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The History of Osteopathy

Osteopathy was founded by Dr Andrew Tailor Still (1828-1917).  

A.T Still was born in Virginia USA to the son of a Methodist minister and country physician with whom Still had the opportunity to travel with and observe the treatment of many sick patients. He was exposed not only to the beauty of nature through his travels but also the horror of disease such as small-pox, cholera and meningitis that wiped out vast numbers of people. 

Influenced by his father, Still decided to become a doctor and spent the formative years of his carreer studying medicine and serving an apprentceship under the guidance of his father.  Later he went on to become a surgeon and served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. 

Although Still had always been aware of the shortcomings of the medicine of the time, where substances such as mercury were used to cure illness, it was the personal tragedy of the loss of 3 of his daughters to viral meningitis that propelled him towards seeking an alternative approach to treating sick patients.  Despite being an experienced physician, Still felt helpless in the face of the disease that ravaged his own family.  As a result, Still devoted the rest of his life to studying the human body and finding a better way to treat disease.  Through much research and clinical observation, Still came to the conclusion that the musculo-skeletal system played a vital role in the body’s health.  Still believed that the body contains all the necessary elements to heal itself and with the help of manual techniques, known as Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, the body’s structure could be improved and so too, its ability to function and recover from illness.   

Still strongly endorsed the idea of preventative medicine and of treating the whole patient, not just the disease. He understood the importance of  seeing the patient as a person, who’s family, social structure, diet, income and personality all contribute to a person’s well being.   

Still called his philosophy Osteopathy and in 1892 he opened the American School of Osteopathy, now known as the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. 

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