Osteopathic Philosophy

What is osteopathy? What is the osteopathic approach?  Is there a philosophy of osteopathy?

Stone (1999) suggests that osteopathy has perspectives over medicine, biomechanics and traumatology.  In respect of medicine, osteopathy can help with a variety of pathologies and medical diseases.  Biomechanics relate form and structure with function, and the osteopath relates this to normal body movement and posture, and the impact on the function of other body parts.  Traumatology is what osteopaths are best known for: the rehabilitation of damage from minor soft tissue injuries to major soft tissue and bony trauma.

Stone describes the osteopathic approach as the application of technique based on principles.  There are many osteopathic manipulations which include soft tissue massage, stretch techniques, muscle energy techniques, strain counter strain techniques, articulation, high velocity thrust, gentle low amplitude mobilizations and neuromuscular techniques. 

Chiropractors and physiotherapists also have their techniques, but their philosophies differ to that of osteopathy.  Physiotherapy especially, is a highly orthodox regime that works entirely within the orthodoxy of conventional ideas about disease development.  Whereas osteopathy is open to other models of health.  Typically physiotherapy is seen as something that is undertaken following for example, a sports injury, or a car accident.  Osteopathy on the other hand, is seen by a lot of people as dealing with back problems and general body pains.  In reality both disciplines are more complex and wide ranging than these views recognise.

Stone describes the contribution of osteopathy thus: ‘The contribution of osteopathy is patient centred in that it looks at how that individual is relating to their environment and disease (or dysfunction/trauma) and in what way and on how many levels they need help.  The osteopath assesses them as individuals and how their physical body is relating to their actions and environments, giving a unique (non-orthodox) assessment of that person’s dysfunction (even if within that some reference is still made to, for example, a particular disease process).

The osteopathic contribution to the management of the patient is to offer treatment of their physical body, to help the person improve their level of adaptedness.’

 Stone, C. (1999) Science in the art of osteopathy osteopathic principles and practice, Stanley Thornes (Publishers) Ltd, Cheltenham UK.