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Osteopathy is the discipline of (theoretically) treating disease by stimulating the body to heal itself, with a focus on manipulating muscles and bones. The idea that the body can be cured by manipulation has never been proven in any scientific journal and is essentially woo.
The nature of osteopathy differs from one country to another. In the United States, the separate but related field osteopathic medicine is practiced by Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) (known as osteopathic physicians) who, for almost all purposes, are indistinguishable from Doctors of Medicine (MD). They have the legal and medical authority to diagnose and prescribe, and U.S.-trained DOs are recognized as medical practitioners in most other countries. Education and training for a DO is the same as for an MD, supplemented with training in "hands-on manual medicine." In other countries osteopathy is a form of alternative medicine and its practitioners are not considered physicians in the conventional sense. This article focuses mainly on osteopathy in its alternative medicine sense.
Osteopathy was created by Andrew Taylor Still, a Kansas physician, in 1874. He still believed that it was possible to treat disease solely by manipulating a patient's bones and muscles. There is no evidence that Still had any medical training, other than some time spent treating Native Americans with his missionary father.
Still believed that subluxations of the vertebrae (i.e. alleged subtle misalignments of the spinal column) had wide-reaching consequences on the rest of the body; in his autobiography, he claimed to have reversed balding via spinal rubbing. He believed that each blood cell had an intelligence of its own and that he himself was clairvoyant.
In 1958, Still's name was removed from the "constitution" of the American Osteopathic Association, following most of his peculiar teachings.
 What Osteopaths actually do
The concept of osteopathy as an alternative medicine approach is based on four primary principles:
- The body is an integrated unit. Any action done to one part of the body will have consequences throughout.
- The body regulates itself, but when ill those systems can be limited or fail.
- Structure and function are directly related, and are reciprocally interrelated. (That is, if the structure fails, the function must also fail). This does not mean that a hand is structured like it is because that is the best method for grasping, but that the ability of the hand to function best, is to have the entire body be perfectly in line.
- Active "Relational Therapy" corrects the body in conjunction with the first three principles.
Based on those, the idea of healing the entire body is done by manipulating the structure of the body, which in turn directly affects the function of the body. If the patient is suffering from cancer, it is not enough to provide the patient with pharmaceuticals, one must help the body's structure so it can function better, and be ready to heal from the cancer. For example, the movement of lymph through osteopathic techniques such as the lymphatic pump may improve the circulation of anticancer drugs.
 Types of manipulation and intervention
- Active Method — what most people would think of when you hear "musculo-skeletal manipulation". At the doctor's direction, the patient performs a series of movements over a prescribed time frame. Note: this is not like physical therapy, where a muscle or joint is injured and the motion is to help strengthen or stretch the injured area; rather, the exercises are to stimulate the body to heal, and may have no obvious connection, including what part of the body is "manipulated".
- Passive method — the body is moved by the practitioner. Not unlike a massage, except instead of relaxation or injury treatment and prevention of massage, the intent is again to bring about the body's natural healing.
- Counterstrain — the illness is attributed to a continual "strain reflex" in a muscle, so that reflex is "trained" out of the system by techniques of counter strain.
- Direct method (D/DIR) — engagement with a restrictive barrier followed by an "activating force"
- Indirect method (ID/DIR) — disengagement with a restrictive barrier and movement away from the barrier
|—Andrew Taylor Still, founder of osteopathy|
The principal principle of osteopathy is that most, if not all, disease comes from disorders of the musculo-skeletal system. This is similar to claims made by almost all practitioners of alternative medicines: holisticism, or the belief that the entire body is somehow connected. Holistic practitioners argue that conventional medical science reduces patients down to their symptoms and fails to take into account the whole of the person. This is, of course untrue, but when confronted a convenient escape hatch employed by advocates of osteopathy is that the practice includes spirituality as a factor of the whole patient.
 See also
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Quackwatch on osteopathic medicine
- ↑ On the transition from osteopathy to osteopathic medicine
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, Martin Gardner, Dover Publications, New York 1957 9780486203942
- ↑ Fads and Quackery in Healing: An Analysis of the Foibles of the Healing Cults, with Essays on Various Other Peculiar Notions in the Health Field by Morris Fishbein (1932) Blue Ribbon Books, 382 pp.
- ↑ Study of Relations Between Osteopathy and Medicine June 1953
- ↑ Bonesetting, Chiropractic, and Cultism
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Foundations of Osteopathic Medicine (2010) 3rd ed. LWW. ISBN 0781766710.