Osteopathy History

Manual osteopathy has roots in traditional indigenous medicine, bodywork and healing arts. Dr Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO, founder of osteopathy lived in the Shawnee Tribe reservation land for a decade and was introduced to Shawnee and Cherokee bodywork and healing arts. Osteopathic techniques introduced by Dr Still such as osteoarticular techniques and soft tissue therapy as well as techniques introduced later on by other osteopaths such as cranial osteopathy (which craniosacral therapy has originated from) and visceral (organs) manipulation have origins in Native American bodywork and medicine.

Osteopathy was founded in 1874 by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still. Dr. Still was a Missouri medical physician who had become frustrated with what he saw as the ineffective nature of remedies at that time. He believed that the doctor’s role in fighting disease was to restore the body’ s proper musculoskeletal function. Still founded the American School of Osteopathy in Missouri in 1892. The school taught manual manipulation, nutrition, and lifestyle modifications rather than surgery and drug therapies.

There are two types of osteopathy being practice in the world. American style osteopathy, also known as osteopathic medicine is the type of osteopathy only taught in the United States. Graduates are called osteopaths or osteopathic physicians and have similar title and scope of practice as medical doctors in the United States.

The other type of osteopathy, called traditional osteopathy, European style osteopathy, manual osteopathy or osteopathic manual practice is a hands-on practice without offering surgery and medications. This profession is what we teach at National Academy of Osteopathy and it is taught in many countries around the world. The National University of Medical Sciences (USA) and California Health University (Los Angeles) are the only universities in the United States teaching European style osteopathy. NAO offers an online DOMP program across the United States. Our Osteopathy Chronic Pain Clinics of Canada has over 14 clinics across the States (California, Texas, New York and elsewhere) offering European style osteopathy (known as osteopathic manual practice in the US).

Manual osteopathy was formed accidentally. The profession in the US soon added surgery and prescription medications to its education and became indistinguishable from medical education. There was a plan to open an osteopathic medical school in the United Kingdom, the first of such schools outside the US. They set up the school and in the last moment their license to teach surgery and prescription was revoked temporarily due to the opposition of the medical society in UK. The owners had a choice, either to close the school and try to get the license again or teach osteopathic medicine without the surgery and prescription medications until they get the license. They chose to start the school hoping that they would get the license in future. This never happened and students graduated without learning surgery and medications and a new profession of manual osteopathy was created over a century ago. Since then the graduate of this school opened other schools and the profession expanded internationally.

When National Academy of Osteopathy was founded in June 2010 there were hardly any manual osteopaths in Canada, almost none in the United States and many other countries. Now, thanks to NAO, all Canadian provinces have manual osteopaths and thousands of others are working in the United States and other countries. NAO is now the largest provider of manual osteopathic education in the world with alumni in 72 countries. Most manual osteopaths in Canada, the United States and many other countries are NAO alumni. All manual osteopaths working at the 378 clinics of Osteopathy Chronic Pain Clinics of Canada in 34 countries are also NAO graduates. NAO single handedly expanded the profession worldwide as it was the goal of Dr Pourgol to ensure every person in the world who is suffering from chronic pain have access to manual osteopathic care.

The profession of manual osteopathy has come a long way. It is now accepted by almost all extended health plan insurance companies which they cover manual osteopathic care provided by NAO graduates who are members of insurance approved associations such as ACMA, ACTMD and the College of Registered Manual Osteopaths. Just few years ago osteopathy was not covered by insurers and now almost all cover them. This also includes auto insurers in many provinces that now cover people injured in a motor vehicle accident who need osteopathic care.

Education wise, NAO was instrumental to get governments and others to accept osteopathic education. We helped create the National Occupation Classification (NOA) for manual osteopathy in Canada. It is because of NAO that now many government back to work plans such as Ontario WORKS, BC WORKS and others cover full tuition for NAO DOMP program. The Canada Federal Student Grant program now also covers osteopathic education, same with Canada Veteran Affairs that now pays veterans to study osteopathy at National Academy of Osteopathy.

As manual osteopathy is a heritage of Indigenous Peoples, it was natural that Indigenous organizations such as First Nations and Metis Nation cover osteopathic education offered at NAO, specially since NAO is founded by an Indigenous Person as Dr Pourgol has been given the honorary tribal membership to the Southern Cherokee Nation and the Red Fire People (based in Helen, Georgia, United States) which he served as their Minister of Education.