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Osteopathy or osteopathic medicine is an approach to healthcare that emphasizes the role of the musculoskeletal system in health and disease.

Osteopathy was founded by Andrew Taylor Still, an American physician. Still was disillusioned with the orthodox medicines of the time. He had been an Army surgeon in the American Civil War and subsequently lost most of his children to infectious diseases. In 1892, he founded the first school of osteopathy, the American School of Osteopathy (now known as the A. T. Still University), in Kirksville, Missouri. The first osteopathic college outside the USA, the British School of Osteopathy, was founded by a Scottish medical practitioner who had been a student of Still's, Dr. Martin Littlejohn. Osteopathy then spread to British colonies, particularly Australia and New Zealand. Today osteopathy is practiced in many countries in Europe and beyond.

In the United States an American-trained D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) is legally and professionally equivalent to an M.D. in all 50 states, since their medical education and training is mostly identical. Thus a 'medical doctor' may be a physician who is a graduate of a medical school and has the designation of M.D., or an osteopathic medical school and has the designation of D.O..

Outside of the United States, osteopathy has been considered a form of complementary medicine, emphasizing a holistic approach and the skilled use of a range of manual and physical treatment interventions in the prevention and treatment of disease. In practice, this most commonly relates to musculoskeletal problems such as back and neck pain. Osteopathic principles teach that treatment of the musculoskeletal system (bones, muscles and joints) aids the recuperative powers of the body.

'Osteopathy' and 'osteopathic medicine' are often used inter-changeably.[1] The American Osteopathic Association recommends using 'osteopathic medicine' to describe 'American Osteopathy', practiced by physicians, and use osteopathy to describe the restricted-scope form of practice in other jurisdictions.[2] Osteopathy or osteopathic medicine has an international organization, The World Osteopathic Health Organization (WOHO),[3] which permits membership by both 'restricted scope manual therapist' osteopaths and American osteopathic physicians. Not all 'Osteopaths' are physicians. Similarly, there is also an international organization for statutory regulators, universities/medical schools offering osteopathic education and professional osteopathic associations, the Osteopathic International Alliance (OIA).[4] It is contestable that osteopathy/osteopathic medicine are two completely distinct professions; the regulatory framework determines the scope of practice in a particular jurisdiction and that is subject to change. In the UK, Australia and New Zealand, osteopaths have a 'physicianly' training, are regulated primary healthcare professionals and have never been subordinate to the medical opinion, diagnosing un-triaged patients and treating or referring them on as indicated. Some of these practitioners use the honorific 'Dr'. The distinction between American osteopathic physicians and manual therapy osteopaths may be lessening, with decreased communication between different countries and concurrent evolution of scope of practice.

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