Osteopath doctors are medical doctors whose treatments are based on the belief that many diseases are caused by problems in the musculoskeletal system. While modern doctors of osteopathy undergo the same training as other medical doctors, their approach is holistic, focusing on diagnosing illness by understanding the whole patient. Osteopath doctors use manipulation of nerves, muscles and bones to alleviate musculoskeletal conditions, and they may use these techniques to treat conditions such as asthma, depression and menstrual discomfort.
The practice of osteopathy was founded by Andrew Still in 1874. He believed that the manipulation of the musculoskeletal system, in addition to changes in lifestyle and diet, could effectively treat many ailments. In 1892, Still founded the American School of Osteopathy, where he taught students to look at imbalances in the spine for the causes of common diseases. In 1901, The American Osteopathic Association was founded to oversee those practicing osteopathy. Over the next half century, doctors of osteopathy became accepted into the mainstream medical community, gaining full practice rights in all 50 states in 1963. Today, osteopath doctors practice in all areas of medicine, from primary care to emergency rooms.
Osteopathy emphasizes a "whole patient approach," and doctors try to integrate information about their patients' lifestyles and physical and medical histories to determine the appropriate courses of treatment for ailments. Doctors of osteopathy may treat musculoskeletal discomfort or unbalanced body systems through the manipulation of muscles, bones, and ligaments or through craniosacral therapy, which is the manipulation of bones of the skull. Osteopath doctors are also fully trained in the medical treatments used by mainstream doctors and often recommend a combination of osteopathic and traditional treatments for their patients.