In our search to try and understand the history of medicine in America, we see osteopathy arise upon the horizon. Historically, it’s good to know where we’ve come from. For several decades, allopathic physicians throughout Europe and America widely practiced heroic medicine. Homeopathy ran its course working well with the people, but with the arrival of osteopathy on the scene, conventional medicine absorbed many homeopathic practitioners into its ranks.
Timeline for Medicine in America
1772 – Conventional doctors organized to get rid of any competition
1755-1843 – Samuel Hahnemann (father of homeopathy) born in Germany
1828 – 1st homeopathic physician came to the US
1828 – Andrew Taylor Still (founder of osteopathy) was born, Virginia.
1836 – Hahnemann Medical College, Philadelphia, PA
1840 – Hahnemann’s works became available in English
1844 – American Institute of Homeopathy was founded (the first national medical society in America)
1850 – Another homeopathic medical college started in Cleveland
1830s-1850s – Popular Health Movement
1846 – AMA established
1847 – AMA adopted a Code of Ethics
1855 – AMA became more militant and exclusive
1860 – AMA brought charges against those doctors consulting with homeopaths
1871 – District of Columbia Medical Society established
1874 – Still tried presenting his osteopathic ideas at Baker University in Baldwin, KS.
He was rejected and moved to Kirksville, MO.
1878 – A Connecticut doctor expelled for consulting with a homeopath
1892 – Still started teaching classes in osteopathy in Kirksville. Incorporated the
American School of Osteopathy opening its doors to blacks and women.
In our historical search of medicine in America, we found that people went beyond heroic medicine for answers to their health issues. Homeopathy provided many of those answers. Those individuals who used homeopathic remedies developed a system of practice based on “first do no harm”. No matter what allopathic medicine threw their way, many people experienced good results through homeopathic remedies.
As the years went by, homeopaths aligned more and more with allopaths 1. This alignment was not always based upon ideological agreement, but for many practitioners, it was politically expedient. After all, weren’t they all physicians trying to help people get well and stay well? Why not learn from one another and work together?
So what happened next? Osteopathy…
Osteopathy: Bone Treatment
The word “osteopathy” means “bone treatment” and was developed by an allopathic doctor, Andrew Taylor Still, frustrated with the use of toxic drugs to treat his patients2. As a deeply religious man, he was convinced the body had the capability to heal itself.
In his practice, he eventually stopped using drugs and tried to facilitate healing by manipulating bones which encouraged free circulation of blood and balanced nerve function. He would place tension on a joint until an audible click or pop resulted.
Investigating alternative treatments like hydropathy, diet, bone setting, and magnetic healing, Dr. Still tried to reform the heroic medical practices of the 19th century. He hoped that someday “rational medical therapy” would include the manipulation of the musculoskeletal system, surgery and sparse use of drugs (anesthetics, antiseptics and antidotes). He saw a correlation between disease and physiologic dysfunction.
Dr. Still believed that physicians helped their patients best if they would set the musculoskeletal system in order through treatment. In that way, their patients avoided the side-effects of drugs.
Therefore, he is considered one of the first doctors to encourage preventive medicine by focusing on treating disease rather than masking the symptoms.
His osteopathic methods not only relieved headaches and stiff necks, but since epidemics of serious infectious diseases constantly threatened life on the American frontier, he discovered that osteopathy worked well to help improve the quality of life.
Treatments for pneumonia, erysipelas (a bacterial infection of the skin), typhoid fever, and flux (an often-fatal infectious diarrhea of children) also benefited by the use of osteopathic methods.
Dr. A. T. Still defined osteopathy as:
“ 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. ”3Opposition
With much success and a great following, opposition arose against Dr. Still. He continued to reject drug treatment as working against the body and would only consider surgery as a last resort.
In 1892, Dr. Still started teaching classes in osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri. He also incorporated the American School of Osteopathy and opened its doors to blacks and women.
The resistance intensified against osteopathy (like it had toward homeopathy). Osteopathy became a target for persecution by orthodox medicine. As the prestige and success of osteopathic physicians grew—so grew the intensity of the persecution.
The Way of Compromise
By now, the respectability of homeopathy increased. Most of their practitioners eagerly made peace with allopaths and joined in denouncing Still’s system.
When Dr. Still died, scientific medicine began to strengthen in the early 20th century. Osteopaths, like the homeopaths before them, became interested in changing their ways so they could gain acceptance within the medical establishment.
Today osteopaths in America use the same drugs as allopathic physicians and are indistinguishable from M.D.’s. All the states have made both degrees (MD and DO) legally equivalent.
Yet the American Osteopathic Association continues to honor their founder, Andrew Taylor Still, and tries to draw out the subtle distinctions between DO and MD (DO are more attune to the whole person and believe in the healing power of nature). Many osteopaths, however, do not practice manipulation even though they learn it in school.
The Prevailing Question
Why did osteopaths give up on the methodology taught by their founder? Perhaps the answers lies in the fact that they wanted to get on the allopathic train and see how far they could go with it. But why did they sell themselves out so completely? Well, perhaps they thought patients improved with drugs rather than with manipulation.
When chiropractic came on the scene, manipulation received a bad rap in orthodox circles. The fact remains that Still was able to get results by manipulation of the musculoskeletal system alone, and help those individuals suffering with serious diseases. Why can’t that same method work for osteopaths today? Has their training been so diluted with allopathic ideology that they lost sight of preventive medicine? Isn’t there room for everyone to practice for the wellbeing of the people who are afflicted with disease?
A Paradigm Shift
Why do we go to doctors? What do we hope they will do for us? Are there some prudent measures we could do for ourselves instead of heading out the door to step into the doctor’s waiting room or ER?
Doctors definitely are indispensable in some areas of our society. They always have been. They stitch us up when we have a penetrating cut. They set bones so they can mend properly. But what can, and should, we do to take better care of ourselves and our families? What can we learn and teach our families about health and wellness?
We are responsible for our actions (or inactions). With the internet, there is very little excuse to not know how to eat well or how to exercise. Now, let me qualify that remark: With the internet we can get sidetracked. All kinds of strange information lurks out there waiting for a willing victim to prey upon. Not everything on the internet is true…you already know that, but I’m reminding you.
What To Do
Ask questions of those individuals you are entrusting with your body. Be informed. Challenge the use of drugs when perhaps dietary changes could be made. There might be a pill for all our ailments, but that doesn’t mean you have to take all their pills.
We’ve been given an immune system by our Creator. It’s designed to fight off most infections. Therefore, we need to be wary about taking substances that compromise what the immune system can do on its own to help us heal.
Additionally, God provides us with essential oils in plants to work harmoniously with our bodies. These oils can support our body systems helping them function better.
Think before you take a drug. Ask questions that will help you learn more about what your body is trying to tell you. If I can help you during that process, please let me know. I’d like to offer you a free 30-minute phone consultation to help you get started on your wellness journey.
Although I am a Certified Clinical Nutritionist, I want you to know that the information shared on this webpage is meant for informational purposes only. It is not offering medical advice, opinion, diagnosis, or treatment. It is your responsibility to learn for yourself and address any health or medical needs you may have with a health care professional. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Links on this website are provided only as informational resources, and it should not be implied that we recommend, endorse or approve of any of the content at the linked sites, nor are we responsible for their availability, accuracy or content.