Brief Look Back At the History of Osteopathic Medicine



A name that is closely associated with osteopathic medicine is Andrew Taylor Still, M.D. D.O. Born in 1828 he learned medicine at the knee of his father, an accomplished physician in his own right. Andrew Still went on to distinguish himself as a physician and surgeon during the Civil War when he traveled with the Union army. It was not until after the war that he questioned the commonly agreed upon medical practices of the day.

Compounding his dissatisfaction with practicing medicine during the war, the death of his three children because of meningitis caused a great deal of reflection on the way medicine was practiced and heralded at the time. He went back to studying the human body apart from the medical lore of his time, and was astounded to find that many medical practices and concoctions that were accepted as cutting edge medical treatments were actually little more than harmful shams that had little bearing on the success of medical practice.

When focusing on the musculoskeletal system, Andrew Still was certain that he found the answer to a good many questions that plagued him, namely the intricate role this system played in the health and overall wellbeing of the human body. This led to a study of the manipulation of the system and the subsequent benefits patients would derive from such manipulations. He noticed that when optimized, the musculoskeletal system had the ability to help the body heal itself, thus minimizing the need for medical intervention and also maximizing the patient’s positive prognosis for future health.

This led to the understanding that physicians must refrain from only treating symptoms and obvious problems — as noted by obvious wounds or breaks – and instead need to pay attention to the body of the patient as a whole, and also consider a larger number of bodily systems when administering medical care.

Andrew Still received a lot of attention from patients he worked with and also from the medical establishment that considered him little more than a quack, albeit a degreed one with the distinction of being a bona fide M.D.

To assist future generations in sharing his findings, he founded the American School of Osteopathy in Missouri in the year 1892. Its coursework it designed to share with aspiring physicians the vision he himself held, and also the findings he discovered when working on his own to gain a more complete understanding of the human body. This led to a most severe backlash from the medical establishment that considered this renegade a betrayal to their ranks.

Yet Andrew Still’s result spoke volumes, and before long osteopathic medicine was considered a rivaling, and in some cases superior, form of medicine that patients who had the choice would seek out whenever possible. At times it even becoming the second opinion for those who did not know where else to turn, Andrew Still’s new discipline has been gaining popularity ever since its inception. It is heartening to see that the initial animosity between the disciplines is no longer as strong as it once was.

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Originally posted 2008-11-30 15:30:34.


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