An Insight Into Osteopathy

Osteopathy is a diagnostic process and treatment which originated in the United States in the late 19th century. Practitioners of osteopathy use touch and manipulation of the muscle-skeletal system to restore and improve balance and mobility which helps to enhance well-being. 

Osteopathy techniques range from massage to high-velocity mobilisation of the joints. Osteopathy is now a well-established practice alongside conventional medicine throughout the world. In particular, it is a well-respected complementary therapy for joint and back pain. 

History of Osteopathy

The name comes from the Greek words osteon (bone) and pathos (disease). The practice was developed by Dr, Andrew Taylor Still from Virginia in the United States, During the American Civil War, Dr. Taylor worked as an army doctor. It is believed that the deaths of his wife and three of his children from meningitis prompted the doctor to devise osteopathy as a way of stimulating the body’s natural healing process. 

In 1892, Dr. Still founded the American School of Osteopathy. Despite early opposition from other doctors, osteopathy proved popular and was widely used during the flu epidemic in 1919. 

The mortality rate in hospitals where osteopathy was practiced was far lower than in other hospitals. Osteopathy made its way across the Atlantic and in 1917 Dr.John Martin Littlejohn founded the British School of Osteopathy in London. 

In the US, osteopaths are licensed as conventional doctors. Osteopathy received official recognition in 1993 when the Osteopathy Act was passed. 

Today, osteopathy is popular in Australia, North America and Europe. 

Key Principles of Osteopathy

The organs of the body are supported and protected by what is known as the musculo-skeletal system. If the system of muscles and joints is correctly aligned, the tissues in the body are healthy, the lymphatic, circulatory and digestive systems function well. 

The aim of osteopathy is to improve the mobility of the joints and soft tissues using massage and manipulation. 

Osteopaths are concerned why there is a “fault” in the musculo-skeletal system and the physical problem this is manifesting. They will explore the reasons behind the problem. 

A holistic approach which takes into consideration emotional health and lifestyle is used to evaluate the patient. 

Evidence and Research

The United States and other countries in the world have carried out a great deal of research into osteopathy. Much of the evidence is considered anecdotal, however, there is little doubt that osteopathy has a role to play when it comes to improving health. 

Two studies published in the United States and the UK in 1988 and 1992 clearly indicated that osteopathy can help to improve recovery time for patients with lower back pain.

The Theory Of Osteopathy

It is well-recognised that both physical and emotional stress affect the musculo-skeletal system. Other factors that have an effect are injury, poor posture and lifestyle. 

Looking at the bigger picture, they can impair the nervous system and cause pain. In turn, they can have an impact on the function of vital organs, respiratory and circulatory systems. 

Osteopaths aim to ease muscle tension and restore both bone and joint function. This helps to strengthen the body’s systems and restore the body’s ability to heal itself. 

Are there any differences between chiropractors and osteopaths? Chiropractors focus on using manipulation to re-align joints and osteopaths focus on muscles and improving joint mobility. 

What Are The Main Uses of Osteopathy? 

There are many uses of osteopathy and new ones are coming to light all of the time. 

If you were to create a shortlist, top uses of osteopathy include back and neck pain, but there are so many other health conditions that deserve to be on the list. 

Main uses of Osteopathy include: 

      Joint pain including all forms of inflammation and arthritis

      Back pain

      Neck pain


      Sports injuries

      Impact injuries





      Hormonal imbalance

      Menstrual pain

      Digestive disorders




      Immune system conditions

Final Thoughts and Medical Opinion

Like so many other complementary therapies, osteopathy has a place in modern medicine. 

In the United States, osteopaths have official recognition as doctors. Osteopathy is increasingly being considered a practice within the field of medicine. 

Many doctors refer patients to osteopaths as osteopaths have the skills to take a holistic approach. This is often considered valuable and we are beginning to appreciate how important it is to use a holistic diagnosis.

At the moment, there are three universities offering courses in osteopathy in Australia. To work as an osteopath in Australia, you need to be registered with the Osteopath Board of Australia.