Dr. Andrew T. Still developed the principles, concepts and original methods of evaluation and manual osteopathic treatment in the United States during the nineteenth century. He was born in Virginia in 1828 and studied medicine in Kansas City, where he acquired excellent knowledge in anatomy and physiology. A curious and rational spirit, he quickly established connections between structural issues, functional issues and illness. Devoted to his patients, Dr. Still was devastated by the loss of his wife, three of his children and many of his patients following a meningitis epidemic in 1864. This event had a decisive role in his awareness the limits of traditional medicine and medication. He then stopped practicing to study and look for other ways to treat his patients more effectively.
His experience as a doctor and an anatomist allowed him to participate in the Civil War as a surgeon with a desire to practice reconstructive surgery. After ten years of research, he returned to his patients with a new way of seeing treatment, which led him to officially create the term “osteopathy” on June 22nd, 1874. This new method was based on concepts and principles that are still relevant and that represent the foundations of traditional manual osteopathy. At that time, Dr. Still understood that the equilibrium of health involves the balance of the bone structure, which is responsible for the harmony of the nervous, facial and circulatory systems. He also observed that the health of the organs and that of the musculoskeletal system were linked and interactive. He even formulated the following postulate: “Structure governs function.” From this postulate, he finally put forward the main principles underlying the clinical methodology and the therapeutic specificity of osteopathy. They can be summarized as follows:
- Structure and function are related;
- The body is a functional unit;
- The role of the artery is absolute;
- The body possesses its own ability to autoregulate, defend and recover.
In 1892, Dr. Still created the The American School of Osteopathy, the first school of osteopathy, in Kirksville, Missouri, which is now a university known as the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. These teachings quickly became popular and Dr. Still had the chance to teach over 5000 students throughout his life.
In 1917, Osteopathy took root in Europe thanks to Dr. John Martin Littlejohn, D.O., a student of Dr. Still. He founded the British School of Osteopathy, the first school of osteopathy in England. The European School of Osteopathy in Maidstone as well as other institutions allowed English Osteopathy to become an important part of the English healthcare system. Today, the largest schools are affiliated with universities.
In France, we have found traces of a school and a book written in French in 1913. Dr. Major Stirling, D.O., settled in France and began to teach osteopathy to a group of doctors. However, osteopathy did not become popular until the 1960s. The first course on osteopathy applied to the cranial sphere was given in Paris in 1965 by Thomas Schooley, D.O., Harold I. Magoun, D.O., and Viola M. Frymann, D.O. All three were former students of William Garner Sutherland, D.O.
Two famous French osteopaths were present: Francis Peyralade, D.O., and Bernard Barillon, D.O. The first French colleges became the roots of other institutions in Belgium, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, and Germany. French osteopathy is highly respected and mainly expresses itself in the evolution of this medicine at the visceral sphere level with Jean-Pierre Barral, D.O., Jacques Weischenk, D.O., and René Briend, D.O.
In the United States, osteopathy evolved through the years towards the practice of medicine and surgery, leaving traditional osteopathy based on palpation and manual therapeutic methods behind. However, the American Academy of Osteopathy has made every effort to preserve the philosophy and original potential of osteopathy. Osteopathic medicine is currently taught in 15 universities in the United States.