related to an increase in electromagnetic forces
  • changes in diet
  • food additives

The body has to tolerate and deal with all these things so it is easy to see how a person’s body and being can go out of balance with the load it has to carry, and often the input can be so profound and disturbing that one problem is compounded by another. This overloads the immune system and the healing ability of the body. At this point, it is important to understand what is going on and see and feel what the body needs to assist it to restore health.

Osteopathy, if used in the way it was intended does this, not in looking at only one area but in understanding the “blocks” to health at that time, and using lateral thinking to look beyond and see the effects related to other ongoing issues of health which would not usually, in an allopathic sense, be considered in any way connected. In the ideal world, the body would be self-correcting and self-healing but that does not take into account modern life and its disturbing array of illness creating factors.

However, if we understand that we must not attack a symptom but understand it as an indicator of what underlies it, then we can see where help is needed.

Osteopathy is a “hands on” form of healing where we “listen” to the body via our hands and pick up the messages it is trying to communicate to us, via our hands and senses, and thereby lend assistance where it is required. This may mean working with the structure or with the nervous system, organs, blood vessels etc. Understanding and intervening only where necessary is the key. If this is done, then the body will take this input and use it to unblock and self-heal where necessary.

With children, the same understanding applies. Children can experience trauma; be it physical, emotional, mental etc. The birth itself can be a traumatic experience for a child, especially today where a mother’s pregnancy can be loaded with working and travelling, technology and the modern day stresses of life. The time for quiet, calm, rest and preparation for the birth is no longer available and life can be rushed. So the birth itself can be stressful and traumatic for both child and mother. In olden times, life moved at a different pace and so the array of problems and their sources that need to be considered now are much more complex and the impact on children is as much as the impact on adults.

However, this does not change the underlying philosophy or principles of Osteopathy, but just gives a wider field of observation and consideration when considering “cause” of any problem.

Osteopathy is not limited to physical aches and pains as most people think. The philosophy that underlies it is universally applicable and, remembering that it does not treat the symptom but addresses the source to assist the body to restore health, then it can be seen that there are very few areas where Osteopathy cannot be helpful. I personally, in my 21 years of clinical life, have not come across any.

“Cranial Osteopathy”, which is unfortunately another misleading term, is a way of picking up the communications from the body as to where it needs help. It also imparts that help in a very specific and exceedingly gently way. There is no force applied but a gentle re-balancing, re-aligning, with the direct guidance of the person’s own healing intelligence so that the intervention is not directing from the Osteopath’s own view point, but following the guidance of that which “knows all” within the person to assist only where needed and then allow the process to continue to strive towards health.

Anne Doyle D.O.
Cranial Osteopath