Osteopathic practice

Andrew Taylor Still’s writings, which include three published books and countless papers, do not discuss specific treatment techniques, but rather focus on his philosophy of health and healing, as well as his knowledge of human anatomy and physiological function. In this sense, osteopathy at its roots is more of a set of principles than a set of practices. What we do know about Still’s clinical practice is that his hands were his main clinical tool and that he initially advertised himself as a “magnetic healer” and “lightening bonesetter.”

Since Still’s time, many other clinicians have elaborated on osteopathy’s theoretical and philosophical foundations, as well as developed techniques and treatment modalities that are inspired by Still’s osteopathic philosophy.  For this reason, the current practice of osteopathy varies widely around the world and largely depends on the particular philosophy and traditions of educational institutions. Some osteopaths do not practice any manipulation, while others practice only manipulation. Some osteopaths use only those techniques that aim to correct structures in the musculoskeletal system, while others use techniques that aim to directly treat the body’s organs, cranial bones, blood vessels or nerves. Some osteopaths use conventional models of human physiology and anatomy in their understanding of human health, while others integrate notions of energy fields or energy channels. Some osteopaths practice only those techniques that they learned in their osteopathic education, while others integrate notions and practices from other professions, such as chiropractics, naturopathy, physical therapy, massage therapy, or athletic  therapy.

While there is divergence among osteopaths worldwide regarding the whys and hows of osteopathic practice, all osteopaths adhere to a vision of human health that is based on A.T. Still’s original philosophy (for more information on this vision, see Theoretical and Philosophical Foundations).

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