Here we go again! Chiropractic is definitely NOT Osteopathy. So then really, truly, what is a Osteopath?
Many a patient has come in to me saying, “You’re not going to crack my neck or my back are you?” Or, “Don’t ask! I once went to this Chiropractor and he cracked my neck, and it let out such a noise. I’ve never been the same since.”
However, funny enough, I get patients here and there that like and even enjoy the snap, crackle, pop very much, and even request it. Like Chiropractors themselves, they are not satisfied unless they get a good thrust in their neck or back and it let’s out a pop as it snaps back into position.
Osteopathy consists as I mentioned of four different approaches within the field, and a good Osteopath practices, or is at the very least familiar with all four: structural, myo-fascial, visceral, and cranio-sacral osteopathy.
Osteopaths are either physicians as well as manual therapists as they are trained to be in the US, or just manual therapists (unless they trained in medicine separately) as they are trained to be in Canada, England, Europe, Australia, and other parts of the world.
American Osteopaths as part of their requirements and Osteopathic “Boards” are required to know structural work, as well as basic Cranial work, and various myo-fascial or soft tissue techniques including Muscle Energy Technique which are included in the curriculum. They study this at Osteopathic Medical Colleges.
After doing their Osteopathic exams, most Osteos in the US have the option and do decide to take the regular Medical boards and also graduate as physicians, eventually specializing in the various fields within mainstream conventional medicine. That’s usually the just of it as they then stray from the traditional Osteopathic techniques. It’s just another way to become a Medical Doctor.
The few among them invest more time and energy post graduate into becoming Classical Osteopaths then specializing in Traditional Osteopathic Manipulation.
Chiropractic meanwhile wherever it is, has its own schools, boards, and associations that educate their Doctors of Chiropractic into being manual practitioners as well, and though in certain places they are allowed to diagnose, they are not physicians in the conventional sense and are not part of conventional mainstream medicine. Sure they are very popular, and probably even much better known than Osteopaths. I personally believe and I think many also do, that this is due to their majorly successful marketing that they have had over Osteopathy for the longest time.
Though I have heard many times, “You’re an Osteopath? My pediatrician was an Osteopath growing up!”, people are more likely to have heard of a Chiropractor than an Osteopath. They somehow got the marketing right bang on from the start. But, Osteopathy predates Chiropractic by about twenty years at least, and yeah we were cracking people up way before Chiropractic was even a word. 1874 is the year known as the founding year for Osteopathy brought to the world by Andrew Taylor Still, while Chiropractic came about in 1895 by DD Palmer.
AT Still the founder of Osteopathy, and his father used to work as doctors with Native Americans on their reservations. Likely, they also picked up certain healing techniques and folk medicine from the natives they were working on and with. This included certain bone setting techniques, and when Still brought Osteopathy to the world for a while he was known as the “Lightning Bone Setter”. Ouch! So, no doubt he was doing structural work for sure, but as is known, he also had many soft tissue and even fluidic techniques that were used, recorded, and even passed down to Osteopaths of this generation.
There are rumors in the Osteopathic world till today that DD Palmer MAY have been either a student, patient, or colleague of AT Still and thus Still was the source for Palmer’s structural work and techniques. Very nice story and conjecture, and it certainly puts us Osteos on a pedestal, but the story has no proof or corroboration. What is apparently true, is that DD Palmer was jailed for a bit for “practicing Osteopathy without a license.” Hmmmm….. Now there’s the structural connection if I’ve ever seen one.
Chiropractic medicine is pretty much mainly based in and on the spine and spinal column. It deals with subluxations of the different vertebrae and their effect on the nerves and nerve roots exiting the spine. The purpose is realignment of the spine, structure, and body and to reduce any pressures on the nerves that may be bringing about illness, pain, or difficulty.
Most Chiropractors go for that CRUNCH and unfortunately go beyond the barrier in order to let out that sound and twist the body back into place. Not so with Osteopathy. Okay, so it’s true that British Osteos are way more like Chiros as they very much enjoy and employ mostly a structural approach to Osteopathy, however they are still Osteos at the core and are trained in the other areas too. Plus the Brits have become much better as of late at being open to the other Osteopathic approaches and have even added those courses to their graduate and post graduate curriculum. Plus we all know that in reality it’s really the specific therapist and practitioner who makes the difference all the way. It’s not necessarily the form of therapy or the approach, but how it’s used by the person. How he / she is as a person and individual and their personality is what makes or breaks the treatment, and patients are just as much the same in their specific preferences. In all of this here, I am not necessarily saying that one field of medicine is good and the other bad. I am mostly just describing and stating facts. It’s all a matter of preference.
There are good and bad practitioners in any field of medicine and natural medicine. In it’s ideal form however, an Osteopath never forces an adjustment and stays within the parameters of an Osteopathic lesion, impulsing the problematic vertebrae and getting them to naturally move back into place. Crunch or no crunch, the purpose is not the sound, but the mobility of the spine and its realignment. Granted there are areas today within Chiropractic that are much softer, more energetic and extremely innovative, like Network Chiropractic, Sacro-Occipital Chiropractic, and the McTimoney Approach, but they are not in the mainstream of Classical Chiropractic Adjustment. Plus, Sacro-Occipital work was brought to Chiropractic by an Osteopath if you haven’t already guessed, while Network is very Osteopathic like with its focus on the breath of the spine and how it moves, and this smells of Cranial Osteopathy obviously.
I’ve mentioned the four approaches within Osteopathy, and when seeking out the root of a problem or Osteopathic lesion, any of the four are open season for being the cause and culprit. Though we work on the spine and center of the body, the periphery is just as important. What happens in the center affects the periphery, and the opposite is also true. Both need to be assessed and addressed always.
Though the body’s structure and its affect on its function is one of the main purposes in Osteopathy, soft tissue, an organ, or the movement of fluids and the cranio-sacral rhythm can very well be at the root of a problem. Many a patient has come back to me time and again for a session only to have the same area of the spine needing adjustment again and again. A Chiropractor would just keep on adjusting the area again and again for the most part. Go ahead. Knock yourself out.
The truth is, that in some such instances for example, a misplaced or compacted kidney or liver, from a car accident or fall, may be what’s causing all the fuss. Take care of that with visceral work, and voila, the spine is more stable as a result and less or even no readjustments are required any longer in the said area.
Chiropractic is also a great form of medicine and I have my partner who is a Chiropractor adjust me whenever we have the opportunity and it’s needed, and he trusts me to do the same. I’m all for openness and sharing and not into judging.
Whereas in most places in the world Chiropractors and Osteopaths may be at each others throats and heavily regard each other as competition, I have been blessed to connect to many in both fields that are truly open and nonjudgmental and into helping their patients and each other in any way possible.
That’s the ideal and the way I feel it should be, but at the same time, let’s be clear and understand each field for what it is and exactly how its used.
So let’s get cracking. Not!
Michael Braun is an Osteopath and has a background in Athletic Therapy, Reflexology and the Martial Arts.