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Osteopathy History

The osteopathic and chiropractic movements both started out in the United States Midwest in the 1890s and had similar philosophies; however, osteopathy came to adopt the use of medicine and surgery, whereas chiropractors continue to strictly use manipulative techniques. The original osteopathic movement is viewed today by scientists as pseudoscience or perhaps more correctly protoscience, since much osteopathic theory remains untested. Osteopathy was founded by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, who was born in 1828 in Virginia. It is equally true that much of what was orthodox medicine at that time would also be considered pseudoscience today. Unhappy with the ways in which his peers prescribed medicines in excess, Still sought more holistic approaches. At that time there were few effective drugs, surgery was barbaric and anaesthesia / aseptic techniques in their infancy. Dr Still had been employed as an army doctor during the American Civil War in the U.S. Army, the horrors of battle field injury and the subsequent death of his wife and several children from infectious diseases left him totally disillusioned with the practice of medicine. He had previously trained as an engineer and the achievements of civil engineering at that time, the great rail roads crossing the American continent were in contrast to the state of medicine. This no doubt prompted his enquiry into viewing the body from an engineering perspective. Still approached the study of the human body as one would approach the study of a machine. In the intervening century some of the philosophies developed by Still have been found wanting, others have persisted and developed. The evidence base for osteopathic manipulation is poor but improving, as an area of research it is unattractive to mainstream medical funding bodies / drug companies. There are currently a number of osteopathic peer reviewed journals and many training institutions are actively involved in research. An International Conference on Advances in Osteopathic Research (ICAOR) meeting is now in its 6th year ICAOR2006

Over time he and his followers developed a series of specialized physical treatments, for which he coined the name Osteopathy. Dr. Still founded the American School of Osteopathy (now the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine) in Kirksville, Missouri, for the teaching of osteopathy, on May 10, 1892. Kirksville was one of few places where he wasn't figuratively "chased out of town" by other doctors. While the state of Missouri was willing to grant him a charter for the awarding of the M.D. degree, he remained unhappy with the practices of his peers and chose instead to grant his own D.O. degree.

In the late 1800s Still believed that diseases were caused when bones moved out of place, and disrupted the flow of blood, or the flow of nervous impulses; he therefore concluded that one could cure diseases by manipulating bones to restore the supposedly interrupted flow. His critics point out that he never ran any controlled experiments to test his hypothesis, his supporters would point out that many of Still's writings are philosophical rather than scientific in nature, full historical texts are available. Early American Manual Therapy. He wrote in his autobiography that he could

"shake a child and stop scarlet fever, croup, diphtheria, and cure whooping cough in three days by a wring of its neck." (Andrew Taylor Still, Autobiography, New York, 1972, Arno Press)
Still questioned the drug practices of his day and regarded surgery as a last resort. As medical science developed, osteopathy gradually incorporated all its theories and practices:

"Today, except for additional emphasis on musculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment, the scope of osteopathy is very similar to that of allopathic medicine. The percentage of practitioners who use osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) and the extent to which they use it have been falling steadily." (Source: Dubious Aspects of Osteopathy, Stephen Barrett)
In the 1960s in California, perceived differences between osteopathy and conventional medicine blurred enough that the California Medical Association and the California Osteopathic Association merged, and D.O.s were granted an M.D. degree in exchange for paying $65 and attending a short seminar. The College of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons became the University of California, Irvine College of Medicine. However, the decision proved quite controversial, and in 1974 the California State Supreme Court ruled that licensing of DOs in that state must be resumed.

Throughout the history of Osteopathic Medicine acceptance by traditional M.D. physicians and their institutions has been an issue. The decision by the California Medical Association in the 1960's to essentially grant D.O. physicians an M.D. license was one of two turning points for D.O.s in their struggle for acceptance, the second being the U.S. Army's decision to allow D.O.'s to enter the military as physicans. Some felt the move by the California Medical Association may have been an attempt to eliminate the osteopathic competition by converting thousands of their physicians to M.D.s. While most Californian D.O.s did take the opportunity to become M.D.s, nationally it provided the osteopathic physicans the stamp of equivalency they so desired and continue to enjoy today.

Osteopathy is currently taught at 23 different schools in the United States.

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