Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Does Osteopathy Have Better Scientific Credentials Than Chiropractic?

By Des Wiggins

A continuing misperception exists among healthcare providers: that the origins of osteopathy are less pseudoscientific than its 19th century counterpart, chiropractic.

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I was reminded of this problem again last month. A patient was referred by a local GP with the clear directive that she was to receive osteopathic treatment, not chiropractic. Questioned, the patient narrated how her doctor considered that osteopathy had a “scientific” basis. In his words, “Osteopathy was not 19th century nonsense like chiropractic”. After all, the practice had been assimilated into mainstream medicine in the 20th century.

As a registered osteopath and chiropractor who is well versed in the “real” history of both modalities, I find this stance puzzling given how analogous the origins of the two treatments really are.

The founder of osteopathy, Andrew Taylor Still (1874), and the founder of chiropractic, Daniel David Palmer (1896), both contended that the germ theory of disease was invalid, and simultaneously advocated that drugs, surgery and vaccination were dangerous and unnecessary. Both claimed that all disease was the result of misalignments within the skeletal system, particularly the spine. These misalignments supposedly interfered with the flow of an intangible circulating inner force (Still’s “mind” and Palmer’s “innate intelligence”), and correcting these misalignments could cure disease. Elements of several metaphysical religions (spiritualism, Swedenborgianism and Christian science) provided the foundation for their respective...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.