Osteopathy is a type of alternative medicine that emphasizes physical manipulation of muscle tissue and bones. Practitioners of osteopathy are referred to as osteopaths. Its name derives from Ancient Greek “bone” (ὀστέον) and “sensitive to” or “responding to” (-πάθεια).
The vast majority of the analysis made concluded that no significant positive effect was observed due to osteopathic treatment.
Osteopathic manipulation is the core set of techniques in osteopathy and osteopathic medicine. Parts of osteopathy, such as cranial therapy, have no therapeutic value and have been labeled as pseudoscience. The techniques are based on an ideology created by Andrew Taylor Still (1828–1917) which posits the existence of a “myofascial continuity”—a tissue layer that “links every part of the body with every other part”. Osteopaths attempt to diagnose and treat what was originally called “the osteopathic lesion”, but which is now named “somatic dysfunction”, by manipulating a person’s bones and muscles. OMT techniques are most commonly used to treat back pain and other musculoskeletal issues.
In the United States, the training of osteopathic physicians (who practice osteopathic medicine, not osteopathy) has become substantially similar to that of MD physicians. The 21st century training of osteopathic physicians in the United States is equivalent to the training of Doctors of Medicine (MDs). While osteopathic manipulation is still included in the curricula of osteopathic physicians, and is promoted as a unique aspect of DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) training, this has been described as nothing more than “‘extra’ training in pseudoscientific practices”. Osteopathic medical schools have been criticized as weaker in research than MD schools with regard to research and the understanding of scientific inquiry. In the US, graduates of osteopathic programs have the option to sit both the osteopathic physician-specific COMLEX medical licensing exam and the general USMLE licensing exam.
As of July 1, 2020 all post-graduate training programs officially merged and are accredited under a single accreditation system. While DOs and MDs have long trained alongside one another in (MD) residency programs, the single accreditation residency merger transitioned the few remaining osteopathic programs to create one residency system for all physicians regardless of the degree they hold. In other countries, training may focus primarily on osteopathy and does not include a standard medical education, with graduates being referred to as “[non-physician] osteopaths”. Regulatory oversight and the legal framework in which practitioners operate vary greatly from country to country.