Dr. Robert F. Kidd    

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See also: Cranial Osteopathy

Osteopathy is a medical philosophy that originated in the American mid-west in the late 1800's. It is a way of thinking about health and disease and not, (as is sometimes thought) a system of manipulation.

It's founder, AT Still was a physician who became dissatisfied with the dangerous medications and unsatisfactory treatments of the time. In an attempt to find a safer, more natural way of healing, he developed a medical philosophy that emphasized the body's own recuperative powers.

Still recognized that there is an intimate connection between the body's intrinsic mobility and its ability to defend itself from disease. If motion is restricted, circulation is impaired and tissues become more vulnerable to disease. Since the musculoskeletal system is the main organ of motion, Still believed that maintaining its proper function was a key to optimizing health.

Still had an enthusiasm for anatomy and physiology and exhorted his students "to never tire of hunting the cause of disease". He encouraged use of the hands to find and treat areas of the body where bones were displaced or where joint motion was impaired. In his writings he says surprisingly little about technique, but much about his medical philosophy.

This use of the hands is called osteopathic manipulation. Over the last 100 years, many different techniques have developed and are now taught in osteopathic medical schools and by osteopathic educational organizations. Some techniques are characterized by quick, low-amplitude "thrusts", (similar to those used by chiropractors), others by gentle slow pressure or traction. Some involve patient co-operation and yet others work by careful positioning of limbs or spine and waiting for tissue "release".

The history of osteopathy is interesting and important to understand, as "osteopathy" has come to have different meanings in different parts of the world. Osteopathy began in the US, had its roots in orthodox medicine, and has there always included a full medical education. The osteopathic degree in the US (DO, or doctor of osteopathy) means that the holder is trained to practice medicine without limitation. In other words, he (or she) may prescribe, perform surgery, deliver babies or practice psychiatry in the same way as does a physician holding a MD degree. The osteopathic profession has all the medical specialties that the MD profession does and in many places (e.g. the military), DOs and MDs work side by side.

The situation is more complex in other parts of the world. In Europe, osteopathic training is much shorter and practice is limited to manipulation. In Britain, osteopathic training may be either of the limited European kind, or it may be an "add-on" to a conventional medical training (MD). Canada's situation is even more confused, with a handful of American-trained (fully licensed) DO physicians, and a larger number of European (or Quebec) -trained practitioners with varying backgrounds. A few of these are physicians; others are physiotherapists, nurses or massage therapists. Some who call themselves "osteopaths" have no medical training at all.

Dr. Kidd is not an osteopathic physician and does not have formal osteopathic training. However osteopathic philosophy is a major influence on his own philosophy of practice and he almost always uses his hands in diagnosis and treatment. Dr. Kidd has conducted research on topics related to osteopathy, has published in osteopathic and other journals of manipulative medicine, and has lectured and given workshops in osteopathic medical schools and in conferences on musculoskeletal topics.