Osteopathy is a complete system of manual medicine which aims to support the body's natural tendency to health by helping the body function as well as it can. We believe that health will follow when the structures of the body are functioning well. We believe that bodies "tend to health"– we all see this when cuts repair, broken bones heal, we recover from illnesses and infections. Our job as osteopaths is to assist this natural healing ability of the body when it seems compromised.
Osteopathic training focuses especially on anatomy, physiology and technique, and osteopaths are trained to differentially diagnose and assess whether a given problem can be appropriately addressed through osteopathy. We aim to work alongside the NHS and refer on if clinically necessary.
Acute pain often happens when our bodies have stopped being able to cope with strains they are carrying and some of the tissues have become damaged and inflamed. Recurrent problems such as low back pain or headaches are often signs that the body has got stuck with a problem that it cannot repair on its own. Often people can identify exactly when a problem started – a car accident, a fall, an illness – since when they haven't felt quite so fit. Alternatively, aches and pains can start for no apparent reason, and it is the osteopath's job to work out why this has happened.
Osteopathy as a means of improving health was discovered by Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917). He was a frontier doctor and served on the anti- slavery side in the American Civil War. During this he saved a soldier's leg from amputation because he realised that the blood supply was intact and this gave the best chance of recovery. After losing his wife and children to spinal meningitis he became disillusioned with the medical practices of the day, and embarked on a life-long quest to understand how the human body functions, seeing it as an integrated whole with health an expression of the functioning of this whole. Through his understanding he went on to cure many diseases such as dysentery and pneumonia without resorting to drugs. He emphasised the importance of reasoning back to cause, ensuring an unimpeded blood supply, free articular movement and nerve supply to affected organs and their blood vessels. By the time of his death in 1917 there were at least 6 osteopathic schools in the USA. The first British School was founded in London by a pupil of his, JM Littlejohn, in 1915.
Cranial osteopathy was developed by another pupil, William Garner Sutherland, over the early years of the 20th Century. Sutherland was interested in why the human cranium retained sutures between the cranial bones despite the (still common) belief that the cranium fuses. By experimenting on himself and a lifetime of thoughtful practice Sutherland came to understand the significance of the mechanical relationships between the cranial bones and the sacrum, the rhythmical movement that they express in health, and the implications of these findings for many aspects of health.
Development in cranial osteopathic thinking is now being led by James Jealous, who pioneers the Biodynamic model of Osteopathy. This model again emphasises the integrated functioning of the whole body and the inter-relatedness of all body systems . It references the fluid forces that guide embryonic development and their ongoing role in health and healing throughout life. The influence of the autonomic (unconscious, automatic) nervous system in healing is addressed and the osteopath works with this to help effect change.