Join for Just $16 A Year
- Discounts on travel and everyday savings
- Subscription to AARP The Magazine
- Free membership for your spouse or partner
Osteopathy is a "whole person" philosophy of medicine, where doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) endorse an approach that treats the entire person, rather than a specific complaint. Attention is given to prevention, wellness, and helping the body to heal itself. Because the body is viewed as a single organism or unit, special focus is given to understanding body mechanics and the interrelationship of the body's organs and systems. A particular emphasis is placed on the musculoskeletal system. Dos may utilize physical manipulation of muscles and bones in conjunction with, or as an alternative to, conventional treatments, drug therapies, and surgery to provide complete health care.
Dr. Andrew Still developed the osteopathic approach to medicine. Still, whose father was a Methodist minister and physician, was himself a medical doctor who served as a Union surgeon during the Civil War. After the war, personal tragedy struck the Still household when three of his children died from spinal meningitis. This event angered and disillusioned him. He became dissatisfied with the state of medical knowledge and treatments available at that time. Consequently, he began an intense study of the human body to find underlying causes and cures for ailments.
Still gave great attention to anatomy. He recognized the importance of the musculoskeletal system, the body's ability for self-healing, and focused on prevention and the concept of "wellness." In an era when drug treatment was frequently dangerous and overused, and surgery often fatal, Still was able to develop alternative treatments. For example, by manipulating the ribs and spine, Still provided treatments for pneumonia. He gave attention to the lymphatic system (which filters foreign matter and removes excess fluids, proteins, and waste products from the tissues and transports them to the blood to be circulated and eliminated) and manipulating the fascia (connective tissue that is tough, but thin and elastic; it forms an uninterrupted three-dimensional network from head to foot, sheathing every muscle, bone, nerve, gland, organ, and blood vessel), allowing him to address a range of other ailments.
Still's sons learned his philosophies and techniques, but demand overwhelmed their ability to supply care. In 1892, Still founded the first college of osteopathic medicine, the American School of Osteopathy, in Kirksville, Missouri. When he died in 1917, there were more than 5,000 practicing osteopaths in the United States. Today, osteopaths are the fastest growing segment of the total population of physicians and surgeons in the United States. In 2002, there were more than 49,000 doctors of osteopathy. Osteopathy has spread outside of the United States and is now practiced in countries throughout the world.
Author Info: Rebecca J. Frey PhD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, 2005This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare professional with any health concerns you may have.
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.
Member access to health and insurance products and services at AARPhealthcare.com.
Members can get an instant quote with AARP® Dental Insurance administered by Delta Dental Insurance Company.
Members can save on eyewear with AARP® Vision Discounts provided by EyeMed.
Caregiving can be a lonely journey, but AARP offers resources that can help.