Principles of Osteopathy
Dain L. Tasker, D. O.
Great strides have been made during the past twenty-five
years in the practice of medicine. The relative posstions formerly held
by drug therapy and surgery have been completely reversed. The concoctions
of the pharmocopoeia, with their vague and uncertain effects upon human tissues
and functions, no longer entice the earliest seeker after medical truths to
spend a lifetime experimenting with substances which are absolutely foreign
to the human body.
There was a time, not far away, when that person
who treated human diseases by manipulation, water, diet and general hygiene
was considered to be the chief of impostors. Go a little farther
back in the history of medicine and we see surgery dishonored because it
was mechanical, not mystical enough for the ponderous minds whose fort
it was to deal with strange substances of the animal, vegetable and mineral
During all the years in which drug-therapy flourished
there were a few real scientists who devoted time and talents to the structure
of our bodies and the function of each part. Discoveries came slowly
along these lines because the majority of medical men were concentrating
their energies on ferreting out the effects of drugs. Facts in anatomy
and physiology which are so patent to us at this time remained obscure
for centuries, simply because there was no thought of studying the form
and action of tissues, while all nature outside of our own bodies seemed
to be a grand laboratory of specifics for human ailments.
If osteopathy had been born fifty years ago, it would
have died because the popular and scientific minds were not in a condition
to receive it. Even the time at which it was born, scarcely thirty-five
years ago, was hardly ripe for this new departure in medicine. Twenty
years easily cover the period of its active history.
A Scientific Growth. - There is one distinctive
point about osteopathy which should be especially emphasized:
It is not an empirical system; nothing is done on
the cut and dry plan. It has been developed in a purely scientific
way. We might observe the action of the human body in health and
disease indefinitely without securing any exact data to pass on to the
next generation of observers if we fail to know the structure of the body.
A physician may learn many things in an empirical way which are very poor
assets for science.
The strange part of medical history, to the modern
investigators is the fact that discoveries in anatomy and physiology, which
are of such vital importance to the successful treatment of human diseases,
were left stored away between the covers of books, not deemed of any value
except to whet the mind of the dilletante in medicine.
Osteopathy as a distinct system of medicine has grown
to its present proportions at a time when the older schools of medicine
are making radical changes in their therapeutic procedures, e. g.. serum-therapy.
In spite of all these so-called scientific advances in drug-therapy, osteopathy
has made steady advances into public favor, thereby showing that it is
fully able to compete with the older systems of practice.
The Founder of Osteopathy. - Dr. A. T. Still,
of Kirksville, Mo., is the honored founder of this system of therapeutics.
His work was in studying the structure of our bodies directly, and thus
gaining an accurate knowledge of how bones, ligaments and muscles, blood
vessels, glands and nerves are placed. Then he sought that department
of knowledge which we call physiology, and learned how these tissues act
in health. Having had previous training in treating diseases
by the drug method, he was slow to discard the old method for one which
had never been tried, even though it had good scientific reasons back of
it. But the substitution did take place by degrees until his
system of therapeutics no longer depended on the use of drugs.
It seems to be a popular idea that it is necessary
for the founder of a system to have a creed or statement of belief.
We do not doubt but that it is good for us at times to try to put our beliefs
in writing, not to form a fixed position, but just as the architect draws
many plans to gradually develop his mental pictures. These statements
usually contain the truth about our work so far as we know it. We
can thus see how far we have advanced and realize that we have much to
Dr. Still has, from time to time, expressed the result
of his studies, that is, the observed facts upon which he has built his
system of therapeutics. In 1874, Dr. Still stated his observations as follows:
"A disturbed artery marks the period to an hour, and minutes when disease
begins to sow its seeds of destruction in the human body. That in
no case could it be done without a broken or suspended current of arterial
blood which, by nature, is intended to supply and nourish all nerves, ligaments,
muscles, skin, bones and the artery itself … The rule of the artery must
be absolute, universal, and unobstructed, or disease will be the result
… All nerves depend wholly upon the arterial system for their qualities,
such as sensation, nutrition and motion, even though by the law of reciprocity
they furnish force, nutrition and sensation to the artery itself."
Definitions. - Many definitions have been
formulated and published to the world. Each one tends to limit one's
conception of osteopathy in some particular. A definition always
limits the thing defined, therefore, no definition of osteopathy can be
complete, because we are dealing with a principle, the universality of
which no one knows. Whereas, less than seven years ago, it was thought
that osteopathy was an excellent method of treating chronic ailments, we
now find osteopaths working day and night at the bedside of the acutely
sick. Thus does it spread and become thoroughly recognized as a system
applicable to all diseases.
In order to bring before the student as full and
comprehensive an idea of the scope of osteopathy as possible, a series
of definitions are quoted. These definitions have been taken from
current osteopathic literature and are credited to their respective authors.
One of the short paragraphs in Dr. Still's auto-biography
is sufficient to give a clear understanding of his idea of the human body.
"The human body is a machine run by the unseen force called life, and that
it may be run harmoniously, it is necessary that there be liberty of blood,
nerves and arteries from the generating point to destination."
The following definition is one which has been used
in the American School publications for a long time: "Osteopathy is that
science which consists of such exact, exhaustive and verifiable knowledge
of the structures and functions of the human mechanism, anatomical, physiological
and psychological, including the chemistry and physics of its known elements
as has made discoverable certain organic laws and remedial resources, within
the body itself, by which nature, under the scientific treatment peculiar
to osteopathic practice, apart from all ordinary methods of extraneous,
artificial, or medicinal stimulation, and in harmonious accord with its
own mechanical principles, molecular activities, and metabolic processes,
may recover from displacements, disorganizations, derangements, and consequent
disease, and regain its normal equilibrium of form and function in health
and strength." Mason W. Pressly, A.B., Ph. D., D.O.
"Osteopathy is that science of healing which emphasizes,
(a) the diagnosis of disease by physical methods with a view to discovering
not the symptoms but the causes of diseases, in connection with misplacements
of tissue, obstruction of the trends and interference with the forces of
the organism; (b) the treatment of diseases by scientific manipulations
in connection with which the operating physician mechanically uses and
applies the inherent resources of the organism to overcome disease and
establish health, either by removing or correcting mechanical disorders,
and thus permitting nature to recuperate the diseased part, or by producing
and establishing antitoxic and antiseptic conditions to counteract toxic
and septic conditions of the organism or its parts; (c) the application
of mechanical and operative surgery in setting fractured or dislocated
bones, repairing lacerations and removing abnormal tissue growths or tissue
elements when these become dangerous to the organic life." J. Martin
Littlejohn, LL. D., M..D., D. O.
"Osteopathy is a school of mechanical therapeutics
based on several theories. 1. Anatomical order of the bones and other structures
of the body is productive of physiological order, i. e., ease or health
in contradistinction to disease or disorder which is usually due, directly
or indirectly, to anatomical disorder. 2. Sluggish organs may be
stimulated mechanically by way of appropriate nerves (frequently by utilizing
reflexes) or nerve centers. 3. Inhibition of over-active
organs may be effected by steady pressure substituted for the mechanical
stimulation mentioned above. 4. Removal of causes of
faulty action of any part or organ is the keynote of the science." C. M.
Case, M.D., D.O.
"Osteopathy is that school of medicine whose distinctive
method consists in (1) a physical examination to determine the condition
of the mechanism and functions of all parts of the human body, and (2)
a specific manipulation to restore the normal mechanism and reestablish
the normal functions. This definition lays stress (1) upon correct
diagnosis. The osteopath must know the normal and recognize any departure
from it as a possible factor in disease. There is not one fact known
to the anatomist or physiologist that may not be of vital importance to
the scientific osteopath. Hence a correct diagnosis based upon such
knowledge is half the battle. Without it scientific osteopathy is
impossible and the practice is necessarily haphazard or merely routine
movements. The definition lays stress upon (2) removal of the cause
of disease. A deranged mechanism must be corrected by mechanical
means specifically applied as the most natural and only direct method of
procedure. This work is not done by any of the methods of other schools.
After the mechanism has been corrected little remains to be done to restore
function, but stimulation or inhibition of certain nerve centers may give
temporary relief and aid nature. The adjuvants used by other schools,
such as water, diet, exercise, surgery, etc., are the common heritage of
our profession and should be resorted to by the osteopath if they are indicated."
E. R. Booth. Ph. D., D.O., Ex-President A.O.A.
"Osteopathy is that science or system of healing
which, using every means of diagnosis, with a view to discovering, not
only the symptoms, but the causes of diseases, seeks, by scientific manipulations
of the human body, and other physical means, the correcting and removing
of all abnormalities in the physical relations of the cells, tissues and
organs of the body, particularly the correcting of misplacements of organs
or parts, the relaxing of contracted tissues, the removing of obstructions
to the movements of fluids, the removing of interferences with the transmission
of nerve impulses, the neutralizing and removing of septic or foreign substances
from the body; thereby restoring normal physiological processes, through
the re-establishment of normal chemical and vital relations of the cells,
tissues and organs of the body, and resulting in restoration of health,
through the automatic stimulation and free operation of the inherent resistant
and remedial forces within the body itself." C. M. Turner Hulett,
"Osteopathy is that science which reasons on the
human system from a mechanical as well as a chemical standpoint, taking
into consideration in its diagnosis, heredity, the habits of the patient,
past and present; the history of the trouble, including symptoms, falls,
strains, injuries, toxic and septic conditions, and especially in every
case a physical examination by inspection, palpation, percussion, ausculation,
etc., to determine all abnormal physical conditions; the treatment emphasizing
scientific manipulation to correct mechanical lesions, to stimulate or
inhibit and regulate nerve force and circulatory fluids for the recuperation
of any diseased part, using the vital forces within the body; also the
habits of the patient are regulated as to hygiene, air, food, water, rest,
exercises, climate and baths; such means as hydrotherapy, electricity,
massage, antidotes and antiseptics, and suggestion sometimes being used
as adjuncts." Chas. C. Reid, D.O.
The above definitions have nearly all been taken
from the journal of the American Osteopathic Association.
Osteopathic Diagnosis. - Physical diagnosis
is and al-ways will be the leading factor in the success of osteopathic
practitioners. This ability to take hold of an ailing human being
and detect the disturbing factor in it is the highest attainment of the
physician. Osteopathy has developed the art of palpation to a wonderful
degree. Basing this art on a definite knowledge of structure and
function makes it the chief reliance in diagnosis. Every physical
diagnosis begins with palpation and proceeds with ausculation and percussion,
and not failing to use chemical and microscopical methods when necessary.
The student must learn to use his sense of touch continually, in fact,
learn to see with his fingers. Add to this development of touch a
training in chemical and microscopical analysis of secretions and excretions
of the body, and we have a practitioner thoroughly equipped to make an
accurate scientific diagnosis.
Osteopathic Therapeutics. - Osteopathic treatment
is based on this kind of physical diagnosis which we have just described.
It takes into account the fact that the organism is a self-recuperating
mechanism and requires proper food, proper surroundings, and perfect activity
of every tissue, especially the blood. Thus we divide treatment into
three divisions, (1) manipulation for the purpose of correcting the mal-position
of any tissue, whether that tissue be bone or blood; (2) proper feeding,
i. e., dietetics; and (3) proper surroundings, i. e., hygiene.
If the condition of the body is such that none of
the three methods just mentioned will right the difficulty, i. e., if there
are broken bones, ruptured muscles and connective tissues or false growths,
we can then use surgical means. Surgery is a part of the osteopathic
system, just as it is of all systems of medicine. The chief assurance
lies in the fact that the osteopathic system is very con-servative as regards
the use of the knife.
Osteopathy includes all those qualities which make
up a successful system; its diagnosis is accurate and its treatment is
comprehensive, including scientific manipulations, scientific dietetics,
hygiene and surgery.
In a recent article in the American Monthly Review
of Reviews, the following sentences appear: "With but few exceptions, the
entire vegetable and mineral kingdoms have given us little of specific
value; but still, up to the present day, the bulk of our books on materia
medica is made up of a description of many valueless drugs and preparations.
Is it not to be deplored that valuable time should be wasted in our student
days by cramming into our heads a lot of therapeutic ballast."
This is probably the most recent statement of this
kind in the public prints. It substantiates the position taken by
the osteopathic colleges. We feel justified in claiming that osteopathy
today occupies a position which every other system of medicine must come
to sooner or litter. It is broad enough and liberal enough to accept
truth wherever demonstrated. Its foundations being laid in the basic
sciences, and its treatment never departing from the facts of these sciences,
make it a system of lasting worth and capable of adding an entirely new
conception of the phenomena of life to medical literature.
The formation of the name osteopathy (from osteon,
bone, and pathos, suffering) seems to be as perfect a descriptive name
as it is possible to form which world cover the basic principle of the
science. The bones are the foundation upon which all the soft tissues
are laid, and the osteopath makes all his examinations, using them as fixed
points from which to explore for faulty arrangement. The name does
not mean bone disease, but since the osteopath finds many diseases resulting
from irritation due to slightly displaced bone, the name is used in the
sense of disease caused by bone. We do not consider that all diseases
are caused by displaced bone, but it is a cause which has heretofore been
overlooked. We recognize that there are many causes of disease, and
do not wish to be understood as trying to fit fact to theory, but as a
result of observing certain facts, this basic principle of osteopathy has
been made clear.
We believe that health is the natural state, and
that this condition is bound to be maintained so long as every cell has
an uninterrupted blood supply, and its controlling nerve is undisturbed.
Therefore, the first effort of the osteopath is to remove all obstructions
to blood and nerve supply, feeling certain that when these obstructions
are removed, health will follow. Hilton in his lectures on "Rest
and Pain," which are considered medical classics, has expressed himself
forcibly on this subject, as follows: "It would be well, I think, if the
surgeon would fix upon his memory, as the first professional thought which
should accompany him in the course of his daily occupation, this physiological
truth - that nature has a constant tendency to repair the injuries to which
her structures may have been subjected, whether those injuries be the result
of fatigue or exhaustion, of inflammation or accident. Also, that
this reparative power becomes at once most conspicuous when the disturbing
cause has been removed; thus presenting to the consideration of the physician
and surgeon a constantly recurring and sound principle for his guidance
in his professional practice."
Every system of curing human ills which is based
on the known facts of anatomy and physiology will last, because it is true.
When systems of drug medication are known only as history, osteopathy will
be ministering to the human race, because it knows no other path than that
which leads to greater truths in physiology and anatomy.