What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy was developed and introduced by Dr Andrew T. Still, a physician in Middle West of America in the 1870s. Hence, it is as old as modern medicine. Dr Still became disillusioned with the medical treatment practised at the time, which was often as hazardous to the patient as the disease itself.  It was not Still's intention to found a new profession.  He wanted to reform the existing system.

Still realised that the body is an intrinsically self-repairing, self-maintaining, self-regulating, self-adjusting organism.  Without this we would not survive.  This idea was revolutionary in Still's day, although it is conventional wisdom today.  It is what osteopaths call "the health".  If the health is compromised, symptoms or disease can result.  Therefore the question arises whether treatment should be directed towards controlling the disease, or whether it should be to establish what has impaired or compromised this self-repairing, self-maintaining mechanism (the health) to have allowed the disease to develop and for the body to be unable to resolve it on its own.  Hence, the fundamental principle underlying osteopathy is that osteopathy is not so concerned with the control of disease, rather osteopathy is concerned with that which has compromised the health.  Osteopathy is the way we assess health and disease, not a treatment, therapy, or technique.

Osteopathy was brought to England by J Martin Littlejohn, a Scot who met Still in Missouri and was impressed by his ideas. Littlejohn became student at Still's school and subsequently taught there with Still. He returned to England in 1913 and founded the British School of Osteopathy at 16 Buckingham Gate, London, in 1917. The school moved to larger premises in 1975 and is now in Southwark.

Over the years the profession developed a reputation for treating musculo-skeletal disorders, such as back pain, neck pain, headaches and joint strains. This is not because this summarises osteopathic care, but because these conditions are so common and osteopathy is an effective treatment for them.  Osteopathy can achieve more than that.

Osteopathy in the UK now is a distinct healthcare profession, recognised in the Osteopaths Act 1993. Its practitioners are highly trained to practise autonomously in a primary contact setting and patients may consult them directly without being referred by another healthcare professional. Only practitioners registered with the General Osteopathic Council can use the title osteopath.

At the Hereford Osteopathic Centre we recognise that:

  1. You are unique
  2. Your problem is individual
  3. You want to understand:
    1. What is causing the symptoms
    2. Why things have gone wrong
    3. Why it hasnít recovered on its own
    4. What you can do to speed recovery
    5. How you can prevent recurrence

The World Health Organisation definition of Health states: "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease.Ē We support that definition.

Dr Andrew Still
Dr Andrew Still

J Martin Littlejohn
J Martin Littlejohn

16 Buckingham Gate
Littlejohn's school at
16 Buckingham Gate, London