to Health and Healing

Pictures: First School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Dr. A.T. Still, first Graduation Class               

OSTEOPATHY is a holistic concept of medicine. It is a manual form of therapy. It’s basis is a holistic understanding of the body combined with precise knowledge of anatomy and physiology and a very trained hand. It was founded by the American physician Dr. A.T.Still (1828-1917) who was not satisfied with the medical outcomings of his day. He studied his patients and „1. Anatomy, 2. Anatomy and 3. Anatomy“. As he always found restrictions in the bony (osteo) system of all his suffering (pathos) patients, he named his concept Osteo-pathy. It is an art of healing that helps the body to self-heal, seeing man as a living being composed of body, mind and spirit. “Man is a triune“ A.T.Still
Cranial field, visceral or structural osteopathy are all only different aspects of the holistic concept. A trained osteopath NEVER treats only ONE aspect- it is always a treatment of the whole organism. Some examples:
Examination and treatment of scull, sacrum, brain, spinal cord and nerval tissues: Dysfunction may occur through a blow on the head or a fall on the sacrum, high fevers, reactions to vaccinations, birth process, tooth extraction, ...
Examination and treatment of inner organs (like bowels, kidneys, liver), blood vessels, lymphatic vessels and the connective tissues. Dysfunctions may occur through surgery, inflammations, wrong diet, sinking of organs due to age, ...
Examination and treatment of the musculo-neuro-skeletal system (bones, muscles, joints, fascia and nerves). Dysfunctions may occur through all kinds of accidents (sports, car, falls, blows, ...)
Self-healing of the Body: the body has a selfregulating mechanism, which tries to respond to the laws of balance, economy and comfort. Healing wounds, responding to stress, killing germs, etc. are all part of this self-healing mechanism. The highest goal of an osteopathic treatment is the restoration of this self-healing mechanism.
The Human Body is a Whole, a Unit: The human body is a non-separable unit, in which all systems are dependent on each other. That includes the psyche. This leads to the recognition, that an acute disease might originate in a totally different part of the body system or might even have been triggered by a psychic reason.
The Structure governs the Function: Structure (like body fluids, bones, muscles, organs, nerves) and function (digestion, blood/lymph circulation, etc.) are reciprocal to each other. So a change in function (e.g. a strain) can change the structure (e.g. calcifications), while changes in body structures (e.g. joint or vertebra dislocations) disturb function (e.g. a nerve tingling). Basically every living tissue/structure can be treated.
Does your Baby cry constantly? Does he/she have cramps and vomits? Is your child more onesided in its activy? Your baby is not moving/acting according to his/her age? Ever since that fever, or since the vaccination, your child different? Does she/he tend to be sick often? Does your child have chronic ear infections? Is your child very active, almost aggressive? Or just the opposite: not very active and not interested in things? Does your child have problems with concentrating? Headaches? Sleeping problems?
These are just examples of problems that might occur. What do they all have in common?
They all show that your child is not in balance and is experiencing dysfunctions. This disturbs their development and inner peace, which is quite stressful not only for the suffering child but also for the whole family.
If the doctor checked your child and did not find a serious medical reason for these problems, they are usually “just“ dysfunctions. This means, nothing is actually structurally damaged, but, nevertheless, the system cannot work properly. Sometimes there are serious problems, like some chronic diseases – which in turn lead to other functional problems.
This is, where osteopathy finds its place.
What does the kidney have to do with the knee? And: do they get along?
A little excursion into Osteopathy
Let’s assume, a young woman with recurring pain in her knee visits the doctor. Most of her pain is located on the inner side of her left knee, but occasionally she experiences pain in her right knee as well.
The doctor examines her, maybe even takes an x-ray to exclude major damage, and finds... nothing conspicuous. A slight swelling at the attachment zones of the ligaments of the knee - that’s all. Maybe he applies ultra sound or prescribes pain killers, or gives a cortisol injection. That helps- short term. But the pain returns. Maybe he sends her to see a physiotherapist, who examines and finds... also not much: the swelling mentioned above, the axis of the leg is slightly off, some muscle tension. So she/he treats muscles and ligaments, analyzes the gait pattern and trains the patient to have a better motion pattern. This helps - a little longer. But the pain reoccurs. The patient hears about Osteopathy and decides to give it a try.
So what happens at the Osteopath? She/he takes a thorough case history, that includes body, mind and spirit, as Dr. Still, the founder of Osteopathy expressed it. “Man is a triune“ Dr. Still. Here it is not only about the knee, that currently has a problem. What else was in the preceding history? Surgeries? Serious diseases or a high fever? Accidents? Emotional trauma? A difficult birth? And how do all the organs function? Has there been or is there a problem? How about the psychological/emotional situation in every day living – job and family? In Osteopathy it is always about the whole human being.
The young woman explains the knee has been hurting for 3 months now. In her case history there was a bladder infection - shortly before the knee started to hurt. Approximately around the same time her boyfriend really let her down. So how is this all connected? Now finally the question of how knee and kidney are connected will be answered!
The kidney is considered an organ, which reacts to emotional injuries and stress. This means, in our example it is already stressed. Via the ureters the bladder is connected with both kidneys. A bladder infection gives tension on the ureters, which leads to an irritation of the kidneys. Although there is no inflammation of the kidneys, this still leads to a so called “dysfunction“. As the organ per se still functions well, the doctor, who checks for structural changes in organ or blood work, cannot find anything wrong. But still the kidney and the fascias (specific membranes) of the kidney are very tense. Those fascias are in direct contact with the fascia of the iliopsoas muscle, one of the most important hip flexors. Under healthy circumstances on this very muscle the kidney slides up and down with every step one walks. A tension in the fascias inevitably leads to a disturbance in the muscle. The muscle goes to the medial side of the thigh and in turn has a relation with muscles, that go to the medial side of the knee. As more than one muscle attaches here, this leads to more tension in this area- which in turn gives rise to a local irritation. And this is, how the kidney can produce pain at the knee. And why is the other knee hurting sometimes as well? Because the kidneys are interconnected via ligaments and if one kidney is in dysfunction, so the other one suffers too. And a problem shared unfortunately is not a problem halved...
The founder of Osteopathy, Dr. Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917) lost several of his children and his first wife due to meningitis. Afterwards he questioned the current approach of medicine, that would apply medication with serious side effects, such as mercury or blood-letting. He thoroughly studied nature and anatomy and recognized the major interconnections in the body. So he started to fundamentally change his treatment concept. For him the major goal was the activation of the selfhealing potency of the body. Any kind of restriction, of whichever nature, disturbs the natural balance and leads to local stagnations, irritations, inflammations, which in turn give rise to malnutrition of the tissue and often also to chronic pain (like e.g. fibromyalgia) and consequently to functional disorders (like e.g. irritable bowel syndrome). These changes can be felt. Although this requires a training of many years and an extremly specific knowledge of anatomy and physiology, this is possible. Just as a wine taster can tell you the grape, the year and the area a wine comes from.
In the mid term the disorders lead to structural damage (e.g. disc rupture)- and now the doctor reaches a diagnosis with the tools he is using.
With his treatments Dr. Still was so successful, that finally in 1874 he founded the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri – which still exists. In 1917 the British School of Osteopathy in London was founded and thus the expansion of Osteopathy in Europe began. Dr. Still never considered Osteopathy as a competition to main stream medicine, but saw it as a logical path medicine would take, as it was successful and did not cause any harm at all. For many years Osteopathy spread more and more, until the Fletcher Report in the USA caused major restrictions for any kind of wholisitic medicine. Also during this period Homeopathy, that at that time was extremely successful in the US, almost vanished. Although nowadays Osteopathy is practised worldwide, it is largely unknown in Canada, especially western Canada. More commonly people have heard about Cranio Sacral Therapy, which actually is just a little part of Osteopathy. Also some well trained massage therapists use visceral manipulations. All those sections support the selfhealing of the body- but they remain a part of the greater whole, the whole human being. And the whole is more than the sum of its parts.