Yesterday my 10th patient reported that she had turned a corner and was feeling significantly better. Now that the shock from the car accident had left her, now that she was in less pain, she wanted to know what exactly I was doing. Normally, this question is hard for me. But today, after 9 patients, I was ready to take a break from working and chat. I still had to answer the question though, and the first words out of my mouth were “looking for magic and miracles.”
I mean seriously, this woman had been in a major accident and after only two treatments was 90% better. Who am I to say this is not magic, not a miracle? But I have a loyalty to my tradition, so I dove in to the real answer. Osteopathy is about finding normal. Osteopathy is about removing obstructions so that normal flow is returned. Flow of the circulatory system, flow of the cerebrospinal fluid, flow of the lymphatics, flow of interstitial and cellular fluids. Osteopathy is about “finding health, anyone can find disease”( a.t. Still).
She listened and she heard me. So I went on. It’s about the breathing — breathing not just of the respiratory system, but of whatever force breathes us into being. And all of those movements – the fluid, the breath – come from one fulcrum and should be synchronized. Maybe that means improving symmetry and amplitude, and maybe not. It’s my job to find the health that is moving your body towards that one fulcrum.
She was still with me. But now she wanted to know how this came to be part of medical school. “Pretty esoteric,” she said, “for a doctor.”
The truth is, there is hypocrisy is in the medical institution, within osteopathic organizations. Maybe hypocrisy is too strong a word – Osteopathic institutions have evolved with our society. In school we learn techniques, history, and philosophy. And though there are some amazing dedicated real osteopathic doctors teaching these students, the amount of information that is not osteopathic overwhelms the message. The result – we don’t truly learn traditional osteopathy in medical school. The lucky few, that go on to be traditional osteopaths, meet mentors, and hear in medical school truths in the history and the philosophy, and learn the foundational material to pursue those truths.
The foundational material needed to be an osteopathic physician is anatomy, embryology, physiology, and biochemistry. Then there is the path… the path is built in the words of A.T. Still and Sutherland. It was smoothed and cleared by Becker, Ann Wales, Ruby Day, Viola Fryman, Jim Jealous… there are more, if you’ve read my website you know my primary teacher now is Jim Jealous, a man who is quick to point out he didn’t invent Osteopathy.
All these great Osteopaths either wrote or taught, or both, and they carried on the tradition of Osteopathy. Osteopathy is actually the path. A.T. Still didn’t teach techniques, he taught anatomy and ideas. The ideas are Osteopathy. What we do with those ideas, we do with our hands and people get well. Some days it feels like magic, some days it feels like a miracle, and sometimes it is hard ego bruising work. But at the end of today, I am so grateful to be trudging this path. Thank you Dr. Still.