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The Principals of Osteopathy

The following set of principals are based on those offered in 2002 by Felix Rogers DO, Gilbert D'Alonzo Jnr DO, John Glover DO, Irvin Korr PhD, Gerald Osborn DO, Michael Patterson PhD, Michael Seffinger DO, Terrie Taylor DO, and Frank Willard PhD.

1. A person is the product of dynamic interaction between bio, psycho, social and environmental factors.

The human body functions as a unit, with structure and function being reciprocally interrelated between all systems and levels of organisational complexity. Alterations in the structure or function of any one area of the body influences the integrated function of the body as a whole.

2. An inherent property of this dynamic interaction is the capacity of the individual for the maintenance of health and recovery from disease.

Osteopaths view health as the natural state of the body. The health of the individual is determined by complex, self-regulating homeostatic systems that are strongly influenced by the structure of the individual. These regulatory systems are capable of compensatory alterations in the face of disease, yet can be self-healing and restorative when their function is optimised.

3. Many forces, both intrinsic and extrinsic to the person, can challenge this inherent capacity and contribute to the onset of illness.

A realistic view of health focuses on wholeness, understanding and accepting of the person in his or her full ecologic context, and appreciating his or her efforts to maximise health status and cope with disease or disability. Osteopaths recognise that each individual is uniquely vulnerable to stressors that place him or her at risk for loss of health. Illness is thought to represent the body’s inadequate, self-regulatory responses to challenges from the internal and external environment.

4. The neuromusculoskeletal system significantly influences the individual’s ability to restore this inherent capacity and therefore to resist disease processes.

Historically, orthodox medicine has emphasised internal organs and their disturbances; diagnostic and therapeutic methods have been largely directed at the manifestations of these disturbances. The neuromusculoskeletal system has been relegated to a secondary role, as an organ system that is primarily related to locomotion. Osteopaths consider the neuromusculoskeletal system to play a primary role in health and disease. Metabolically, it can be the most demanding body system, and its requirements vary widely and often rapidly from moment to moment according to individual activities and responses to the environment. Derangements in the neuromusculoskeletal system are common and represent significant public health concerns. Abnormalities in the structural system affect its function and that of related circulatory and neural elements. The interventions directed to the neuromusculoskeletal system include osteopathic palpatory diagnosis and manual treatment, therapeutic and recreational exercise, and physical therapy modalities.

5. The patient is the focus for healthcare.

Osteopaths are trained to focus on the individual patient and resist reducing the focus to the abstractions of presenting symptoms, body parts and named disease entities. The relationship between clinician and patient is a partnership in which both parties are actively engaged. The osteopath is an advocate for the patient, supporting his or her efforts to optimise the circumstances to maintain, improve, or restore health and well-being.

6. The patient has the primary responsibility for his or her health.

Although the patient-osteopath relationship is a partnership, and the osteopath as a healthcare professional has obligations to the patient, ultimately the patient has primary responsibility for his or her health. The patient has inherent healing powers and must nurture these through diet and exercise, as well as adherence to appropriate advice in regard to stress, sleep, weight control, and avoidance of substance misuse.

An effective osteopathic treatment program is founded on these principals and:

  • incorporates available evidenced-based and best-practice guidelines as appropriate to the patient’s needs  
  • optimises the patient’s natural healing capacity
  • addresses the primary cause of disease
  • emphasises health maintenance and disease prevention

The emphasis on the neuromusculoskeletal system as an integral part of patient care is one of the defining characteristics of osteopathy. When applied as part of a coherent philosophy of the practice, these principals represent a distinct and necessary approach to healthcare.  

February 22nd 2019


Philip Bayliss, Registered Osteopath, 43 Thames Street, St Albans, Christchurch, NZ. ☎️03 356 1353