Andrew Taylor Still MD DO (1828–1917) developed a new approach to restoring and maintaining health whilst practicing as a medical doctor in Missouri in the late 1800s. As a child he had suffered headaches and had always eased them by using a rope suspended between two trees as a pillow. He wrote, “I lay stretched on my back, with my neck across the rope. Soon I became easy and went to sleep, got up in a little while with the headache all gone.”
His medical training later in life led him to realise that this ‘treatment’ had “suspended the action of the great occipital nerves and given harmony to the flow of the arterial blood to and through the veins”. He diligently researched and developed his theory that many different body parts work together as a synergistic whole; only when the all parts of the body are working together in harmony, he believed, can the body heal itself and be free of disease.
At the same time, Still developed a method of putting his hands on patients that could correct small misalignments within the body, help to restore harmony and thereby restore health to his patients in a natural way without the use of drugs or invasive treatments.
To this day, osteopaths use their hands in the same way as Andrew Taylor Still to encourage natural healing and self-correction.
Osteopathy comes to Britain
It was not many years before Andrew Taylor Still’s theories and practises had enough popularity in America that American-trained osteopaths brought their skills and knowledge to Britain. The British Osteopathic Association was founded in 1911 and the British School of Osteopathy in 1915 (by J Martin Littlejohn and Dr Horne). The profession of osteopathy grew and, whilst most people saw it as a specialist treatment for backache, some osteopaths also came to specialise in visceral techniques (helping with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome), in cranial techniques (for a myriad of different conditions) and in treating children.
Whilst in America Osteopathy has long been accepted as part of orthodox medicine, it took rather longer for Britain to embrace it in the same way.
After various attempts throughout the twentieth century to establish voluntary regulatory bodies, it was not until after 1993 (The Osteopaths’ Act) that osteopathy finally received the recognition it deserves.
The Osteopaths’ Act (1993) led to the establishment of the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC), a body which maintains standards and regulates practices to protect the general public. All osteopaths underwent a rigorous assessment process before being accepted onto the GOsC register and it is now illegal to call oneself an osteopath or to practise as an osteopath unless you are registered with the GOsC.
After the GOsC came into being to protect the general public, The British Osteopathic Association (The BOA, the oldest of the association bodies for osteopaths) almost disappeared. However, its council decided to merge with two of the other voluntary bodies, the Osteopathic Association of Great Britain and the Guild of Osteopaths, in 1998 and continues (as the IOst) to offer regulatory and association services supporting its osteopath members.