About Osteopathy

Osteopathy is a client-centred discipline that is based on understanding the relationship between structure and function in order to enhance the body’s inherent ability to heal. It relies on skilled manual therapeutic techniques to assess and treat the client, guiding the natural self-healing properties of the human body.

The philosophy of Osteopathy is based on four basic principles:

  • Each structure in the body supports the body’s functions.
  • The natural flow of the body’s fluids – lymphatic, vascular and neurological – must be preserved and maintained.
  • The human body is the sum of its parts. Its physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and cognitive systems don’t work independently - they work in harmony.
  • When the body has no restrictions, it has the inherent ability to heal itself.

Osteopathic Manual Practitioners recognize a person as an integrated whole. When all of the body’s components are in balance, a person is complete and in total health. Osteopathic Manual Practitioners work to maintain, improve and restore the normal physiological function of interrelated body structures and systems, enhancing the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

Using various manual assessment and techniques and modalities, Osteopathic Manual Practitioners work to identify and ease restrictions, constrictions and pain; reduce swelling; improve tissue mobility; and promote proper function and healing in people of all ages.


Traditional allopathic medicine in North America was very crude in the nineteenth century. Blistering, blood-letting, and purging were common therapies at this time. When surgery was performed, the techniques used were not precise, there were few (if any) anesthetics, and hygiene was poor.

Physicians were quite helpless when they tried to treat many conditions, including meningitis. When a meningitis epidemic struck in Missouri in 1864, Dr. Andrew Taylor Still lost three of his children.

Dr. Still was trained in allopathic medicine, but he was unable to fight the disease effectively. He began looking for a new medical model – a safe, effective way to treat patients. Dr. Still spent ten years studying health and disease in the context of human anatomy. The main concepts of modern osteopathy are a result of his work.

Dr. Still founded the American School of Osteopathy (ASO) in 1892. A few Canadians (including some who were already medical doctors) travelled to the United States to learn osteopathy. They returned to Canada to practice osteopathy.


In August, the Dominion Institute of Osteopathy produced and released a pamphlet entitled, “The Canadian Osteopath”.


By this time, the American School of Osteopathy was graduating 300 students a year. Alumni of the school were practicing osteopathy across the United States, Canada, and Europe. U.S. osteopathic physicians yearned for their profession to be regulated by the government. The first state to regulate osteopathy was Vermont (in 1891), and the last state to do so was Louisiana (in 1973).


Osteopathic physicians in Canada formed the Canadian Osteopathic Association. But since health care is a provincial responsibility and health care professions are regulated by the provinces, different restrictions were put on the practice of osteopathy in each province. Osteopathic physicians in Canada wanted to be given equal status with allopathic physicians (doctors of traditional Western medicine) but at this time, allopathic medical associations did not want osteopathic physicians to participate along with them in the same way, within the Canadian health care system.

There continues to be no osteopathic medical schools anywhere in Canada to the present day.


U.S. trained osteopathic physicians in Quebec were charged with practicing medicine without a license. The charges were eventually dropped on the condition that no new osteopathic physicians be allowed to come to Quebec.

In most provinces, osteopathic physicians were granted the status of "drugless practitioners". They were not allowed to prescribe drugs, do surgery, or work in obstetrics. As a result of these restrictions, the number of osteopathic physicians in Canada began to decrease.


The Canadian Royal Commission on Health Services published a report called Study of Chiropractors, Osteopaths and Naturopaths in Canada. This report gave three main reasons for the declining number of osteopathy in Canada:

There was no legislation for the practice of osteopathy.

Professional education and training for osteopathic medicine was not available in Canada.

At this time, there were many osteopathic physicians in the United States (11,000) but only a few in Canada (100).


The number of U.S. trained osteopathic physicians working in Canada is still declining. Osteopathy in Canada is facing extinction.


A group of health practitioners in Quebec invited Philippe Druelle, an osteopath from France, to teach osteopathy in Quebec. This led to the development of the College d’Etudes Osteopathiques (CEO), which offered a part-time program. The program includes 5 years of clinical and academic study in osteopathic manipulation and a research thesis.

The program was taught in Montreal by European osteopaths (non-medical osteopathy practitioners).

To date, this program has trained 600 osteopaths, and today it has 350 students. Other osteopathy schools have been formed in Canada since 1982, but the CEO is still the largest.


The CEO started a school in Toronto — the Canadian College of Osteopathy (CCO). Its program is also five years of rigorous part-time study followed by a research thesis. Ten students were enrolled in the program in 1992. Today, there are well over 200 students attending CCO. Branch campuses offer the same osteopathy program in Winnipeg, Vancouver and Halifax.


The Medicine Act, 1991 is proclaimed in Ontario. Only members of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario can use the title "osteopath", an abbreviation or variation in another language.


Osteopathic physicians and osteopathic manual practitioners start schools in Hamilton, Oakville and Toronto, Ontario. The programs are of various part-time lengths. All the schools teach manual osteopathic practice.


The World Osteopathic Health Organization (WOHO) is formed. Its aim is to develop worldwide standards for osteopathic physicians and manual practitioners. WOHO continues its work until 2010.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) begins licensing U.S. trained osteopathic physicians as physicians in Ontario. The CPSO decides that anyone who holds a Doctor of Osteopathy degree from an American Osteopathic Association accredited medical school is eligible to apply to be a member. Today, there are still only a handful of osteopathic physicians who are members of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.


The World Health Organization publishes "Benchmarks in Training in Osteopathy".

Today and into the future.

Today, Canada benefits from having U.S. trained osteopathic physicians, European-trained osteopathic practitioners (non-physician manual practitioners) and Canadian-trained practitioners. We have a unique opportunity to draw on the skills and knowledge of both of these groups to develop a distinct Canadian system of osteopathic health care.

Thanks to the presence of European-trained osteopathic practitioners, many more Canadians are benefiting from osteopathic care. In addition, allopathic physicians are beginning to see the benefits of osteopathic care.

Many Canadian osteopathic training programs emphasize research. The results of this research will benefit practitioners, the public, and the delivery of health care in Canada. Our members, osteopathic manual practitioners, promote the highest standards of safe and effective osteopathic education, training, and practice.

Man is composed of matter, movement, and spirit.
– A.T. Still, Founder of Osteopathy

OAO members have extensive education and clinical training, effectively assessing and assisting clients using a range of manual techniques. They use a philosophy that identifies and restores areas in the body that are restricted or constricted. They evaluate the body and employ a holistic approach to achieve improved outcomes. Osteopathic Manual Practitioners work cooperatively and in communication with physicians and other health care professionals.

The aim of your Osteopathic Manual Practitioner is to optimize the self-healing mechanisms of the body. The frequency of visits is based on your assessment. Adequate time between visits is required to allow your body to integrate the changes that occur from one visit to the next.

Active and Affiliate members of the OAO must be graduates of a Board-approved, osteopathic educational institution.

Direct techniques

A combination of functional techniques, strain-counterstrain methods and facilitated positional release techniques.

Indirect techniques

A combination of functional techniques, strain-counterstrain methods and facilitated positional release techniques.

Balancing techniques

Works on ligamentous tension and ligamentous articulatory strain.

Combined techniques

Comprised of myofascial release, fascial unwinding, myotensive techniques, still techniques, exaggeration techniques, cranial techniques, and visceral and neural mobilization.

Reflex-based techniques

Such as Chapman’s reflexes, trigger points and neuromuscular techniques.

Fluid techniques

Including lymphatic and visceral pump techniques.

Osteopathic care is an efficient and effective solution, helping clients return to health and to their normal activities. Taking care of the body as a whole ensures that the whole body is in its most optimal state.

    Feeding Issues
  • Acute or Chronic Pain
  • Digestive Problems
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Respiratory Difficulties
  • Postural Problems


Soft tissue manipulation can be used in many different ways. This method is used to evaluate the condition of tissues, ease restrictions, help the body’s fluids (blood, lymph, etc.) flow smoothly and restore function. Optimal neuro-vascular flow helps to reduce harmful fluid retention and allows the body’s immune system to work more effectively. Throughout the care, Osteopathic Manual Practitioners will continuously check on the state of the body’s tissues. The goal is to gently guide the tissue back to health without over-treating.


The osteopathic articular technique, involving gently moving two joint surfaces, is used to reduce muscle spasms, ease neurological irritations, assist in joint mobility and help reduce pain and discomfort. It is a less forceful technique than joint manipulation. Osteopathic Manual Practitioners will carefully prepare the soft tissues around the treatment area, positioning the patient so that there is minimal (if any) force needed to perform the maneuver.


As the gentlest osteopathic technique, Cranial Osteopathy is also one of the most significant. It is used to assess and treat the mobility of the skull and its contents. It may also be used to assess and treat the spine, sacrum and other parts of the body. The goal of this technique is to adjust the body’s physiology by restoring balance and optimal neuro-vascular flow surrounding the Central Nervous System and all of its autonomic centers. Osteopathic Manual Practitioners achieve this by treating the body’s inherent biorhythm. Osteopathic Manual Practitioners trained in this technique can feel this rhythm in the patient’s head, spinal cord, and in the sacrum and the rest of the body.


Visceral Manipulation is used to effectively treat organs and viscera of the body, including the lungs, heart, liver, spleen, kidneys, stomach, pancreas, intestines, the bladder and the uterus. Osteopathic Manual Practitioners will gently move the structures themselves and the fascia that surrounds them to restore full movement. Applied with gentle pressure, visceral manipulation corrections can improve the mobility of an organ, improve neuro-vascular flow surrounding the organ and ultimately help maximize organ function.