Origins & Philosophy of Osteopathic Medicine
Osteopathic Medicine was founded by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still—a physician and abolitionist in the 1800s who, after losing his children and wife to a deadly meningitis infection, became disillusioned with the approach of his allopathic (MD) colleagues and turned to the body as a source of self healing and regulation. The core values of osteopathic medicine today continue his legacy by emphasizing the importance of acknowledging the patient as a whole and complex individual, including their physical, emotional, and spiritual selves.
Notably, Dr. Still spent many years living alongside and studying healing practices among Indigenous Americans belonging to the Shawnee tribe and was possibly a descendant of the Lumbee tribe. While osteopathy itself is not an Indigenous American healing path, it is likely that Dr. Still was significantly influenced by his time learning from these traditions. For this reason I ensure the origins and lineage is shared with my students and am committing to giving 1% of profits made by my practice to Indigenous organizations: The Shawnee Cultural Center to acknowledge the practices adapted by A.T. Still and the Sogorea Te Land Trust to aid in local Ohlone tribal rematriation of land to its Indigenous people.
What is a DO?
DO stands for “Doctor of Osteopathy”, and is used by physicians who are trained in an osteopathic medical school. Osteopathic medical schools take the teachings and philosophies of Dr. Still in their approach to training the newest generations of physicians. This training emphasizes the importance of seeing patients as a whole person whose emotional, spiritual, social, and familial backgrounds play a role in their physical health and well-being. A DO also learns in medical school the manual medicine practice known as Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy (OMT).
What is Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) / Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy (OMT)?
OMM or OMT represent the hands-on techniques and approach that DOs use to treat their patients when helpful and appropriate.
Many people may compare OMM/OMT to getting a massage, going to physical therapy, or other forms of bodywork. All osteopathic physicians learn some of these techniques in medical school, and many specialties use them in their patient care. Some physicians are trained more deeply in this form of medicine and are board-certified in Osteopathic Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine (ONMM). ONMM specialists are trained to identify a number of issues related to sports medicine, orthopedics, neurology, and pain management in addition to general medical assessment. They use multiple modalities to guide the treatment of their patients.
What makes Osteopathic Medicine different than Chiropractic, Massage, and other forms of Bodywork?
There are many surface-level similarities and techniques shared between Osteopathic Manipulation and other forms of bodywork that are widely practiced. Some practices such as cranio-sacral therapy originated from techniques developed by Osteopathic physicians. I have deep appreciation and respect for others who do this kind of work with different credentials, but I come from a background with a significantly more rigorous training.
The biggest difference is my education and experience working as a physician. As a physician, I am legally qualified to make medical diagnoses. I use this knowledge to guide my treatments and help you gain access to needed services, understand what is occurring in your own body, and how to communicate that clearly with other doctors.
Perhaps more valuable, is my strong foundation in caring for people when they are at their sickest, and knowing how that kind of experience can affect the body. I have personally cared for patients in the ICU, in a family medicine clinic, participated in surgical procedures, assisted parents in delivering their babies, and been present for people in the final hours of their lives. I feel that these experiences have a powerful impact on the kind of care I am able to offer. I understand intimately what kind of physically and emotionally traumatizing situations medical problems (and even medical care) can create.
OMT is also highly customized to the individual and does not follow treatment "algorithms" that much of Western medicine and many bodywork approaches also take. Every patient is different and so every treatment is different and created with your specific conditions and current physical and mental state taken into account.