It is a gentle, hands-on manual therapy, individualized for each patient and uses an extensive understanding of anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and osteopathic philosophy.
Osteopathy focuses on total body health by treating and strengthening the musculoskeletal framework while also treating the impact of the visceral systems on the entire body structure. The aim of osteopathy is to positively affect the body’s nervous, circulatory, and lymphatic systems in an effort to reconstitute the body's innate self-healing mechanisms.
Osteopathy involves assessing each individual's structure, including any asymmetries, restrictions in motion, tissue texture changes, and sensorial changes. The practitioner utilizes their knowledge of the body to determine how to optimize the structure and function of each patient.
Osteopathy was founded by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, an American doctor, in the late 1800’s. At the age of 25, he became a physician to follow in the footsteps of his father. He learned the common medical treatments of the time as well as integrated some natural elements into his practice. He enlisted in the Civil War and served using his medical experience in the army. A man ahead of his years, Still fought for the abolishment of slavery and later on, when he established the first school of Osteopathy, encouraged the attendance of all genders and races to learn the practice.
Within a short period of time after returning home from the war, A.T. Still experienced trauma within his family; three of his sons died of spinal meningitis, his daughter of pneumonia, and his wife from childbirth. Distressed that his medicine had been unable to save the lives in his family as well as his experience from the war, he sought a new method of healthcare to help others. Over a decade of study led him to the principles of osteopathy:
1. That the body is a dynamic unit of function that includes the physical body, mind, and spirit.
2. That the body is innately able to self-heal and self-regulate.
3. That the structure of the body and its parts affects how it functions.
4. That treatment for the aiding and prevention of health must involve these principles.
He opened the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, MI in 1892 on the foundation that the body's ability to heal itself lies in correcting anatomical deviations in the structure that could interfere with its natural physiological mechanisms. He emphasized to his students a focus on treating the patient rather than the disease.
Although the practice of Osteopathy prides itself on the fundamentals of natural law rather, other manual therapies still in use today are said to have their roots from the establishment of osteopathic education. Wilbur Bohm, the pioneer of athletic therapy and physiotherapy, was a graduate of the American School of Osteopathy in 1917. Additionally, D.D. Palmer, the founder of the chiropractic practice, was said to have attended Still's lectures at the ASO prior to opening his first school in 1897.
Osteopathy is currently unregulated in Canada. This means that there is no government involvement at the provincial, territorial, or national level with regard to education or professional registration, however there are international standards of education set forth by the World Health Organization. This means that not all osteopathic education is equal as some programs do not meet these international standards. Members of the YOA meet these international standards.
Osteopathic Practitioners/Therapists undergo training to treat the body using manual methods for structural assessment and treatment. This is the predominant method of education worldwide, outside of the USA, and the current standard in Canada. An Osteopathic Manual Practitioner/Therapist is the highest designation for a classically-trained, manually-practicing osteopathic practitioner in Canada. Members of the YOA have the highest standard of osteopathic education in the country and treat the body manually without the use of drugs or surgery, different from osteopathic physicians.
Osteopathic physicians are medically-educated practitioners who have obtained their education from an Osteopathic Medical School and thus have an unrestricted scope of medical practice. Most Osteopathic Physicians treat in medical settings in much the same way as an M.D. does, utilizing almost all medical specialties. These practitioners may be eligible for medical licensing in countries outside of the USA, but there are currently no medical schools in Canada that provide the Osteopathic Physician (D.O.) designation.