The Osteopathy

Osteopathy is a discipline defined by the European Parliament as an Unconventional Medicine. It is based on the following principles:

  • The unity of the body: the body is a whole, and not a sum of different parts isolated from one another. Each part is related to the others through the fascias, nervous system and circulatory system.
  • The structure rules function: alterations in the structure of tissues, joints, and body generally can affect the nature of each of these functions. Acting on the alterations of the structure we can recover its natural function.
  • Self-regulation: the body tends towards rebalancing its systems to recover health.
  • The body has the inherent capacity for self-defence and self-repair.

Based on these principles, the osteopathic treatment pays special attention to the structure of the person and the mechanical problems of their body.

Without ruling out any other means that medical technology puts at his disposal, osteopaths rely, for examination and treatment, mainly on their hands. Manipulative techniques will be their main working tool and can be combined with advice on different issues, such as diet, physical exercise, postural advice, etc.

The Osteopath

Is a health professional with the following skills:

  • Carry out an evaluation of exclusion,
  • develop an osteopathic evaluation,
  • decide and apply suitable osteopathic treatment,
  • reassess the effectiveness of treatment
  • follow up on the treatment progress.

To do so, the osteopath has professional skills and solid knowledge in health science, and in osteopathic philosophy and methodology.

To acquire these skills, the European Federation of Osteopathy (EFO) recommends full-time university training. Given the difficulties that some countries have to provide it, the EFO recommends an alternative way: undergoing osteopathic training after having completed bachelor training in basic science.

In Spain, full-time University training is not yet offered; therefore, to become a qualified osteopath, one must complete at least a bachelor degree on any of the basic sciences, and then attend osteopathic training in a school that follows the standards set by the EFO. Those who comply with these requisites receive the EFO recognition: the “Eur OstD.O.”

What is the osteopathic treatment?

The focus of the osteopath will be the patient as a whole rather than the disease itself. This holistic approach to patients is based on the person being a dynamic functional unit, in which all parts are closely related, taking into account the relationship between the body, mind and spirit.

The osteopath understands the complaints of the patient as the body’s inability to restore balance towards self-healing. The signs and symptoms are assessed and viewed as a result of the interaction of multiple factors, both physical and non-physical.

The osteopath uses their knowledge of the relationship between structure and function to help putting the necessary conditions for the body to find a way to rebalance and reach self-healing.

Osteopathic treatment begins with an assessment of exclusion, in which diseases that maybe associated with the same symptoms are discarded. Next, an osteopathic diagnosis is made, by searching dysfunctions or the loss of mobility of tissues, and osteopathic treatment is decided and applied, aiming towards returning mobility to tissues.

The osteopath follows up and evaluates the effectiveness of treatment.

When do you go to osteopath?

It is a common belief that the osteopath is a specialist in the resolution of muscular-skeletal problems only. However, it is important to note that the overall approach of osteopathy enables the treatment of ailments of the circulatory, muscular-skeletal, digestive, respiratory, nervous, endocrine, urinary, reproductive systems, among others.

The osteopath can treat people of all ages, from infants to the elderly, including pregnant women.

Osteopathic treatment can also be delivered as an early intervention or preventative measure. Due to its capacity to rebalance the body systems, it is particularly suitable for the prevention of ailments.

History of osteopathy

The precursor of osteopathy was the American doctor Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917). At the end of the Civil War there was an epidemic of meningitis in which three of his sons died. Dr. Still was not very happy with the medical practices in use and began to investigate other forms of treatment in accordance with the laws of nature.

In 1874 he explained the osteopathic concept. He said that the structure dominates the function and therefore the bone structure should be corrected to achieve an improvement in organic function.

In 1892 he founded the first school of Osteopathy: the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville.

Soon the Scottish doctor J.M. Littlejohn (1865-1947) joined the school, and in a short period of time a difference in approach appeared: while Dr. Still emphasized the importance of the structure, Dr. Littlejohn defended the importance of physiology.

Soon they went their separate paths. Littlejohn founded the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, which became one of the most important schools in the U.S.A., and later, in1917, established in London’s the first school of osteopathy in Europe: the British School of Osteopathy.

A third important person is William Garner Sutherland (1873-1954). He was both Still’s and Littlejohn’s student. His studies were based on the mobility of the bones of the skull, and led to what is today known as cranial osteopathy.

In 1950 Paul Gény founded the French School of Osteopathy, and thereafter schools were opened throughout Europe.

Despite all these efforts for further consolidation of osteopathy, the osteopathic profession did not obtain legal recognition and regulation until well into the 20th century.

In 1992 the regulation of the European Register of Osteopaths was created, today known as European Federation of Osteopaths (EFO).

In 1993, in the UK, osteopathy was recognized as an independent profession. But it was not until 2000 when the full legalization of osteopathic practice took place.

In 1997 the European Parliament votes the resolution Paul Lannoye on Non-Conventional Medicines, which include Osteopathy, and urges State Members of the EU to its recognition(Resolution LANNOYE/COLLINS1997).As a result of that the Osteopathic European Academic Network (OSEAN) was created, which aims to promote cooperation in the osteopathic training and develop a European unified curriculum. The Forum for the regulation of Osteopathy in Europe (FORE) was also created, which seeks a unification of criteria at European level in terms of osteopathy. To that end the FORE and EFO have asked the Centre for Teachings Standardization (CEN) to create a document establishing training standards for osteopaths. This document is pending approval in 2015.

The document “Strategy of the World Health Organization (WHO) Traditional Medicine2002-2005” recommends the use, promotion and development of Osteopathy in States Members of the EU.

Currently, some European countries such as the United Kingdom, Belgium, France and Portugal, as recommended by WHO and the EU have recognized osteopathy as an independent health profession; however, in Spain it is not yet regulated. We hope that with our work it may become a reality in the near future.