What is Osteopathic Medicine?

In the late 1800s a doctor named Andrew Taylor Still developed the field of osteopathic medicine and is considered its founder. He was a pioneering doctor in the study of how the attributes of good health could help doctors understand disease and illness.
Through his experience with patients and research, he decided there was a better way to treat patients than the medical practices of the time. Because his new ideas were not accepted in the medical community, he established a new philosophy of medicine in 1874 called “osteopathy.”

Dr. Still opened the first school of osteopathic medicine, the American School of Osteopathy, in 1892 in Kirksville, Missouri. In 1897, students from the school formed the organization now call the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) to enforce educational standards for osteopathic medicine. The AOA was recognized as the accrediting body for osteopathic medical education by the U. S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare in 1952 and by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation in 1967.

Philosophy of Osteopathic Medicine
Near the end of the 1800s, Dr. Still wrote a book called Philosophy of Osteopathy that helped explain why osteopathic skills are applied and why osteopathic health care is beneficial.
The new method centered on treating the body by improving its natural functions rather than using medication. The major tenets of this then new philosophy included three fundamental concepts:

• The parts of the body make up a unified whole.

The effects of any disease are felt in varying degrees throughout the body. Therefore, the entire body can be mobilized to help combat illness. Treating specific, isolated symptoms ignores the interconnectedness of the body.

• The body has a natural ability to self-regulate and self-heal.

Using natural treatment methods, like osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), rather than drugs alone promotes healthy body functions that are designed to battle disease and help repair injury. Preventive medicine, including good nutrition and fitness, is important for sustaining healthy body systems. Through appropriate treatment, the individual’s so-called “host response” (innate healing ability) should be stimulated and maximized.

The musculoskeletal system is a key element in maintaining health.

This system makes up two-thirds of the body’s mass and includes the bones, muscles, and cartilage. It impacts and reflects the condition of all other systems in the body (circulatory, nervous). OMT is the central element of the application of this philosophy. Doctors of osteopathy, in addition to being trained to provide standard medical care, use their hands to diagnose problems, relieve pain, restore range of motion and balance tissues and muscles in order to promote the body’s own natural, healthy state.

Osteopathic Factoids

  • D.O.’s are one of the fastest growing segments of health care providers. Growth in the number of D.O.’s is exceeding projections. Between 1989 and 1994, D.O. growth outpaced M.D. growth by almost two times. By the year 2020, over 80,000 osteopathic physicians will be in practice in the U.S.
  • WCU will be the 29th College of Osteopathic Medicine.
  • D.O.’s represent 15% of physicians in small towns and rural areas.
  • Each year, more than 100 million patient visits are made to D.O.s.
  • There are over 380 D.O.’s licensed in Mississippi.
  • The Surgeon General of the US Army, Indian Health Service, and US Coast Guard were D.O.’s.
  • There are currently over 1,000 D.O.’s in the US Military including the Commanding Office of the President’s Hospital Naval Medical Center Bethesda.

* For more information, visit http://www.osteopathic.org/index.cfm, home of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).