Explaining Osteopathy

The following is a review of a new book which gives the biographical account of the founder of Osteopathy Dr. Andrew Taylor Still by Mr John Lewis.

[h4_underlined]A. T. STILL: FROM THE DRY BONE TO THE LIVING MAN by JOHN LEWIS[/h4_underlined]

AT Still by J Lewis

[h5_underlined] Review by KIRSTY MACFARLANE[/h5_underlined]



This is a beautiful and rare book. Beautiful, because each chapter is rich with its own story; rare, because every paragraph has been lovingly crafted and is immensely readable. A. T. Still: From the Dry Bone to the Living Man is an authoritative exploration of the life of Andrew Taylor Still and the birth of osteopathy. It is satisfyingly detailed and I found myself transported into Still’s life and times. I cannot imagine a more intriguing and interesting book under the category of ‘osteopathy.’

John has devoted fifteen years to researching and writing his book, five of those spent in Kirksville, almost literally on his subject’s doorstep. John was granted access to Still’s notes and papers as well as a wealth of original material from his students, contemporaries and patients. These voices enrich each chapter, as does the meticulous referencing that I found fascinating in its own right.

There is plenty to enjoy and discover. I was absorbed by material on how Still thought and experimented, and particularly liked this quote: ‘Intuiting that there must be a better way of healing the sick than introducing toxic substances into the body, he embarked on a lifelong quest to decipher the riddles of life and death, health and disease.’ I learned more as I read about the philosophical milestones of rationalism and empiricism and how these related to medicine as it was then and the development of osteopathy. I was struck, in reading their words, by how Still and his students seemed to reverberate with delight in the discoveries they were making. I loved the sense of excitement I felt reading passages relating to treatment and diagnosis. Still treated a wide range of cases and had startling successes such as restoring the sight of Margaret Hildreth, wife of his friend and colleague, who was going blind. His description of exactly how he treated her provides an invaluable lesson in osteopathic thinking. I found myself envying the freedom that early osteopaths had in treating their patients, and I sense that the scope of osteopathic practice has diminished.

Osteopathy was developed as a complete system of medicine including obstetrics and mental health. Today these are regarded as specialist subjects. In the book there are passages regarding childbirth which are practical and progressive by current standards. Still describes how he consistently delivered healthy babies when home-births were the only option. In 1914 the Still-Hildreth Sanatorium was set up to provide ‘sympathetic treatment for the mentally ill in a relaxed and enjoyable environment favourable for healing.’ Statistics on the results of treatment published fifteen years later showed success rates that were unprecedented at the time and probably remain so today.

There is more to this book than the story of osteopathy; it describes a different paradigm for health. It also provides the clearest map, for those that want it, to ‘keeping it pure.’ Reading it has enhanced my osteopathic thinking and my confidence as a practitioner. John has created a thoughtful exploration of his subject that deserves a place in each college library and every practice.

I have been reminded of the contribution osteopathy can make to modern healthcare and hope the book will become required reading within our profession. Those studying osteopathy, at whatever stage of their training, will find it invaluable. Those hoping to be convinced that they have made the right career choice will find the answer.

[h4_underlined]AVAILABLE NOW[/h4_underlined]  £29.95 + £4.50 p+p

[h4_underlined] Please email johnxlewis@hotmail.com[/h4_underlined]

And he will send you a PayPal invoice. Alternatively make
a bank transfer (please ask for details) or send a cheque payable to John Lewis to:   Hafod y Bryn, 2 Bowydd View,
Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd  LL41 3YW.  Telephone: 01766 831390