The Principles of Osteopathy

Updated on April 14, 2020
blurbedlines profile image

Niall is a Master of Osteopathy working from private clinics in Yorkshire. He provides strength & conditioning and anatomy learning online.

Principles of Osteopathy
Principles of Osteopathy | Source

The Four Principles of Osteopathy

Osteopaths in the UK are trained to a high level at University and are on the NHS's list of "allied healthcare professionals". Osteopaths asses, diagnose and treat musculoskeletal conditions in a way that works with the patient's own body, as opposed to prescribing drugs and performing surgery like conventional medicine. Physical therapy methods such as stretching, massage, joint manipulation and exercise prescription are utilised to create an effective way of caring for patients.

Osteopathy originates back in 1874 by physician Andrew Taylor Still, the son of an American doctor. As the profession grew and gained a large following, it developed four key principles that allowed Osteopaths to both define themselves to others by reciting the principles as well as ensuring the stay true to original beliefs and medical motives. These principles along with an example and description of their meanings are discussed below.

Andrew Taylor Still is the founder of Osteopathy. Here he is observing a human femur.
Andrew Taylor Still is the founder of Osteopathy. Here he is observing a human femur.

1. Structure and Function Are Reciprocally Interrelated

This principle refers to the theory that the body is designed in a way that allows it to perform the millions of functions we require from it. These functions are carried out using the structures of the body that are designated to that particular function. This relates to Osteopathy, as it is believed that if a structure is no longer working correctly it cannot perform it's function optimally. The "reciprocally interrelated" part of the principle, is present due to the fact that this can also be reversed. If humans perform a function in a way that the structure hasn't evolved to perform, then the structure will be less efficient at performing the function.

An example of this principle and the way it works reciprocally can be seen with the knee joint. This joint is mainly used to flex and extend the leg. It has developed as a method to allow us to run, swim, sit in a squat position, pick things up and jump. When humans perform these movements regularly and safely, the health of the knee is maintained, the structure remains working optimally and the function continues. However, in today's society, an increase in sitting at desks, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity, means that the function that the knee is used to (flexion and extension) is altered. The knee is exposed to long periods of remaining in the same position and when loaded, its often with bodyweight well outside the weight it's designed to move efficiently. This is when the structure becomes altered over time, developing into conditions such as osteoarthritis, meniscal tears and muscular imbalances (as seen with chondromalacia patellae). Once the structure of the knee is altered in this way, it often performs the function in a suboptimal way.

Other fantastic examples of structure and function governing one another are; the development of opposable thumbs in order to grasp tools, and intervertebral spinal discs to withstand the forces of gravity when humans began to stand in an upright position.

Opposable thumbs are a great example of structure and function.
Opposable thumbs are a great example of structure and function.

2. The Body Contains It's Own Medicine Chest (And Is Capable of Healing Itself)

This principal is one of Osteopathy's most magical statements. It highlights a knowledge of the body's ability to heal and repair itself when injured or infected and did so before the idea of "immunology" was fully understood or described. The meaning behind this principle personifies alternative medicine. It encourages practitioners to assist the body's immune system or facilitate the recovery of musculoskeletal injuries rather than attempt to cover them up with painkillers, anti-inflammatories, steroids or surgery, etc.

Osteopaths aim to assist patients immune systems through methods such as; lymphatic drainage, stress reduction including cervical massage, articulation and exercise prescription such as yoga. Musculoskeletal rehabilitation is assisted through joint articulation, manipulation, soft tissue work, stretching and injury or sports specific exercise prescription. A study by Wiscowki. S, et al (2014), found that Osteopathic lymphatic drainage techniques successfully mobilised blood dendritic cells around the body thus improving the body's immune response.

White blood cells of the immune system engulf bacteria.
White blood cells of the immune system engulf bacteria.

3. The Rule of the Artery Is Supreme

This is an interesting principle, as it aims to highlight the importance of blood flow. It refers to the fact that if an area of the body is flush with oxygenated blood and the nutrients blood brings with it, then it will often heal quickly and thrive without disease. When blood flow is interrupted through trauma or diseases such as diabetes, the area of the body becomes inefficient, or in extreme cases, dies.

It's been debated amongst various healthcare practitioners such as chiropractors and physiotherapist, that maybe the principle should be altered to state "The rule of the nerve" is supreme. This is due to the fact that manual therapists like Osteopaths, treat musculoskeletal patients as a majority. They're able to manipulate and articulate joints, positively effect the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system and provide exercises to floss nerves within their neural sheath. Nerves really are the leader when it comes to the bodies ability to function, and whether a patient will feel pain, radiating sensations, numbness, weakness, headaches etc. It's also usually dictated by the nerve more often than the circulatory system. This can be observed in patients suffering from spinal radiculopathy or carpal tunnel syndrome.

Artery, Vein and Capillary Cross Section
Artery, Vein and Capillary Cross Section

4. The Body Is a Unit

The body is a unit, is the easiest principle to understand. The human body works like a complex machine, continually changing and adapting, whilst allowing its bodily systems to work together to perform functions. The body consists of individual systems such as the respiratory system of the lungs and respiratory tract. This system intakes oxygen and expires carbon dioxide, it then filtrates fresh oxygen into the bloodstream of the circulatory system, which then distributes the oxygen quickly to the musculoskeletal system which is then able to assist the original function of breathing, and provide locomotion to the rest of the body.

In a rehabilitation sense, it also highlights the fact that the body is holistic and should be approached as a whole. Patients attending a clinic with knee or hip pain, often find that the underlying cause is related to the foot or low back. Alternatively, the body can act a unit even further. Patients with minor congenital scoliosis, previously broken ankles or arms, often feel very little pain in the long term. This is due to the body's process of compensation. Looking out for itself and sharing the load, work and positioning to take the pressure off a weakened structure. Osteopaths, in particular, look hard to find these holistic links and compensations,

Even with a double lower limb amputation, the human body still adapts well enough to compete at the Paralympics.
Even with a double lower limb amputation, the human body still adapts well enough to compete at the Paralympics.

References

Walkowski, S. et al, (2014). Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment Induces Enhanced Intracellular Immune Response. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. 114 (-), 813-814.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, remedygrove.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)