Andrew Taylor Still, founder of Osteopathy, was born August 6, 1828. Dr. Still founded the first school of Osteopathy in the United States in 1874 and had apparently been developing ideas about the relation of certain diseases to disturbances of the vertebral column at least as far back as 1860.
Probably the first incident in the life of Dr. Still that had any bearing upon Osteopathy, was recorded on pages 31 and 32 of his autobiography.
“One day, when about ten years old, I suffered from a headache, I made a swing of my father’s plowline between two trees; but my head hurt too much to make swinging comfortable, so I let the rope down to about eight or ten inches off the ground and stretched on my back with my neck across the rope. Soon I became easy and went to sleep, got up in a little while with the headache all gone. As I knew nothing of anatomy, I took no thought of how a rope could stop headache and the sick stomach which accompanied it. After that discovery I roped my neck whenever I felt those spells coming on. I followed that treatment for twenty years before the wedge of reason reached my brain, and I could see that I had suspended the action of the great occipital nerves, and given harmony to the flow of the arterial blood to and through the veins, and ease was the effect, as the reader can see.”
The power of nature (the body’s intrinsic forces) began to be revealed to him and he devised a means by which nature would be permitted to exert her inherent powers. He considered nature as his laboratory. He said,
“I, who had had some experience in alleviating pain, found medicines a failure. Since early life I had been a student of nature’s books. In my early days in wind-swept Kansas, I had devoted my attention to the study of anatomy.”
The practice of allopathy had convinced him that the drug theory was radically wrong, and from his own researches he thought he saw the dawn of a better system. He determined to get closer to nature and learn from her the exact truth.
The first conclusion which he made was that an “all-wise Creator” was the designer of our bodies as well as the author of our spirits, and that the human body is, therefore, a perfect machine.
The second conclusion was the fundamental idea of the importance of the arteries and other tubular structures through which the nutritive elements are carried to their destination and the waste materials of the body are carried away to be expelled.
The third conclusion was that of the influence of the nerves and the part it plays, especially in the control of the fluids of the body.
“This year (1874) I began a more extended study of the drive-wheels, pinions, cups, arms, and shafts of life, with their forces and supplies, framework, attachments by ligaments, muscles, origin, and insertion. Nerves, origin and supplies, blood supply to and from the heart, and how and where the motor-nerves received their power and motion; how the sensory nerves acted in their function, their duties, the source of supplies and the work being done in health, in the obstructing parts, to perform their part of the functions of life; all awoke a new interest in me.
I believed that something abnormal could be found some place in some of the nerve divisions, which would tolerate a temporary or permanent suspension of the blood either in arteries or veins, which effect caused disease.”
In the early years, Osteopathic practice consisted of (1) a physical examination to determine the condition of the mechanisms and function of all parts of the human body; (2) a specific manipulation to restore the normal mechanism and re-establish the normal functions; and, (3) the adoption of all hygienic measures conducive to the restoration and maintenance of health.
This method of practice laid stress upon correct diagnosis based upon a physical examination; removal of the supposed causes of disease through manipulation; and, as an important sequel, wholesome living. The Osteopaths differed markedly from the allopaths of their day by not prescribing drugs. They advocated removing causes of disease rather than treating symptoms. The early osteopaths reasoned that if a part is not doing its duty there must be a cause for it. They said that the cause may be a foreign substance, or a malposition, interfering with the free flow of fluids or the transmission of nerve force, interfering first with function and second with structure. The osteopath then proceeded at once to remove the supposed cause of the trouble, and in doing that set free all the forces of the body involved in combatting disease and maintaining health.
The early osteopaths did not use germicides or antibiotics to kill germs on the theory that germs do not thrive in live tissue, and that every organ within the body as well as all other parts are supplied with nerves that are necessary to keep them alive. Surround the affected area with healthy tissue and the bacteria will soon die for want of suitable nourishment.
Internal cleanliness was said to be essential, but impossible without a perfect distribution of nerve force, nutritious blood, a free circulation of all the fluids of the body, and unimpeded excretion. These are the lines along which osteopaths had proven themselves to be knowledgeable.
3.2 Modern Osteopathic Practice
The osteopath of the present day still relies mainly on manipulative treatment for most diseases, but also dispenses drugs and utilizes all the other therapies of the medical physicians, such as surgery, X rays, etc. Still’s emphasis on treating the whole person, however, has remained an ideal of the profession.
There are now 15,000 doctors of Osteopathy in the United States and others who receive their education here are now located in other countries. The profession maintains nearly 300 hospitals with a total of more than 20,000 beds.
Modern osteopathic medicine is a system of medical practice that emphasizes the importance of the muscles and bones of the body and their connecting tendons and ligaments. Osteopathy maintains that the musculoskeletal system, which makes up 60 percent of the body, has important interrelationships with all other body systems. Despite this, present-day osteopathic physicians use all the medical, surgical, immunological, pharmacological, psychological, and other harmful procedures of modern medicine that we, as Natural Hygienists, condemn as destructive of health.
Osteopathic physicians hold that a disturbance in the musculoskeletal system can lead to three main conditions. (1) It can produce symptoms that occur only in the musculoskeletal system itself. (2) It can cause symptoms resembling those diseases that affect other body systems. (3) It can affect the functioning of other body systems connected to the musculoskeletal systems through nerves and the action of hormones. Osteopathic physicians are specially trained in the detection and treatment of musculoskeletal disturbances and they use massages and other types of osteopathic manipulation to treat those disturbances.
In removing these supposed immediate causes, the real underlying causes are neglected. Therefore, health cannot be achieved. The massage and osteopathic manipulations increase the flow of blood and lymph and thereby may help initiate healing, but the wrong-doing that resulted in the disturbances in the first place must be discontinued before true health can be realized.