Spirituality within the origin of Osteopathy

“Osteopathy is based on the perfection of Nature’s work. When all parts of the human body are in line we have health. When they are not the effect is disease.

Osteopathy Research and Practice. A.T.Still

Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO (1828-1917) the founder of osteopathy, was a man endowed with imagination, rare vision and perseverance. He was born on August 6, 1828 in Virginia. The word ‘God’ permeates his writings as he was a Christian. He spent his formative years in Missouri, where his preacher-physician father had been sent as a missionary. He was robust and strong and lived close to nature. He was fond of observing different animals to understand their nature and movement.

Mind body

Although Stills parents wanted him to become a Minister, his passion lay in the field of medicine. He believed that there is God in everyone and saw people as holistic beings who have the ability to self-heal.

In 1874 Dr. Still stated that, “he did not invent osteopathy”. Instead, he discovered a universal truth of the law of, matter, mind, and motion. This triune nature of mankind was also described as a physical body, a mental body, and a spiritual body. He believed that all we need to sustain life, already is within us, thus he searched for new ways to help the body heal itself.

He studied medicine at the Kansas City school of Physicians & Surgeons. His first patients were Shawnee Indians. He learned their language and lived his life by a similar nature-centred belief system. Later he joined the Army Medical Corps as a surgeon. At end of the war, in October1864, he was discharged from military service with the rank of Major. He resumed private practice.

A personal tragedy – the deaths of three of his children and wife to disease – led to his disillusionment with the medicine of that era. This was the turning point in his life. His anguish led him to the conviction that something must be found to enable the body to heal itself in accordance with the law of nature and a more effective way of practising medicine.

His theory that the body possesses the power for self-healing and self-maintenance was not acceptable to the authorities and his request to present a paper on his new idea was turned down in spite of his reputation as a good doctor and his career in the army.

He returned to Missouri and with determination and went on developing his own theory. He maintained that the body was a complete unit and it was not possible for one part of the unit to be sick without affecting other parts. He believed in treating the body as a whole. He believed that the body’s self-mechanism should be recognised and normalised, and this would do the rest of the job of prevention and treatment.

To understand disease we must know what health is and any deviation from it should be recognised. The muscular-skeletal system (constituting muscles, bones, ligaments and fascia) forms sixty per cent of the body mass. Unfortunately this part is most neglected. Dr Still believed that an unhindered flow of bodily liquids, as well as elements they contain, is essential to the process of self-regulation and self-healing of the body.

The application of Still’s principles and methodology was successful in treating not only musculoskeletal problems, but also constitutional illnesses.

Instead of dealing with a disease, which was the current medical practice of his day, Dr Still focused on what he thought could contribute to health. He worked tirelessly to find root causes of illness.

Osteopathy is now recognised as a medical profession all over the world.

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