Birth of osteopathy in the United States

Osteopathy came into being in the middle of the 19th century thanks to an American doctor called Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917). He first practised “classical” medicine in the American Middle West, where life was wild and hard, and where medicine was not very developed.

That medicine (“heroic” medicine) combined some well-known European remedies, Indian medicine and a theory advanced by Benjamin Rush according to which stagnation of the blood provokes illness.

But many dramatic events, including the death from illness of many of his children, were to lead Dr. Still to question the medicine of the times. Thus he stopped practising in order to study and bring to light “thank god, the principles of a new medicine, more certain, more effective, and closer to nature.”

“On 22 June 1874, I raised the banner of osteopathy into the wind” he wrote in his autobiography.

After having been rejected by the colleagues to whom he presented his new theory, he continued to criss-cross the country trying to convince everyone, while treating those who trusted him. His reputation among the public grew day by day.

Finally he settled in Kirksville (a small Missouri town), where he first trained his sons so that they could help him with his many patients, and in 1892 he founded the first school of osteopathy, the American School of Osteopathy, which still exists and now bears the name Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Some months later, Dr. Still opened a clinic that attracted thousands of ill people. The influx was such that it soon became necessary to construct a railroad line from Kansas City to Kirksville, as well as to build numerous hotels in the town, which became very prosperous thanks to the “Old Doctor.”

Gradually, all the American states came to recognize osteopathic medicine and now American DOs practice their art completely legally. They have the same rights and obligations as physicians.

Osteopathy in Europe

In 1898, Dr. Still treated a patient from England, Dr. Littlejohn. After having been cured by Still, he became his student and very quickly started teaching in the college. He qualified in 1900.

In 1918, he created the first European school of osteopathy, in London: the British School of Osteopathy.

Gradually, many schools came into being in Europe and the wave of osteopathy became as big as that in the United States, especially as from the 1970s.

Most European osteopaths still fight today for the recognition of their profession, which is recognized and legalized in England, and in the process of being recognized in Belgium.