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Osteopathy: What Is It Exactly?

By Gavin Buehler

Manual osteopathic therapy is becoming more prominent these days, and a lot of people ask, “What is it?”  You ask 5 different practitioners and you’re likely to get 5 different answers.  Why is that?  Well, in Canada Osteopathy is not a regulated practice under the Registered Healthcare Practitioner Act.  There are a number of different osteopathic associations that act as regulatory bodies which are recognized by insurance companies to uphold a standard of practice.  But currently there is no unified standard of practice.  As such, depending on the background of each individual practitioner and their educational journey, you will get a unique interpretation of what osteopathy is.


Are Osteopaths Doctors?

Any osteopath who graduated from a Canadian program is not a doctor unless they had previously achieved that designation.  The United States offers the designation of Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) where practitioners go through full Medical Doctor (MD) training prior to specializing in osteopathy after.  They are legitimate doctors and the title of DO is protected by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario for exclusive use by American trained Osteopathic Medical School graduates.  In Canada the designation that you will commonly see is DOMP which stands for Diplomate of Osteopathic Manipulative Theory & Practice.  The education for this designation generally requires prerequisite manual therapy training with a current Registered Healthcare Practitioner designation such as a Physiotherapist, Massage Therapist, Athletic Therapist or Chiropractor.  Practitioners will have completed a program offered by a recognized educational institution consisting of an additional 2200 plus hours of theory, hands on training and clinical practicum centered around manipulative osteopathic theory and practice.


So, What Is Osteopathy?

While there are varying interpretations there is a general common thread that might sound something like this:


Osteopathy is a patient-centered practice that recognizes the body and person as a whole taking into consideration the relationship between structure and function, utilizing manual therapy techniques to assess and treat for restoration of a balanced state optimized for healing.


Osteopathy At F.I.T.

The integration of osteopathy at F.I.T. has slowly been occurring over the course of many years during the educational process.  Treatments have been centered around osteopathic philosophy for years already.  While there are certainly techniques that are more “osteo,” my interpretation of osteopathy is that it is more of a philosophy that broadens perspective and introduces alternative avenues to approach a problem.  The overall goal and guiding principle is to restore a balanced stated for the body to utilize its inherent ability to heal.  There are many different methods and techniques that can be applied to achieve this and the wonderful thing about the discipline of osteopathy is that the discovery of new tools should be encouraged.  In his writings, A.T. Still who is credited with being the father of osteopathy never used just one single method and never let his students take notes as he wanted to encourage “spontaneous originality.”  Osteopathy at F.I.T. consists of a blend of my entire background and experience.  The tools used to treat are dependent on the presentation of each individual patient.  Whether the techniques used appear more massage, osteo, physio etc. the end goal is restoration of balance.  The integration of osteopathic methods and tools are incorporated into treatments as needed or requested.


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