Osteopathic Principles

As an potential osteopathic medical student you should know and understand the principles of osteopathic medicine. Read through the principles listed below. and think about what they mean to you.

The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association has stated that the principles of osteopathic medicine are:

  • The body is a unit, and the person represents a combination of body, mind, and spirit.
  • The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health maintenance.
  • Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated.
  • Rational treatment is based on an understanding of these principles: body unity, self-regulation, and the interrelationship of structure and function.

These principles are very important and separate osteopathic medicine from its allopathic counterpart.

First, osteopathic physicians treat the whole patient, not just symptoms. Far too often a patient will enter the doctors office, state their problem, and leave with a prescription for a drug that will cover up that symptom. An osteopathic physician is taught to take into account what could be causing the symptom, and to consider all the possible ways to fix the problem, not just mask it. Maybe lifestyle changes (physical or mental) could help. Maybe there is a musculoskeletal problem that is causing a problem in them that is manifesting itself as their symptom. Or maybe the patient really does need that medication. A DO is trained to analyse and treat the patient, not just the symptom.

Second, the body is able to regulate itself. The body is constantly working to heal an maintain a healthy state. With the right care and lifestyle changes a patient can overcome illness and other problems. An osteopathic physician is taught how to recognize when to let the body heal itself, and when to step in and help with medications or surgery.

Third, structure and function are interrelated and can affect one another. For example:

Poor nutrition can lead to immunity and inflammation problems. Those problems can lead to gastrointestinal issues. Gastro issues may cause problem with detoxification. Problems with detoxification can lead to oxidative stress and lower energy production. These problems can then lead to environmental stress which may influence the patient’s poor nutritional habits.

It is important for a physician to understand that the patient is more than what they state as their symptom. As a DO you are trained from day one to take into account the interrelation of structure and function.

Last of all, understanding these principles and abiding by them helps the physician to make the best possible choice for the patient. Hopefully the physician can pass this understanding along to the ones they treat.