Osteopathy is to be Discovered…

AtstillseatedAs the title I chose states, Osteopathy is to be discovered. I make that statement for 3 reasons:

  1. Being an Osteopathic Operator is a process of consistent evolution regardless of whether or not one is attempting to grow, they are forced to grow through experience (if they don’t grow they are ignorant of themselves on a daily basis)
  2. My training at the Canadian Academy of Osteopathy showed me this through the thoughts and discussions I have had with Robert Johnston who demonstrated this to me through his teaching and ideas
  3. Dr. Still told anyone that chooses to read his books that it is to be discovered!

How am I able to assert that Dr. Still claimed that Osteopathy is to be discovered? I could be cheeky and say to anyone reading this to go and read his 4 books…or I could help you out and provide some quotes. In the hopes of being helpful:

“In answer to the questions of how long have you been teaching this discovery, and what books are essential to the study?  I will say I began to give reasons for my faith in the laws of life as given to men, worlds and beings by the God of nature, June, 1874, when I began to talk and propound questions to men of learning.” Philosophy of Osteopathy, 1899.

“I began to realize the power of Nature to cure after a skillful correction of conditions causing abnormalities had been accomplished so as to bring forth pure and healthy blood, the greatest known germicide. With this faith and by this method of reasoning, I began to treat diseases by osteopathy as an experiment; and notwithstanding I obtained good results in all diseases, I hesitated for years to proclaim my discovery. But at last I took my stand on this rock, where I have stood and fought the battles and taken the enemy’s flag in every engagement for the last twenty-nine years.” Philosophy and Mechanical Principles of Osteopathy, 1902.

“The mechanical principles on which osteopathy is based are as old as the universe. I discovered them while I was in Kansas. You can call this discovery accidental or purely philosophical. I was in the practice of medicine and had been for several years. I treated my patients as other doctors did. A part of them got well and a part died. Others both old and young got sick and got well without the assistance of the medical doctor.” Research and Practice, 1910.

Still Cadaver 1As is evident from the chosen quotes above, and others that are scattered through Dr. Still’s written works, he claimed to be the “discoverer” of Osteopathy, not the founder. With the final quote above, Dr. Still states “The mechanical principles on which osteopathy is based are as old as the universe.” That quote at least suggests that he viewed Osteopathy as something that was self evident in nature if one was willing to look for it. He framed his investigation through the laws of nature and went about observing and experimenting to continually craft his skill and to get deeper in to what he was constantly discovering.

Why should any of what I am pointing to matter to an Osteopathic Operator today? Dr. Still did not see Osteopathy as something that was stagnant, he saw it as something that was forever growing in so far as the human capacity to understand it. He wanted us to take what he discovered as a piece of known information and to then go explore the unknown. He wanted us to make this exploration from principles:

“The twentieth century demands that advance in the healing arts should be one of the leading objects of the day and generation, because of the truth that the advancement in that profession has not been in line with other professions. The present schools of medicine are injurious schools of drunken systems that are creating morphine, whisky, and other drug-taking habits, to the shame and disgrace of the advancement and intelligence of the age. A wisely formulated substitute should be given before it is everlastingly too late. The people become diseased now as in other days, and to heal them successfully without making opium fiends and whisky sots for life should call for and get the best attention that the mind of man can give.” Philosophy and Mechanical Principles of Osteopathy, 1902.

“It is my object in this work to teach principles as I understand them, and not rules.  I do not instruct the student to punch or pull a certain bone, nerve or muscle for a certain disease, but by a knowledge of the normal and abnormal, I hope to give a specific knowledge for all diseases.” Philosophy of Osteopathy, 1899.

Still BicycleFrom those quotes it is evident that not only was Dr. Still insistent on progressing the way we interface and heal the human body, he was also clear that principles, the information that underlies all things or the thread that stitches them all together, is where we will gain our knowledge. Principles are the known information from which we can explore. Principles are the basis of the education I received from Robert Johnston at the CAO.

Should we look to the advances of other professions in order to advance Osteopathy? I will say no. I say no based on this:

“This book is free from quotations from medical authors, and differs from them in opinion on almost every. important question.  I do not expect it to meet their approval; such a thing would be unnatural and impossible.” Philosophy of Osteopathy, 1899.

Saints RestI also say no along the following lines of personal thought – if I were to ask the same questions as an MD and use the same tests as an MD, the best possible results I could get are the results the MD gets…and I am a horrible MD. I am an Osteopathic Operator, I spend my time doing Osteopathy. If I wanted to do some Osteopathic work and some MD work I would be disrespecting both professions by not dedicating myself to either one where both require immense knowledge and skill. It is unwise to be ignorant of the methods of other professions as they may be able to help a patient that is beyond your limits as an Operator (my classic example is that if someone was shot they should not come and see me because I am just a 10 fingered Operator, the trauma room MD would be a smarter choice).

In the brief discussion of avoiding the lens of other professions I hope to have strongly suggested that you, as a modern day Osteopathic Operator should begin the process of discovery by using Osteopathic principles:

“Principles to an Osteopath means a perfect plan and specification to build in form a house, an engine, a man, a world, or anything for an object or purpose.” Philosophy of Osteopathy, 1899.

“Osteopathy is based on the perfection of Nature’s work.” Research and Practice, 1910.

I will say personally, that when I began to treat ask more unique questions in my practice I began to come up with exponentially more unique solutions for my patients as well as a much stronger set of skills and an ever deepening ability to apply them. I learn more about how to treat every time I have a patient on my table because I am observing through the lens of discovery that is guided by the principles and laws of nature as they express through functional human anatomy. I will also say that the basis for my willingness to explore in this fashion came directly from my training at the CAO.


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