The Principles of Osteopathy, As Espoused by Andrew Taylor Still

Andrew Taylor Still

"To find health should be the objective of any doctor.  Anyone can find disease."

People frequently say: “Osteopathy? You treat backs, don't you?” Osteopathy is a hands-on approach  to healthcare, recognising the important link between the structures of your body and the way it functions. 

Osteopaths look at the whole body for the cause of dis-ease, as well as barriers to recovery. They use a wide range of techniques to restore full function to the body.  The founder of osteopathy was Andrew Taylor Still, and he first used the term 'osteopathy' in 1874 to describe a philosophy of healing that he developed.

AT Still said, “We say 'disease' when we should say 'effect'; for disease is the effect of a change in different parts of the physical body. Disease in an abnormal body is just as natural as is health when all parts are in place.”

With all this, Andrew Taylor Still believed the body had an inherent healing ability, and that an uninterrupted nerve and blood supply to all tissues of the body was essential to their normal function. Thus, if any structural problem (e.g. muscle spasm, chronic tissue tension or curvature of the spine etc.) interfered with normal blood and nerve supply, the self-healing power would also be interfered with and disease would be the result.

1. The body is a unit - every part of the body is interrelated.
2. The body has the ability to heal itself. The body has its own mechanisms for healing. Osteopaths can help the patient with this process.
3. Structure and function are related. This means that the structure of the body effects the way the body functions.
4. The body has an ability to defend itself.
5. The freedom of body fluids and nerve impulses to move unimpeded is essential for health.
6. The vital force controls the working of the body and expresses itself as health when all its parts are in order.
7. Nature heals while osteopathy assists. Osteopaths are committed to doing no harm.
8. Osteopaths treat patients who have a condition of health. They do not treat conditions in isolation.
9. Osteopathy builds health - by treating within the vital health of the patient.

What is an 'osteopathic lesion'?

Howard Beardmore DO – The osteopathic lesion is not ‘a bone out of place’ but any obstruction to physiological processes or irritation, deficiency or excess that may, if left unaddressed, lead to a state of unhealth. This can include: diet, lifestyle, posture, mental or physical trauma and poisoning; any method that is only directed at only managing the symptomatic picture, acts by palliating symptoms and suppressing nature’s attempt to clean’. 

With all this, Andrew Taylor Still believed the body had an inherent healing ability, and that an uninterrupted nerve and blood supply to all tissues of the body was essential to their normal function. Thus if any structural problem (e.g. muscle spasm, chronic tissue tension or curvature of the spine etc.) interfered with normal blood and nerve supply, the self-healing power would also be interfered with and disease would be the result.

What is Craniosacral Therapy?

Craniosacral Therapy (CST) is a non-invasive,light-touch hands-on therapy that enhances the body's natural capacity for healing. For 30 years CST has been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of physiological issues associated with pain and loss of biomechanical, systemic and emotional function/wellbeing. CST is useful both as a primary treatment method and in combination with other traditional (physiotherapy) or complementary (massage) therapeutic techniques.

The Therapeutic Value of the Craniosacral System

CST has been used successfully to relieve numerous health problems, including: Migraines Neck and back pain TMJ dysfunction Chronic fatigue Fibromyalgia ADD/ADHD PTSD (see video of Vietnam Veterans who had CST) Central nervous system disorders and many others Because it’s so gentle, it’s been proven effective for all ages, from the newborn to elders.

  • Migraines and Headaches
  • Neck and back pain
  • Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) dysfunction
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • ADD/ADHD
  • PTSD (see video of Vietnam Veterans who had CST)
  • Traumatic Brain and Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Scoliosis
  • Chronic Pain and Stress
  • Depression and Emotional Trauma
  • Sleepless and Crying Babies
  • Infant Colic and Constipation
  • Infant reflux and vomiting
  • Breastfeeding issues
  • Tongue Tie
  • Hyperactive children
  • Attention/learning disorders
  • Infantile Disorders
  • Autistic Spectrum Disorders
  • Speech and Language Impairments
  • Learning Impairments and Disabilities
  • Plagiocephaly (Misshapen Head)

In the early 1900’s, as an osteopathic student in Kirksville, Missouri, Dr. William G Sutherland was struck by an idea. He saw that the bones of the skull were designed to provide for movement in relationship with each other. For more than 20 years he pondered the prospect of movable bones in the adult skull. He experimented on himself with an old football helmet and controlled pressures on different parts of his head.  He published his first article about his work in the early 30's. Dr. Sutherland organised a small group of osteopaths who studied cranial work with him. His system became known as Cranial Osteopathy.  

CST babies and infants

Craniosacral Therapy (CST)

In the 1970’s, during surgery on a patient’s neck, Dr Upledger viewed the rhythmical movement of dura mater, the outer layer of the meningeal membranes, in the neck visibly moved in and out. None of his colleagues nor any of the medical texts had an explanation for his observation. Two years later Dr Upledger attended a seminar which explained Dr Sutherland’s ideas. He incorporated and refined Dr Sutherland’s techniques with success and developed Craniosacral Therapy.   CST is now used by a wide variety of healthcare professionals including osteopaths, medical doctors, physiotherapists, massage therapists and acupuncturists.

Craniosacral Therapy for Babies and Children

Eastern philosophy talks of life having four sufferings: birth, old age, sickness and death. Of these our passage into this world is amongst the first of many complex life experiences. It is certainly a challenge for the mother, but this is no less than the shock and long-term effects in store for the child. Everything that happens to us is potentially a trauma. The birth process can lead to restrictions that may be carried throughout life. Craniosacral therapy is a safe effective therapy for infants and children as well as adults.

When to treat Babies and Infants
Put very simply, the younger the better, it is never too early to treat. Ideally, the best results can be found with treatment before the age of 5. After this learned adaptations and compensations can establish themselves.

Colic is a typical example of a birth-caused problem. Experience of craniosacral practitioners suggests that the factors which may cause colic include:

  • A difficult delivery - particularly in cases of forceps or ventouse delivery
  • Residual shock due to (e.g.) the umbilical cord being cut before the baby is ready to breathe on its own.

CST is one method of helping the baby to clear its system of birth traumata, and a check-up treatment after the first 2 weeks of birth is always useful, even if there is no apparent problem.

What conditions in babies and infants can be helped by CST?

Effective for the treatment of:

  • Crying babies
  • Feeding problems
  • Sickness, colic and wind
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Recurrent infections
  • Ear infections
  • Asthma
  • Learning problems
  • Behavioural problems
  • Scoliosis
  • Cerebral palsy and other types of brain damage
  • Seizures
  • Many others

CST and issues around birth - a summary

Craniosacral Therapy is particularly useful in many ways for the whole process of birthing and childbearing - both for the baby and the mother. A brief summary of the areas it is commonly used in is provided below...

1   Mobility of ovaries and uterus

  • Mobility of pituitary
  • Other things which might reduce ability to conceive: migraines, blocked sinuses
  • General stress reduction and self-help techniques for relaxation

2   Pregnancy term/antenatal:

  • Pregnancy
  • Pelvic pain
  • Mobility of uterus to ensure that the baby is more likely to engage in the correct way
  • Release of trapped or crushed soft organs around the womb
  • General stress management, postural work
  • Effect of administered drugs during the birth process (e.g. pethidine, epidural, oxytocin, gas and air)

3   Postnatal: Mother

  • Release of scar tissue from caesarean and episiotomies/tearing/ forceps bruising, including loss of sensation in skin and/or bladder problems - this can all be done fully clothed with skin contact only necessary on the abdomen/belly
  • Release of damage to coccyx or pelvis during birth
  • Release of any damage caused by epidurals (may cause local back pain or headaches)
  • All the above not only help immediately after the birth, but can help to prevent illnesses which might subsequently begin up to 20 or 30 years afterwards due to accumulation of immobile tissue round local adhesions
  • Release of shock / assistance with Post-Natal depression

4   Postnatal: baby

  • Relief from colic and other distress symptoms (including floppy unresponsive babies)
  • May be able to treat some cases of cerebral palsy (better results with rigid type CP)
  • Treatment of malformed cranium due to excessively long engagement, forceps or ventouse
  • Treatment of mother - about 40% of babies' "symptoms" are a result of the mother being unable to cope (or being in pain or something else not being quite right) rather than the baby itself having a problem - treating BOTH the baby and the mother usually sorts out any distress the baby might be experiencing
  • Unusual back-arching or stiffness - or inability to lie on front and initiate crawling - these often arise due to restrictions around the base of the skull and in the neck - which usually clear very easily with a few CST treatments.

What is Visceral Manipulation?

Referred pain from the viscera

Another facet of chronic pain is pain that can have its origins elsewhere, specifically in the viscera. This can cause local pain or causing adaptations with a change in posture or function.

All the viscera are attached to something. That something could be the chest, the respiratory diaphragm, the back, or the pelvis. The viscera also like to 'move' and if they cannot move the way they wish, they will have voice - they give us symptoms

An example of this is the heart. In the embryo, it is found in the neck and upper chest. As the diaphragm (which also has its origins in the neck) descends, so does the heart and it takes a nerve supply with it from the neck. The heart is also wrapped up in the pericardium, and ligaments connect it to the spine (in the neck and chest) and sternum.  

All this is reason that the heart can refer symptoms to the left neck/shoulder/arm and the angle of the jaw on the left with situations like a heart attack, as well as the ‘usual’ one of crushing, pain behind the sternum.


visceral manipulation referrals

The pictures also show the regions of the back that have relations with it from its attachments from the gut. The shaded regions show regions covered with peritoneum (hence can be freely movable) and bare areas (that show where tissues have a direct attachment to the back).  

Structures that have a direct relationship with the back can refer pain directly to those areas. Note here the ascending and descending colon have a direct connection with the back and the lines drawn across the back by the mesentery of the other regions of the gut. The attachments can cause referred pain through to the back.

visceral manipulation referrals

In addition to these, there are gut attachments to the respiratory diaphragm (these can give referred symptoms back up to the shoulder and neck (through the phrenic nerve and sympathetic chain), and to the pelvis, giving pain and stiffness in the hips and lower limbs.

These all can give rise to pain pictures elsewhere in the body, as shown here.

visceral manipulation referrals
visceral manipulation referrals