What is Osteopathic Therapy?

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  • Written By: Jessica F. Black
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2019
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Osteopathic therapy, sometimes called osteopathy, uses holistic treatments to eliminate the source of pain as opposed to simply focusing on reducing symptoms, and was first introduced in the late 1800s by Dr. Andrew Still, who discovered that joint manipulation and spinal exploration was one of the primary keys to the self-healing process. This form of treatment is most commonly used on joint, back, hip, knee, and neck pain, but can also be performed on people who suffer from non-joint related pain. Migraine headaches and recurring ear infections are examples of other problems that are sometimes treated with osteopathic therapy. The treatment sessions focus on alleviating the primary cause of pain and aiding the body in healing itself. This therapy uses non-invasive methods, such as counterstrain, thrust, lymphatic, and hands-on techniques, in order to avoid causing the affected areas any additional discomfort.


The prescribed techniques are usually performed by a certified doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) who typically personalizes treatment based on the individual and his or her location of pain. A counterstrain method is performed manually by the D.O., who slowly pulls the patient in the opposite direction of his or her pain and locates the body's comfort zone. The thrust technique is a high velocity thrust performed over short distances of the affected area, and this swift motion often restores regular joint function and reflexes. Lymphatic techniques are most commonly used for various respiratory infections, and usually consist of the D.O. applying pressure to a specific location on the chest, relieving unwanted pressure and improving lymphatic fluid circulation. The hands-on technique primarily refers to almost all methods used throughout osteopathic therapy.

Osteopathy approaches the mental, emotional, and physical condition of the patient in order to improve his or her complete well-being. The restoration of the body's structure and the improvement of blood circulation is the basis of osteopathic therapy because it enhances the body's natural ability to heal. There are certain afflictions that should not be treated with this therapy, especially broken bones and joints.

Through manipulation and touch, a certified physician can usually determine the origin of pain and treat it accordingly. A D.O. usually acquires a standard medical degree and then completes specialized clinical training in osteopathic therapy and medicine. The unique quality of this therapy is its focus on the overall wellness of the entire body, which is based on the practice's chief principle that the interaction of all body parts assists in healing a single area. The osteopathic practice continues to grow in popularity and practice.


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