What is Osteopathy?
Osteopathy is a non-pharmaceutical "hands-on" approach that encourages the body to heal itself by
using the body's intrinsic forces and corrective mechanisms to achieve homeostasis. Osteopathy views
the body as a FUNCTIONAL and HOLISTIC unit. Practitioners of osteopathy believe that the body knows
what is best for itself and what treatments should be aimed at strengthening the body's own defense
mechanisms rather than suppressing symptoms of disease. Osteopathy - derived from the Greek words
OSTEON (tissue) and PATHOS (feeling) is essentially “feeling the motion of the tissues”.

In the early 19th century, American physician Andrew Taylor Stills discovered an important direct relation-
ship between the musculo-skeletal system and the function of the rest of the body. He realized that the
human body was potentially PERFECT in its form and function, so he wanted to understand the secrets
held by nature's design. Likening the body to a highly complex machine, he believed that perfect alignment
and lubrication of the parts of the body are needed for optimal functioning. He concluded that the unity of
was dependent on the circulatory system, the nervous system and the third unifying system, the
fascia. Fascia is everywhere in the body, and surrounds blood vessels, nerves, organs, and muscles. The
fascia is important for support, lubrication (via blood and lymph flow) and acts as a mechanical "brain" for
the musculo-skeletal system. These three functional systems organize the body into a "unified" continuous
whole, an inappropriate alteration in the structure and fluid flow can trigger dysfunction in other parts of
the body. The body attempts to adapt to dysfunction and continues to compensate until it can no longer
do so, finally breaking down, resulting in disease in part of or the whole body.

Osteopathy Defined
Osteopathic techniques include many non-invasive, manual-therapy techniques. They may be divided
into two basic categories, direct and indirect techniques, depending upon how the practitioner addresses
the restrictions in the body's tissues.

  • Direct Techniques - the practitioner thrusts through the restrictive barrier.
    • Includes high velocityflow amplitude (chiropractic) and muscle energy techniques.
  • Indirect Techniques - the practitioner works away from the restrictive barrier setting up the
              tissues to "unwind" and move through the restrictive barrier on its own.

Categories of Indirect Techniques include:

  • Cranio-sacral
  • Energy engaging
  • Myo-fascial release
  • Functional indirect and Strain/counter-strain
  • Nerve release
  • Vascular
  • Visceral manipulation

These techniques are well-known to physical and manual therapists; but are not widely utilized in
veterinary medicine. The emerging field of osteopathy in animal rehabilitation has tremendous potential
to treat all animals with a variety of with back, neck, and shoulder problems. It may be particularly
useful for performance animals such as agility dogs, geriatric animals, and service dogs. A regimen of
osteopathic treatment commonly helps restore an animal’s normal function more quickly and permanently
than by using stretching and strengthening exercises alone.

Osteopathy Treatment Steps

Overview of osteopathic treatment

First, a complete examination of the body is done, identifying the areas of the body with the most
dysfunction. Then, the practitioner must decide where to start treatment first. Beginning treatment by
focusing first on the most painful areas often does not lead to complete and sustained relief. Rather, a
fundamental principle of osteopathy is to resolve the CORE problem, layer by layer.

  • First, a practitioner locates and treats the AREA of GREATEST RESTRICTION (AGR) (i.e., the
    part of the body with the greatest dysfunction that also has the most influences on other
  • Following that concept, the therapist works sequentially from the AGR through progessively
    less important restrictions to help the body to return to more normal function. This is called

Because the underlying issues may be multifaceted and complex, this approach will ensure both
complete and lasting results. For example, an agility dog that presents with a right forelimb lameness
that appears to arise from the shoulder may actually have an underlying issue with the core of the body.
Treatment of just the shoulder will not resolve the lameness. Thus the practitioner must make an
osteopathic diagnosis in order to proceed with treatment in a logical, effective manner.

DIAGNOSIS in Osteopathy

If we analyze the word "diagnosis", we see that "dia" means "through" and "gnosis" means "essential
knowing". In osteopathy, the art of differential diagnosis is both essential and difficult. For example,
the movements in the lumbar and pelvis areas during the gait may seem complex and overwhelming,
especially when we are observing an altered gait. So, practitioners use guidelines or rules to help
organize the physical examination findings into a useable framework for treatment, or an osteopathic
or manual therapy diagnosis.

There are three questions to ask after the physical examination is complete, and whose answers help
the practitioner in arriving at a diagnosis and treatment plan.

    WHERE is the problem? WHAT is the problem? HOW do I treat the problem?

The answers to these questions will help you locate the injured/dysfunctional areas and determine
what problems you have found, and what technique(s) to use to resolve the abnormalities found
in the tissues.

WHERE is the problem?          WHAT is the problem?          HOW do I treat the problem?

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