Osteopathic Medicine was founded in 1874 by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still in Kirksville, Missouri. Osteopathic physicians are fully licensed to practice the entire scope of medicine throughout the United States and internationally. Osteopathic physicians are currently practicing in a variety of fields such as neurology, rheumatology, emergency medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, and orthopedic surgery, just to name a few.
The discipline of osteopathic medicine integrates a knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and pathology as they relate to the whole body in health and disease. The practice of osteopathic medicine involves the evaluation of body functioning using visual, palpatory, and postural exam techniques. Osteopathic physicians perform a comprehensive physical assessment of the muscles and joints of the whole body, consider the full field of medical and surgical practice, and provide expertise in the area of osteopathic diagnosis and treatment.
Dr. Still was disappointed with the standard of medical care in his time, and was outspoken against the harms of many of the medications of his age. Because of this, he sought to develop a new approach to patient care that was based on the understanding that the body has the capability for self-healing. With his extensive knowledge of human anatomy, and rational approach to clinical problem solving, he discovered that many ailments in his patients had corresponding restrictions in the body. The profession has named these restrictions “somatic dysfunction.”
Correction of somatic dysfunction is the goal of osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) through precise hands-on treatments to regain local freedom of motion, reduction of pain, and integration of local movement with the whole of the body. Somatic dysfunction makes the body less efficient in how it uses energy, and the correction of somatic dysfunction can be thought of as the removal of “anchors.” OMM is a method to improve the circulatory, lymphatic, and nervous systems transport of vital substances which can help lift burdens on the body that may have been present for months or years.
Overall stresses to the body can also influence the way it handles pain and can respond to injury with proper repair. Osteopathic physicians consider the importance of proper nutrition, rest, activity, and stress management in the whole person care they provide. Patients are a unity of body, mind, and spirit in the osteopathic approach, and total health is supported in all of these areas.
While every D.O. is exposed to the philosophy and manual treatments of osteopathic medicine early in their training, not every D.O. has the time or consistent experiences necessary to provide the comprehensive OMM a patient may require. Osteopathic physicians can further their training to become board certified in Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine and Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (NMM/OMM) to fill this need. NMM/OMM specialists are rigorously trained and mentored to provide osteopathic care to patients of all ages with a wide variety of conditions.
AT Still examining a femur bone, Museum of Osteopathic Medicine, Kirksville, MO [1980.41]