Osteopathy: Healing Touch or Quackery?

"Osteopaths are quacks!" We've all heard that said by non-believers in osteopathy. Why? The biggest reason is a lack of understanding of what osteopaths do and do not do. Osteopathic doctors have a level of training equivalent of medical doctors. But many people unfamiliar with the work of doctors of osteopathy are skeptical of their qualifications and their competency.

Media does nothing to allay those fears. Because of scrutiny of this branch of medicine it appears that osteopathy has more than its fair share of osteopaths who use dubious practices. Thus, people who could benefits from the services of a doctor of osteopathy often avoid seeking an osteopath.

What are the solutions? First, knowledge is power. Understanding the history of osteopathy can be a definite help in dispelling the myths surrounding this branch of medicine.

Osteopathy: a Brief History

Andrew Taylor Still, MD expressed the principles of osteopathy in 1874. Osteopathy was then in its infancy. As a medical doctor, Andrew Still believed that many diseases were routed inthe simple interference or disruption of nerve and blood supply. Because they were caused by an interference, disruption or block, Dr. Still believed that these same conditions could be eased or cured by manipulation of whatever had been disrupted, deranged, interfered with or displaced. That included: bones, nerves, and muscles. A study of Dr. Still's somewhat unorthodox methods describes handshaking a child to stop such conditions as: scarlet fever, croup, diphtheria, and cure whooping cough.

Dr. Still was not a proponent of the drug practices he saw being used in the late 1800's. He also saw surgery as a last ditch attempt to save a patient.

Like many of his colleagues today, Dr. Still was considered as a bit of a quack and so the reputation that has plagued competent osteopaths for two centuries began.

Despite the public skepticism of his theories, Dr. Still founded the first osteopathic medical school in 1892 in the city of Kirksville, Missouri.

Osteopathy Today

As osteopathy developed as a branch of medicine it was gradually incorporated into healthcare techniques. Today, except for its added emphasis on diagnosis through the musculoskeletal framework, osteopathy's scope is identical to any other medicine.

Both the number of medical practitioners who use some form of osteopathic manipulative treatment and the degree to which they use osteopathy has unfortunately been steadily decreasing. Some studies have indicated that the reason for decline may lie in the fact that osteopaths have ironically become more like medical doctors-the group whose treatments caused them to split from them in the first place.

Osteopathic Qualifications

In order to qualify as an osteopath, you need four to five years of undergraduate study- the same as pre-med. The difference between this study and a typical medical degree is that osteopathy requires more emphasis on anatomy and the musculoskeletal area. The course includes over a thousand hours of training in osteopathic techniques.

Osteopaths must be registered members in good standing of the General Osteopathic Council states that doctors can safely refer patients to registered osteopaths.