Two words that embody the principles and practice of osteopathic medicine, both figuratively and literally. Unlike simplistic targeted therapies, the osteopathic physician brings a comprehensive understanding of health and illness where parts are seen in the bigger picture of the whole person.
Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO (1828-1917), was an inspired American frontier physician who accurately observed that 19th century medical practices and patient care were woefully inadequate based on his direct observation of widespread usage of toxic chemicals, and “snake oil” medical charlatanism at that time in US history. He maintained a relentless drive to improve general medicine, surgery, obstetrics, and treatment of diseases, advocating for a more rational and scientific basis.
Dr. Still put forth a pragmatic system of diagnosis and treatment emphasizing the normalization of body structures and functions to treat pathology (disease). The bedrock of this medical science, which he called Osteopathy, was a detailed knowledge of functional anatomy. That anatomical knowledge became the foundation for his palpatory diagnosis and the medical procedure called Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy (OMT). OMT is a patient-centered, hands-on, manual treatment performed by a board-certified physician. Its primary use is to restore balanced motion and function to the body, and to take advantage of the anatomic and physiologic fact that the musculoskeletal system is a diagnostic window to the rest of the body.
Osteopathic physicians use their hands as medical instruments, performing OMT on the whole body not only to relieve pain but also to test for healthy mobility, improve pre- and post-operative issues, and complement the treatment of many diseases, such as GERD and asthma. OMT seeks to improve nerve function, promote blood flow, increase diminished immune function and maximize range of motion in all joints.
Osteopathic physicians combine these unique techniques with sophisticated medical technology to give patients the most comprehensive care available. By using their hands to complement the physical exam, osteopathic physicians forge a deeper relationship with their patients, one built on trust and communication through detailed clinical assessment.