What is Osteopathy?


What is Osteopathy?


I often am asked what is it Osteopathy? It is not an easy question to answer as the field of osteopathy can be quite diverse. This article will provide a brief explanation on its history, the role cranial-sacral work and as well my personal lens on the practise of Osteopathy.


My name is Warren Hitzig, and I am in my fourth year at the Canadian College of Osteopathy and I have the privilege and honour of studying under Eric Sanderson D.O.M.P, and under the guidance of Jane Stark D.O.M.P and Dr. Emmanuel DeFrantzis D.O.M.P/Dr. of Chiropractic Medicine, amongst others. My areas of study include Biology, Physics, Bio-Mechanics, Kinesiology , Orthotics and Prosthetics, Philosophy and now Osteopathy.


History of Osteopathy


Dr. Andrew T. Still is the founder of osteopathy and osteopathic medicine. In 1892 he opened the first school in Missouri, Kentucky where he dove into a science that soon changed the way the human body is examined. By finding the root cause of a patients’ symptoms Still developed a practice that helps to alleviate the pathology and or symptoms that cause discomfort. His philosophy of the human body and its mechanics were as simple as knowing the human anatomy and its physiology to help maintain its requirements of homeostasis. What led to his discovery was the unexpected death of his three children and for modern day medicine’s inability to help. Dr. Still responded by disappearing for some time.  After a deep study on nature and its ecology he returned with a an entirely new philosophy and medical practise, Osteopathy.   Soon after the first school of Osteopathic Medicine was born and to this day stands teaching the his science.


Dr. Still pioneered the philosophy that our bodies are adaptive and consistently find new ways to maintain the balance that allows proper functioning to occur as a whole within the systems:


“…that science which consists of such exact, exhaustive, and verifiable knowledge of the structure and function 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 regained its normal equilibrium of form and function in health and strength.”


The principles that Still discovered are as simple as this: know the anatomy, know the anatomy, and know the anatomy. For example, if the elbow is stuck in a position that will not allow extension of that joint, but will find ease in flexion, then I will flex the elbow joint into its natural ease and allow the mechanics of the human system to rediscover what may be the cause of why extension is limited.



So What Is Osteopathy Exactly?


Osteopathy is gentle touch to the body where I find the restrictions that impede the proper function of all the systems involved. A patient may present with headaches, or lower back issue and my role is to find out what is causing the problem and remove the strain by using osteopathic principles and manual techniques.   As a medical investigator I use assessment, history taking, and biomechanics to find the root cause of a patients main concerns. By having a perfect picture of the anatomy, I am are able to find the root cause of what is injured and use gentle manipulations, osteopathic techniques, and cranial sacral therapy to help restore functionality and allow the body to return to homeostasis.


Cranial-Sacral Therapy


Dr. William G. Sutherland was a student of Still and upon graduation he went on his own quest with his own questions. He found that the cranial bones have an inherent mobility and motility and when this movement is blocked the whole system has a difficult time with recuperation and allowing physiological movements to occur. Sutherland waited for many years before releasing his hypothesis for fear of ridicule, and almost didn’t publish his findings. However, the evidence in his mind was too strong to ignore and a new philosophy to the osteopathic field was added. Sutherland discovered that the central nervous system is the master control of all the entire body and when restrictions impede its function then communication between body, mind and spirit is compromised.   Cranial Sacral therapy is now discovered by an osteopath and is now integrated and used in most osteopathic techniques.



My Personal Experiences


The practise of Osteopathy takes time, patience and skill to find the cause of a concern. This all being said, it is not as simple as one might think. If a patient is complaining of shoulder problems, hip difficulties, and/or a pathology that prevents daily functioning, it takes more then one visit to assist with the recovery process. Rollin Becker D.O., an influential Osteopath, described that seeing a patient for the first time is never satisfactory as it takes time to learn the mechanics of each individual. A typical treatment plan can be anywhere be anywhere from three to ten treatments. In combinations with pre scribed exercises, dietary changes, and referrals to other resources complete healing can occur process.



Warren Hitzig is a Torontonian currently living in B.C. with his girlfriend and her cat Luna. Warren has several practices in Vancouver and along the Sea to Sky corridor where he continues to contribute to the field of osteopathy.