Report: history of osteopathy

The origins of osteopathy and its evolution as a modern allied health profession.

In 1874, Andrew Taylor Still MD DO (1828-1917), a medical doctor living on the Missouri frontier in America, discovered the significance of living anatomy in health and disease. Dr. Still realised that optimal health is possible only when all of the tissues and cells of the body function together in harmonious motion. He reasoned that disease could have its origins in anatomical deviation from normal and he could assist health by treating the body with his hands, naming his innovative approach to restoring health: osteopathy.

He understood that the human body is composed of many parts, all intimately related as a functional whole. More than a hundred years ago, Dr. Still realised that the human being is more than just a physical body. He envisioned a totally new medical system that acknowledges the relationships of the body, mind, emotions and spirit. He was one of the earliest people to consider health within a biopsychosocial context.

As a practicing physician, Dr. Still diligently researched and developed osteopathy. He developed a very practical way of treating people using just his hands. Today, osteopaths continue to use their hands to treat their patients in this same tradition, while introducing modern knowledge, science and techniques.

In the late 1800s, none of today's drugs, such as antibiotics, were available. Out of necessity, Dr. Still looked first to nature's own (or the body's) ability to heal. Dr Still saw this self-correcting, interconnected potential as a cornerstone of his osteopathic philosophy.

Today, osteopathy has grown as a recognised form of allied healthcare, with a combination of traditional methods and modern scientific healthcare philosophies. When combined with the appropriate use of present-day medical therapeutics, osteopathy offers a common-sense contribution to the practice of healthcare.

Osteopathy has been practiced in Australia for over 100 years and has been taught in Australian universities since the early 1980s. It became a regulated healthcare profession in 1991 in Australia.

Find out more about osteopathy and biopsychosocial care