“Osteopathy” is the culmination of many centuries of development in manual therapy – it has much in common with the ancient arts of bone-setting, and many therapists from diverse cultures around the world practice “manipulation” to help ease their patients pain and discomfort.
In its present form , Osteopathy was developed by Andrew Taylor Still, a doctor of the time , in Missouri, USA, in the 1870s. He himself lost his own four children, and found the medicine he was practising powerless to help them. He looked around for something better, using his knowledge of treatment modalities as diverse as bone-setting and mesmerism (a fore-runner of hypnotherapy), to evolve “Osteopathy”.
Dr Still originally intended osteopathy to be a complete model of medicine – for use with all kinds of patients and diseases. As conventional modern medicine has developed, better ways of tackling many problems, such as infection and cancer, have been found, but Osteopathy remains the forerunner in the treatment of problems of the musculoskeletal system, and where, even now, modern medicine has little or nothing to offer (see sections What is Osteopathy? and Who can we help?) .
In developing Osteopathy, Andrew Taylor Still , who was also a Methodist preacher, had a vision of mankind as perfectly formed in God’s own image. Only where man deviated from that perfect form or function could problems arise. Dr Still found that, by using his hands, an Osteopath could seek to regain the working of the body as an ideal mechanism to restore health. In working to make joints mobile,improve curved backs or bowed knees, and soften muscles so that the blood can flow freely, Osteopaths still work with this image of the perfect body in mind.
The first college of Osteopathy was founded by Dr Still in Kirksville, Missouri. Graduates from this College soon began to take their knowledge, founding other colleges, throughout the USA; a few even found their way across the Atlantic, including one, Martin Littlejohn, who founded the British School of Osteopathy, in London in the early 1920s. Two of our Osteopaths graduated from this college, which celebrated its centenary in 2017 and now has University status in its own right; now known as the University College of Osteopathy.
Dr Still also trained W G Sutherland, whose particular interest in the movements of the joints of the skull, led to the development of “cranial Osteopathy” – all our Osteopaths are trained in these methods and Martyn Morgan and Nina Hurrell specialise in their use particularly with babies and children; see sections The Osteopaths – qualifications and specialties and Osteopathy for babies and children.