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What is the difference between an Osteopath, a Chiropractor and a Physiotherapist / Physio?
Osteopathy and Chiropractic both originated in the same area of the United States and both use similar forms of manipulative treatment. Chiropractic tends to focus on short lever, direct spinal manipulation where Osteopathy also has a wide range of gentle articulatory and soft tissue techniques to be able to treat a wide range of patients, from the very young to the very old. In the US Osteopathy also became part of the orthodox medical system where many practitioners are family physicians. Physiotherapy largely focuses on rehabilitation, particularly postoperative and in the UK is becoming increasing hands-off using exercise prescription to treat patients. High street physiotherapists tend to be Chartered Physiotherapists who have completed additional post-graduate training.
Introduction to Osteopathy
Osteopathy is a drug-less form of medicine which uses manual techniques to enable healing to take place in the body. Whilst more often associated with the treatment of back pain, Osteopathy can treat a wide range of problems such as musculoskeletal injury and dysfunction, headaches, organ dysfunction and even fertility issues. Osteopaths are primary care practitioners trained in recognizing signs and symptoms of disease, and may refer patients to their G.P. for further investigation and medical testing, where appropriate.
Osteopathy was created by Andrew Taylor Still in 1874 in America. A.T. Still worked as a Doctor before becoming disenchanted with the practice of medicine having lost three of his children to spinal meningitis. Osteopathy became a fusion of bone setting and magnetic healing, with an almost religious obsession with anatomy.
Medicine at the time was primitive with such substances as mercury salts and arsenic being prescribed, with terrible side-effects for the patient. A.T. Still was quoted as saying "The Rule of the Artery Reigns Supreme". By this he meant that whether a dysfunction is caused by injury or disease, the body can provide all the substances it needs to heal itself if the blood flow and drainage of an area are restored to their natural levels. Apart from his skill in treating musculoskeletal dysfunction, Still became famous for his success in combating disease epidemics.
Still set up the first school of Osteopathy in 1892 in Kirksville, Missouri. The originator of Chiropractic, D.D. Palmer, is said to have worked at Still's School of Osteopathy before creating Chiropractic in 1895, in nearby Davenport, Iowa. Osteopathy has since grown worldwide, taking different routes in America to the rest of the world.
There is no single universally accepted definition of Osteopathy, and Still is a controversial figure in modern Osteopathy. His works are visionary, with large tracts written in metaphor requiring an understanding of his spiritual background. There are, however, four generally accepted principles:
1. The body is a unit of body, mind and spirit
2. Structure and function are reciprocal
3. The body is self healing
4. Treatment must take into account all of the above
The Profession Today
Today, Osteopathy in America has become a part of the medical profession. In the UK, Osteopathy continues to be a distinct profession, which although medicalised to varying degrees, does not use drugs or medication in its treatment. Legislation now exists in the UK to govern Osteopathy, and the title 'Osteopath' is protected under law to those registered with the General Osteopathic Council. Standards set in the UK are filtering to other European countries and the General Osteopathic Council appears to be setting the gold standard.
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