How osteopathy was born

How osteopathy was born

The word “osteopathy” comes from the Greek suffix Osteon and the English word path, therefore osteopathy can be interpreted as “ the way to health through the musculoskeletal system” (Osteon).

Osteopathy, or better, osteopathic practice, dates back to over a century ago.

It came about thanks to Andrew Taylor Still, an American doctor born in Virginia in 1828. His father was a doctor and a Methodist Preacher who moved to Kansas with his whole family in order to carry out his pastoral work. Andrew Taylor Still was a registered doctor and practiced  allopathic medicine for about 20 years. He even took part in the American Civil war for the Northerners working as a surgeon.

In 1864 a spinal meningitis epidemic killed three of his children. This personal tragedy made Still reexamine his medical practice and especially the concept of illnesses based on detailed dissections  and clinical observations.

In 1874 Still  announced his detachment from traditional medicine and proclaimed his philosophy called osteopathy. He became a travelling doctor and moving across Kansas he reached Kirksville, a small town in Missouri, where he permanently lived since 1887.

In his town, following a great demand, , Still founded The American School of Osteopthy in 1892. The State of Missouri was willing to let the school assign Medical Doctor (M.D.) titles but Still refused  opting for  Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.)  so that his graduates would stand out from those of allopathic medicine. He opened his school to coloured people and to women and his first class was made up of 18 students, three of which were women.

Still had a deep conviction about the concept of the body’s functionality as an element: this element had to be related to the musculoskeletal system which alone makes up for 60% of body mass. Therefore, according to Still, the body is an element where structure and function are linked to each other.