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[Subterm of Manipulative therapies]


Osteopathy, or osteopathic medicine, is a form of manual therapy involving massage, mobilization, and spinal manipulation. Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917) formulated the basic philosophy and then founded in 1892 the American School of Osteopathy. Osteopaths believe that the primary role of the physician is to facilitate the body’s inherent ability to heal itself. This is achieved through normalization of body mechanics and a perfect alignment of the musculoskeletal system eliminating obstructions in blood and lymph flow which, in turn, maximize health.

Disease and diagnostics

Typically, osteopaths treat musculoskeletal problems, particularly back and neck pain. However, Osteopathy generally is applicable to all diseased states. The osteopathic physician does not address one organ system or structure at the expense of another but rather evaluates the body as an integral unit. A visit would normally be very similar to a consultation with a conventional physician. An osteopath would take a medical history and perform a careful physical examination of the musculoskeletal system, particularly the spine. Somatic dysfunction, the so-called osteopathic lesion, is based on the diagnosis of local asymmetry, restriction of motion, and textural changes reflecting fixed postural tension.


Manipulative treatment is a therapeutic means of correcting these dysfunctions that is used in conjunction with other clinical modalities. To ensure perfect alignment, osteopaths have developed a range of manipulative techniques:
Muscle energy techniques: a form of osteopathic manipulative treatment in which the patient actively directs muscles against a distinctive counterforce to mobilize joints in which movement is restricted.
Myofascial release techniques: a soft tissue technique used to bring about the relaxation of contracted muscles, increase circulation to an area of ischemia, and increase venous and lymphatic drainage.
Counterstrain: a form of treatment relieving joint pain by passively pulling the joint into its position of greatest comfort and applying mild strain to its antagonist muscles.
Thrusting: a technique in which the dysfunctional unit is placed into at least one of its barriers to motion and an impulse is applied through that barrier.