Osteopathic Medicine

Dr. Sherri Tenpenny is board certified in osteopathic manipulative medicine. This is a description of osteopathy and how it can help chronic pain.

New Research – March 2013: Osteopathic Manipulation Reduces Pain and Improves Quality of Life here

Cranial Osteopathy is a medical treatment applied by licensed physicians (MD or DO) who have completed a medical education and numerous years of additional training in this specialty.  Basic introductory courses in cranial osteopathy include 40 to 80 hours of intense training. In the United States, only actively licensed physicians are permitted to diagnose and treat using Cranial Osteopathy.Cranio-Sacral Therapy™ requires little to no medical background. A single 24 hour course provides a certificate. For a more complete comparison, go here.

A Brief History of Osteopathy

In 1874, Andrew Taylor Still MD DO (1828-1917), a medical doctor living on the Missouri frontier, discovered the significance of living anatomy in health and disease. Dr. Still realized that optimal health is possible only when all of the tissues and cells of the body function together in harmonious motion. He reasoned that disease could have its origins in slight anatomical deviation from normal. He then proved he could restore health by treating the body with his hands, naming his innovative approach to restoring health: Osteopathy. He understood that the human body is composed of many parts, all intimately related as a functional whole. More than a hundred years ago, Dr. Still realized that the human being is more than just a physical body. He envisioned a totally new medical system that acknowledges the relationships of the body, mind, emotions and spirit.

In the late 1800s none of today’s miracle drugs, such as antibiotics, were available. Out of necessity, Dr. Still looked first to nature’s own ability to heal and found a way to access this ability within the body. Still saw this self-correcting potential as a cornerstone of his osteopathic philosophy. When combined with appropriate use of present day medical therapeutics, osteopathy offers a profound contribution to the practice of medicine.

Osteopathic medicine today

Osteopathic medicine is a distinct form of medical practice in the United States. Osteopathic medicine provides all of the benefits of modern medicine including prescription drugs, surgery, and the use of technology to diagnose disease and evaluate injury. It also offers the added benefit of hands-on diagnosis and treatment through a system of therapy known as osteopathic manipulative medicine. Osteopathic medicine emphasizes helping each person achieve a high level of wellness by focusing on health promotion and disease prevention.

Osteopathic physicians, also known as DOs, work in partnership with their patients. They consider the impact that lifestyle and community have on the health of each individual, and they work to break down barriers to good health. DOs are licensed to practice the full scope of medicine in all 50 states. They practice in all types of environments, including the military, and in all types of specialties, from family medicine to obstetrics, surgery, and aerospace medicine.

DOs are trained to look at the whole person from their first days of medical school, which means their education leads them to see each person as more than just a collection of organ systems and body parts that may become injured or diseased. This holistic approach to patient care means that osteopathic medical students learn how to integrate the patient into the health care process as a partner. They are trained to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds, and they get the opportunity to practice these skills in their classrooms and learning laboratories, frequently with standardized and simulated patients. Today, while DOs constitute 7 percent of all U.S. physicians, they are responsible for 16 percent of patient visits in communities with populations of fewer than 2,500.


Osteopathy in the Cranial Field

 William Garner Sutherland, DO (1873-1954), discovered, developed and taught Cranial Osteopathy in the early to mid-1900s. Dr. Sutherland referred to his discovery as “Osteopathy in the Cranial Field” (OCF).  While a student at the American School of Ost
eopathy in 1899, Dr. Sutherland pondered the fine details of a separated or “disarticulated” skull. He wondered about the function of this complex architecture. Dr. Still taught that every structure exists because it performs a particular function. While looking at a temporal bone, a flash of inspiration struck Dr. Sutherland. He went on to discover the continuity of this rhythmic fluid movement throughout all tissues of the body.

Anatomy textbooks stated that the cranial sutures were fused and unable to move in adulthood. Dr. Sutherland thought this to be absurd and resisted the notion that the skull bones could move. As the lungs breathe and the heart beats with a rhythmic alternating expansion and contraction, the central nervous system (CNS) also has its own involuntary rhythmic motion. This idea consumed him and became the motivation for his singular, detailed and prolonged study of skulls, and experimentation upon his own head.

Dr. Sutherland described this inherent activity of the CNS as a respiratory motion with “inhalation” and “exhalation” phases. The hands of a skilled osteopathic physician connect directly with the primary respiratory mechanism by placing their hands on any part of the patient to perceive and influence this important mechanism. Cranial Osteopathy is the study of anatomy and physiology of the cranium and its inter-relationship with the body as a whole. It may be applied for the prevention and treatment of disease and enhancement of health, within the practice of the science of osteopathy. For more information, go to the Cranial Academy.

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