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Notes from the Practice of Harold Goodman, D.O.

Osteopathy is just common sense  Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Over sixty percent of the body mass is comprised of the musculoskeletal system. This system not only functions as the primary support for everything else but also is what allows us to perform actions and express ourselves. Whether it's vision, eating( one of my favorites),moving about, hearing, speaking, or just about any activity including digestion, elimination, and so on, the musculoskeletal system does it. It also connects everything else in the body. We might expand it to call it the neuromusculoskeletal system.

You might guess that an important system like this would be a central focus for physicians. Guess again. It's not. Medicine, as you will have noticed, concentrates on the organ systems ( heart, lungs, liver,etc.). Also, the medical paradigm, the way medicine views patients and the world is reductionistic. That of course reflects the entire attitude of almost all areas of our society. Things are separated from one another and seen as unique, vaguely related entities. Then we have specialists for the heart, the glands, the liver and so on. Unfortunately, the body was never informed of this and it operates as one unit. What a drag!

The body just doesn't get it. It just doesn't understand that it is supposed to operate as a bunch of separate parts. Obviously, God is inept. Right? I don't think so. Maybe we, as physicians, need to pay more attention to what the body actually does....on its terms and in its language, not our own conceptual overlays.

So, along came Andrew Taylor Still, MD, a nineteenth century physician and surgeon. He lost three kids to spinal meningitis. It was a horrible experience for him and his family. The best doctors were called and the children all died. Dr. Still was a very spiritual man. He asked, Is it possible that God has created man to suffer like this? Maybe there is something for us (him) to learn in all of this.

Of course, great discoveries always happen in this way. A single wo(man) asks an obvious question. Unlike others, they are propelled to actually seek out an answer. Dr. Still quit medicine and decided to start from scratch. Just to study and learn from the body as it actually functions. To let Nature be his teacher.

He quickly realized that the body in its unhindered state was quite able to function and repair itself as need arose. It was complete. It lacked nothing as far as function. In medical school I was taught that over 80% of all illness will resolve on its own. This is the work of the body. It has been around awhile and knows what it is doing.

The body is run by an Intelligence which unites all of us. Dr. Still realized that each of us is somehow linked to this Intelligence. Without it we couldn't exist for a second and, furthermore, would never even have been brought into existence. Man is not just a bunch of physical components. We are something more. We smile, laugh, cry, create great music, experience love and so much more. There is something more going on here than the biochemical explanation of the medical world. Dr. Still realized this.

He found that the neuromusculoskeletal system is the gateway to accessing human function. It is linked to everything, without exception, that goes on in our body. It tenses when we are nervous. It relaxes when we listen to beautiful music or see the face of our beloved. It is the mirror of every aspect of man.

Dr. Still realized that by studying the interrelationships of all parts of the body as the operation of One system he could better aid his patients. He then found how he could use his hands in very gentle ways to work with the body's own reparative forces and promote normalized function. This translates into an absence of symptoms. It comes about when the body finds balance.

He called this approach osteopathy. He said that he discovered osteopathy. Osteopathy includes all of the contributions of medicine and surgery and integrates them in a way that genuinely respects the body's Intelligence in design and function. It is a complete and humanistic approach to helping people who ask for help. It is based on the laws of Nature, not those promulgated by medical theoreticians. And, as I have found over the last seventeen years of practice, it works.

In short, osteopathy is the practice of really trusting that the body's Intelligence knows what it is doing and has created the symptoms with which the patient presents as a means to find balance. What we label disease ( the lack of ease) is really an Intelligent response to stressors. It is the best the body can do given its current resources. The osteopath understands and respects this. We listen to the body and allow it to guide us in helping it to find its perfect homeostasis or balance.

Based on the body of knowledge accumulated by medical science over the years the osteopathic physician attends to the patient as they actually are. He does not consider them as sick, damaged, diseased. He knows that Health is not the absence of symptoms. Health is a Force which is always finding our perfect balance in every situation no matter how stressful.

The osteopath seeks Health. We do not concentrate on "disease". The body doesn't know it has a problem. It just knows that in this situation it, too, desires balance. The osteopath uses his trained hands and well honed understanding of human anatomy and function ( physiology) to support the system in its perfect balance.

It is quite simple. Osteopathy is just common sense applied to the practice of medicine.

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