Andrew Taylor Still lived near Baldwin City, Kansas, during the time of the Civil War. There, he founded the practice of osteopathy in the 1870s after his father and three children died from spinal meningitis. He founded the American School of Osteopathy in Missouri in the 1890s. Still believed that the bone was the starting point to diagnosing pathological conditions and that he could “shake a child and stop scarlet fever, croup, diphtheria, and cure whooping cough in three days by a wring of its neck.” Right.
True osteopathic manipulative medicine, like it’s cousin chiropractic medicine, is bullshit. Claiming to cure or alleviate a pathological condition by manipulating an unrelated system is an affront to common sense. Curing a fever by manipulating the skeletal system is as ludicrous as thinking you can stop a car’s engine from overheating by rotating the tires.
This post isn’t an attack on American osteopathic physicians. As a baby, I was delivered by a DO, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t shake me. While I don’t technically have a regular doctor, I have in the past received very good care from a local doctor who is a DO.
Since it’s quack roots in the 1870s, American Osteopathy has transitioned to a practice that is essentially real, science-based medicine. Modern doctors of osteopathy in the United States are taught but no longer use osteopathic manipulative medicine – the component that is the modern derivative of Still’s baby-shaking pseudoscience. American osteopathic physicians have real degrees from real universities and have equivalent medical training to real doctors.
Unfortunately, osteopathy has a context outside of American osteopathic medicine. Osteopathy in the rest of the world has parked itself squarely in the purview of complementary and alternative medicine (CAMP). This D in the DO can stand for diploma, not doctor, and the practitioners are more skilled in bamboozling their clients than they are at practicing any kind of real medicine.
Here’s the thing. Real medicine is based on science. If something is “complimentary” or “alternative” to science, it’s not medicine – it’s crap. If something makes you feel better that shouldn’t, like chiropractic or acupuncture or homeopathy or osteopathic manipulative medicine, it’s called a placebo and it’s unethical to present it as a legitimate treatment for anything.