Osteopathy is based on natural laws and common sense. From early on A.T. Still preached that there was no set of techniques that could be applied in a cause and effect way to treat specific diseases. He taught that understanding basic principles, which included all branches of normal anatomy, physiology and chemistry, and an understanding of health, growth and development, would naturally lead to appropriate choices in technique. In his writing and in the first schools in which he taught, he demonstrated treatments, but he assigned, and wrote about, the study of the human body, not the techniques.
Over the last 100 years, the scientific method has emerged as the basis of western medical theory and practice. This method is based on dissecting disease and medicines and studying them in a reductionistic manner. The most refined studies are considered to be those that are able to isolate single variables and test them in conditions separate from the environment from which they originate. Reproducibility is key to acceptance of an idea or theory. This means a medicine or therapy must be rigorously tested at a chemical level before it ever enters a human trial. While this standard is not possible for all therapies, or even all pharmaceuticals, it is the highest standard on which we rely.
Osteopathy can never be tested by this standard. By its very nature Osteopathy relies on the environment to effect cure of disease. Osteopathic physicians rely not only on manual treatments, but also on the support of good diet, hygiene and behavioral modifications. The inherent ability of the body to heal itself is the most cherished principle in Osteopathy and is also the concept most often used to negate the efficacy of the work. Many times I have heard “the treatment you gave is not the cause of the recovery, the patient would have gotten better on his own".
My response is generally, yes, the patient has the ability to heal himself. I cannot, nor do I desire to prove that each treatment I give is the cause of your return to health and balance. In fact, the patient that feels his body has healed itself after a treatment has received the more effective treatment. The ability to recognize one’s capacity to heal is a gift.