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Based on the concept that well-being depends on bones, muscles, ligaments, and connective tissue functioning together, osteopathy is a system for detecting, treating, and preventing health problems through movement, stretching, and massaging the muscles and joints.

Osteopaths use stretching, massage, and physical manipulation to increase the mobility of joints, relieve muscle tension, reduce pain, enhance the blood supply to the tissues, and help the body to heal.

The majority of those who see an osteopathic practitioner do so for help with conditions affecting the muscles, bones, and joints, including lower back pain, uncomplicated neck pain, shoulder pain, elbow pain, sports injuries, problems with the pelvis, hips, and legs, and arthritis. However, some osteopathic practitioners see patients suffering from other problems, such as asthma, digestive disorders, depression, scoliosis, and temporomandibular disorders.

Osteopathy was founded by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, an American MD, Civil War surgeon, and Kansas state and territorial legislator, in 1874. Dr. Still came to believe that human illnesses were rooted in problems with the musculoskeletal system and that osteopathic manipulations could be used to facilitate the body's natural healing powers. Osteopathy uses a drug-free, non-invasive form of manual medicine that focuses on the whole person, not just the diseased or injured part.

Dr. Still founded the American School of Osteopathy in 1892. When Missouri, where his school was located, granted the institution the right to award the MD degree, Dr. Still chose to retain the distinction of the DO degree, as he remained dissatisfied with the limitations of conventional medicine.

Today, osteopathic medicine is a branch of the medical profession in the United States, where it is often referred to as allopathic medicine. Osteopathic physicians (DOs) are graduates of osteopathic medical colleges and are licensed to practice the full scope of medicine and surgery in all fifty states, and more than eighty other countries.

However, full acceptance of the medical community has resulted in significant changes to the philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine in the United States. The distinction between MDs and DOs has eroded significantly. Osteopathic physicians attend four years of medical school, like their MD counterparts, acquiring the equivalent training in medicine and surgery. In practice, DOs may use all of the conventional methods of diagnosis and treatment, and many of them no longer practice osteopathic manipulation techniques, while others coordinate the use of traditional and osteopathic medicine.

This is not the case in other countries or areas where traditional osteopathic medicine remains in practice. MDs tend to regard osteopathic treatments as being rooted in pseudoscientific dogma, and a spokesperson for the American Medical Association has referred to DOs as cultists from 1923 to 1962. Many licensed DOs in the United States consider traditional osteopathic medical practices as pseudoscience, although they may use some of its techniques in practice.

To distinguish licensed osteopathic doctors from unlicensed osteopathic practitioners in the United States and other countries where similar professions are recognized, unlicensed practitioners are referred to as osteopaths, and cannot refer to themselves as osteopathic physicians.

Thus, the profession has evolved into two branches: non-physician osteopaths and osteopathic physicians, and the regulation of non-physician osteopaths varies greatly between jurisdictions. In Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom, non-physician osteopaths are regulated by statute and registered. The non-physician practice of osteopathy is practiced in most of the Canadian provinces, and it is not a government-regulated profession. No training programs have been established for osteopathic physicians in Canada, although there are US-trained DOs in practice within the country. The Province of Quebec is considering implementing a professional osteopathy program, consisting of a bachelor's degree followed by a master's degree in osteopathy.

Topics referring to the practice of osteopathy or osteopathic medicine, whether licensed or unlicensed, are appropriate for this category.


Cranial Osteopathy



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