What is Osteopathy?

How is Osteopathy Defined?


Osteopathy was founded by American Andrew Taylor Still. Osteopathy is a manual form of healing which emphasizes the interrelationship between structure and function of the body. Osteopathic principles believe in the body’s ability to heal itself. Osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM), also known as osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) are the core set of techniques that distinguish from “Osteopathic Physicians” and mainstream medicine, more info is available here. Osteopathic practitioners diagnose and treat somatic dysfunction using manipulation of the patient’s bones and muscles.


At the Canadian Academy of Osteopathy we only teach Classical Osteopathy.

Classical Osteopathy stays true to the founding principles of the profession. The theory and application of these principles are at the root of all diagnoses and treatment. Skill is honed from a mastery of principles, not a memorization of techniques or adjustments. The classical osteopath is trained to treat conditions ranging from pain to organ dysfunction based on their in depth understanding of anatomy, physiology, pathology and how they relate to osteopathic principles.

Classical osteopathy means original – true to the roots – and the roots of osteopathy are based in principles. Osteopathic treatment without the application of principles it is simply not osteopathy. It’s just manual technique for different parts of the body and can’t be distinguished from any other form of manual therapy.
It’s about the principles – not memorizing techniques! Techniques are a dime a dozen. There are multiple techniques for every part of the body, but if you understand principles, you don’t need a single one. It’s the principles that should be applied to the anatomy and physiology, not the techniques. An understanding of the principles allows the practitioner to be innovative, and customize ways of treating based on the patient in the moment.

The CAO provides a principles-based classical osteopathy education rooted in a true understanding of osteopathic thinking, diagnosis and treatment.


Andrew Taylor Still, Founder of Classical Osteopathy

Osteopathy starts and ends with its founder, Andrew Taylor Still. Still claimed that human illness was rooted in problems with the musculoskeletal system, and that hands-on manipulations could solve these problems and effect a cure by harnessing the body’s own healing potential.

He was also a physician and surgeon, author, inventor and Kansas territorial and state legislator. Still was the founder of the American School of Osteopathy (now A.T. Still University), the world’s first osteopathic medical school, in Kirksville, Missouri. Still was also one of the first physicians to promote the idea of preventive medicine and the philosophy that physicians should focus on treating the disease rather than just the symptoms.

Still himself defined osteopathy as:

“that science which consists of such exact, exhaustive, and verifiable knowledge of the structure and function of the human mechanism, anatomical, physiological and psychological, including the chemistry and physics of its known elements, as has made discoverable certain organic laws and remedial resources, within the body itself, by which nature under the scientific treatment peculiar to osteopathic practice, apart from all ordinary methods of extraneous, artificial, or medicinal stimulation, and in harmonious accord with its own mechanical principles, molecular activities, and metabolic processes, may recover from displacements, disorganization, derangement, and consequent disease, and regained its normal equilibrium of form and function in health and strength”

Still’s principles drove the movement. This doesn’t mean discounting those who came after Still. All osteopaths must be studied. The key is to examine their work and highlight the evidence of osteopathic principles, because if it isn’t rooted in Stillian principles it isn’t osteopathy.

The CAO provides its students with extensive osteopathic theory and history. We examine the old literature, the writings of the early osteopaths and those who came after them, to highlight the founding principles on which this profession is based.


What is a Master in Practice Diploma of Osteopathic Manipulative Sciences?

The M. OMSc Program is a 4 year, professional manual osteopathic designation. Each year contains both a clinical and theoretical component. For students starting in the fall, classroom modules are completed over the fall, with the practical training starting in the spring and continuing through the summer. For students starting on in the spring, the process is flipped. Completion of this program will allow graduates to gain membership to the Ontario Osteopathic Association (OOA). The OOA is a professional association recognized by the Canadian insurance industry. To learn more about our M. OMSc Program please click here.

Are there Osteopathic education options for those without a background in osteopathy?

The CAO has an inductions osteopathy program in the form of additional classes for students that have have not studied health care or do not meet the entry requirements for anatomy and physiology.


What is a DO of Osteopathy in the United States?

DO stands for Doctor of Osteopathy or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine in the United States. DOs are licensed to practice medicine and surgery in the United States, the same as an MD. DO’s receive the same western medicine training approach but also additional training in osteopathic manipulation and osteopathic philosophy. At the Canadian Academy of Osteopathy we teach osteopathic manipulation and osteopathic philosophy.

Classical Osteopathy vs Eclectic Osteopathy

Where classical osteopathy encompasses an understanding of principles and can stand on its own, Eclectic Osteopathy is taught as a series of memorized techniques or manipulations for different parts of the body. Eclectic osteopathy lacks founding principles and theory and is typically layered onto an existing modality like massage therapy or physiotherapy. These types of programs are prevalent in Europe and in Canada.

CAO - Andrew Taylor Still (1905)

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August 15th, 2017 at 8:45 a.m. until Noon at the Canadian Academy of Osteopathy