The philosophy and science of osteopathy is based upon the following four principles:

• Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated.
• The body is a unit. An integrated unit of mind, body, and spirit.
• The body possesses the inherent ability to heal itself.
• The rule of the artery is supreme

Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated

The architecture of the human body, and the entire natural world, exists the way it does because it fulfills a specific function. Form determines function. Function determines form. Health emerges when form and function are perfectly expressed. Still described this process in the following way, “Disease is the result of anatomical abnormalities followed by physiologic discord.” 1 He is basically saying that if structure is altered, for example through injury, then so too is function. Adaptation and compensation to these structural changes occur both in the short and the long term, and at the expense of optimum function. Such functional alterations may remain within acceptable limits producing few, if any, noticeable symptoms. If these alterations occur, however, in vital areas, then widespread effects may result.

The body is a unit

Still realised that all the parts of the body function together in an integrated manner. If one part of the body is restricted, then the rest of the body must somehow adapt and compensate for this, eventually leading to inflammation, pain, stiffness, and other health conditions. Osteopathic intervention aims to restore this unity by reducing tension in the tissues, and by improving mobility within restricted joints, allowing the body to work efficiently once again.

The body possesses the inherent ability to heal itself

AT Still stated that, “All the remedies necessary to health and healing exist within the human body.” 2 Osteopathic treatment is applied to remove obstacles to this inherent healing process, therefore improving the conditions under which healing may occur.

The rule of the artery is supreme

When blood and lymphatics flow freely, the tissues can perform their physiologic functions without impedance. Fluid flow can become obstructed following injury, as the tissues tighten and compress, and result in localized underperfusion. This is considered to be a significant contributor to the onset of disease. Osteopaths strive to restore freedom in the tissues through manipulation.
These principles serve as the underpinnings of the osteopathic philosophy on health and disease. Osteopaths respect the body’s natural ability as a self-regulating mechanism and as such, intervene only when pain or discomfort occur, so as to improve general mobility and structural stability, thus allowing other systems of the body, such as the circulatory, nervous, and lymphatic systems, to function more effectively.

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