Health Guide


What is it?

Osteopathy was developed in the late 1800's by Dr. Andrew Still. He developed osteopathy based on the belief that displaced bones, nerves, and muscles are the cause of most health problems. A doctor of osteopathy (DO) is called an osteopath and believes that when the body's structure is corrected, its function will also improve.

The muscles and bones of the body support and protect our organs. If the muscles and joints are aligned and working properly, the rest of the body will be able to heal itself. Poor joint mobility and tense muscles can affect the brain, nerves, blood vessels, lymphatics, digestive system, heart, lungs, and other parts of the body.

When an osteopath finds a problem in the spine or joints, he will try to understand why the problem developed. The treatment will focus on two aspects: 1) correcting the weakness that led to the spinal problem and 2) directly working on the joints or muscles to restore its function and movement. Once the joint function has been restored, the blood and nerve supply will also improve and the body will heal itself.

In the early 1900's, osteopathy was quite different than Western medicine. Beginning in the 1940's, osteopaths began practicing more like Western medical doctors (MD's). Osteopaths are primary care doctors and are licensed in all states.

During your first visit to the DO, you will be asked many questions about your past and present health. The DO will examine and evaluate your posture, range of motion, skin and muscle tone, tenderness, and reflexes. Lab tests, x-rays, or other diagnostic procedures may be done. This visit may take 30 to 60 minutes and return visits may be 20 to 30 minutes.

DO's may use the following manipulation techniques:

  • Cranial manipulation: subtle and gentle pressure is applied to the skull.
  • Muscle energy: straining and releasing specific muscles to help them relax.
  • Functional and positional releases: putting you in a specific position to allow the muscles to relax and release spasms.
  • Gentle mobilization: moving a joint through its range of motion, gradually increasing the motion to free the restrictions.
  • Articulation: a quick thrust similar to chiropractic adjustment.
  • Soft tissue techniques: several techniques to remove restrictions in muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Osteopathy manipulation is usually very effective in treating back and joint pain, injuries, and headaches. These techniques may be helpful in the treatment of other problems, such as insomnia, depression, menstrual problems, or digestive complaints. Asthma, arthritis, high blood pressure, and heart disease may also be treated with manipulation.

A DO is trained to provide a full range of medical care. Ask what treatments your DO uses. The type of treatments will vary with each doctor. Some will only do manipulations while others will do manipulations and Western medicine treatments. Others will only do Western medicine treatments.

For more information:

  • Academy American Osteopathic Association (312) 280-5800.
  • American College of Osteopathy (317) 879-1881.


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Last Updated: 6/4/2018
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