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A brief history of Osteopathy

Osteopathy was founded in the late 1880′s by Dr Andrew Taylor Still.

Who was Andrew Taylor Still?

Dr Andrew Taylor Still was a 'doctor of the people', a Christian who retained an independent nature characteristic of the frontier people of the United States of America. He was apprenticed to his father, a country doctor and a Methodist Minister, for a number of years before branching out on his own. His rejection of traditional medical treatment in those days arose from the death of three of his children from Meningitis, and his feelings of inadequacy and helplessness to do anything to help them survive. Still concluded that the orthodox medical practices of his day were frequently ineffective and sometimes harmful, such as using mercury chloride, arsenic, strychnine and antimony in medical procedures. Still devoted the next ten years of his life to studying the human body and finding better ways to treat disease.

What was unique about his ideas to health?

Still's ideas centered on how our body's systems are interrelated and dependent upon one another for good health, and were revolutionary at that time. More than this, he thought that he had stumbled upon a unique causation of disease – that 'bones out of place' could damage blood and nerve supply hence causing illness.
His research and clinical observations led him to believe that the musculo-skeletal system contained all the elements needed to restore health, if properly stimulated. By correcting problems in the body's structure by manual techniques, the body's ability to function and heal itself could be greatly improved. He also promoted preventative medicine and endorsed the philosophy that Osteopaths should treat the whole patient not just the disease.

When was the first School of Osteopathy founded?

By 1890 Still's fame had spread so widely that Kirksville, Missouri became a place of healing, with people travelling hundreds of miles to seek his help. The railroad company was even forced to lay on more trains to cope with the ever-increasing demand. In 1892 he opened the first Osteopathic medical school with the help of William Smith, an Edinburgh medical school graduate. By 1897 Smith had secured standards of training equal to those found in US medical schools and Osteopaths were registered as independent medical practitioners by the state legislature. By the beginning of the twentieth century, there were 4,000 osteopaths, over 10 schools and 17 states had recognised them as physicians and surgeons. Through the succeeding decades, what started as an alternative medical cult became a successful profession and by 1930 Osteopathy accepted the materia medica as part of their training and treatment.

When did Osteopathy come to Britain?

The British School of Osteopathy (BSO) was founded in 1917 by a student of Dr Still's, Dr Martin Littlejohn, and became the sole training establishment until the 1950s.

Where are the Osteopathic Schools?

There are now four main training schools and several smaller schools. The main four are The British School of Osteopathy near Tower Bridge, London, The European School of Osteopathy in Maidstone Kent, The British College of Osteopathic Medicine in North London and the London College of Osteopathic Medicine in London which caters for Doctors training to be osteopaths. Osteopathy has expanded greatly since A.T.Still's day and there are now over 4,000 Registered Osteopaths in the UK.