History of osteopathy

ATStillAndrew Taylor Still, MD, DO (1828-1917) is considered to be the founder of osteopathy since he established it as a new scientific discipline in 1874. He believed that all we need to sustain life, already is within us, thus he searched for new ways to help the body heal itself. In his work, he was influenced by the laws of physics, Native American healing practices, ancient techniques of setting broken bones back in place, and most probably, by oriental philosophy. Dr Still believed that an unhindered flow of bodily liquids, as well as elements they contain, is essential to the process of self-regulation and self-healing of the body. The application of Skill’s principles and methodology was successful in treating not only musculoskeletal problems, but also in treating epidemics of that time, such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and typhus fever, spreading everywhere and taking a large toll on humanity.

Instead of dealing with a disease, which was the current medical practice of his day, Dr Still focused on what he thought could contribute to health. He believed that there is God in everyone and saw people as holistic beings who have the ability to self-heal. He worked tirelessly to find root causes of illness and establish the interconnection of body systems and their psychological and emotional dimensions. He founded a new healing methodology by performing repositioning of bones and organs and this formed the basis of manipulative medicine. Nowadays, this procedure is known as osteoarticular repositioning and visceral normalisation. He taught his students that every anatomic anomaly can lead to illness (or that illness can lead to anatomic anomaly) and that these anomalies can be corrected by applying proper osteopathic manual techniques. His approach was based on a holistic view – treating the whole person, respecting the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual harmony of the person; man in relation to his environment and universe, matter and motion in all living beings.

Dr Still was aware of the need to preserve pure osteopathy and osteopathy as a science. Despite the fact that scepticism about new ideas was an integral part of his historical period, Still had the opportunity to prove the efficacy of this medicine model by developing it using scientific methods. In 1892, he also founded the first school of osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri, which he named The American School of Osteopathy. The name of this school today is Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. In his lectures, Still stressed that tensions, shock, physical and psychological traumas can cause changes in circulation and working of the nervous system and thus cause illness. Later on, some of his students developed manual systems, such as cranial osteopathy and fascial release..

WGSutherlandWilliam Garner Sutherland was Still's student and the first to establish cranial therapy. He perceived rhythmic movement within the bones of the cranium and created the concept of The Primary Respiratory Mechanism – PRM.

John Martin Littlejohn, DO, was one of Still's students who advocated the introduction of wider medical knowledge in osteopathy and founded The Chicago School of Osteopathy. He returned to England in 1911 and established The British School of Osteopathy in London, which is still active nowadays. It is the first osteopathic school in Europe. In England, osteopathy has been officially recognised just a few years ago. Littlejohn also developed G.O.T. (General Osteopathic Treatment).

In 1929, the American Congress passed a law under which the MD (Doctor of Medicine) and DO had the same status. Osteopathic colleges all around the USA accepted the college system, licensing and regulations. Consequently, the American osteopathic profession accepted the model of medical education which included all conventional diagnostic methods and therapies, along with pharmacy, but practised ever less the manual part of osteopathic medicine. As a result, only about 10% of osteopaths practice manual osteopathy in America today, and even a smaller number of doctors practise cranial osteopathy developed by William Garner Sutherland.

The remainder of the world, Europe, Asia, Canada and countries of the Southern Hemisphere included, didn't accept the medical model of osteopathy. Their curricula focus primarily on the manual application of traditional osteopathic philosophy and its principles.

WFraymanViola Frymann, a student of W. G. Sutherland, has treated children in California since the 1960s. Today, she is the greatest living authority in the field of paediatric osteopathy. She was the one to bring cranial therapy to Europe, collaborating with Thomas Schooley and Harold Magoun, two osteopaths with whom she, in the 1960s, came to France to give lectures on osteopathy to physiotherapists, doctors, dentists and other people in the similar line of work. They were extremely motivated by the fact that only a very few American osteopaths practiced osteopathy like it was originally conceived by Dr Still and even smaller number of them performed cranial osteopathy. There was a real danger of a net loss of this knowledge with the generations to come. Thanks to Dr Viola Frymann, and her colleagues, the manual part of osteopathy has been saved, especially the cranial part, and thus led to the spread of osteopathy all around Europe.

Subsequently, some French osteopaths founded colleges of osteopathy in Canada. The first of these schools was Collège d'Études Ostéopathiques de Montreal, opened in 1982 by a French osteopath Philippe Druelle DO. Many famous osteopaths gave or still give lectures at this school. Druelle was a teacher of Velda Lulić DO who, nowadays, gives lectures in Croatia, Switzerland, Germany and Canada and who deserves credit for bringing osteopathy to Croatia where she has been advocating the official recognition of osteopathy.

Fred Mitchell Sr developed the concept of Muscle Energy Technique MET, the subject on which his son, Fred Mitchell Jr., delivers lectures.

Lawrence H. Jones developed Strain Counterstrain.

Jean-Pierre Barral, DO, developed the Visceral Concept.

In the European Union, osteopathy has been recognised only recently. At the moment, lots of work is being done to standardise osteopathic education within the EU.

Osteopathy in Croatia today, as a complementary approach in rehabilitation of adults and children, has been successfully practiced in many places – private clinics, specialised playrooms and spas. In Croatia osteopathy has existed since 2001, at first within the Croatian Association for the Promotion of Osteopathy and later as part of The Academy of Osteopathy that in 2011, became the member of OSEAN, the Osteopathic European Academic Network.