Supporting Osteopathy - Locally and Globally

Vitality of Truth

Since 1874, Osteopaths around the world have been providing their patients with an original understanding of health that pinpoints the true cause behind symptoms. The SFOW is committed to upholding the fundamental principles and traditions of Osteopathy. We are an organization that is committed to rigorous professional standards and membership criteria that ensure public safety by representing practitioners with the highest level of manual osteopathic training. To understand our principles and mission it’s important to learn more about where we came from.

History of Osteopathy

The origin of Osteopathy arises from the passion of one man:  Dr. Andrew Taylor Still.  At age ten, and without any knowledge of anatomy, Still began to treat his own headaches and stomach disorders. Andrew gained his education working alongside his father who was a doctor and a farmer. There is no record of Andrew training in medicine and it must be assumed that he served an apprenticeship with his father. In 1864,  Still lost members of his family to spinal meningitis. At that moment, he began a lifelong search for a new method of healing the afflicted. In his 1897 autobiography, Dr. Still published two of his key findings:

  •  “Nature is never without necessary remedies.”
  •  “Nature is the only Doctor man should respect.”

The Birth of Osteopathy

Dr. Still wrote: “On June 22d, 1874, I flung to the breeze the banner of Osteopathy.  For twenty-three years it has withstood the storms, cyclones, and blizzards of opposition.  Her threads are stronger today than when the banner was first woven.  Her colors have grown so bright that millions now begin to see and admire and seek shelter under her protecting folds from disease and death.  Mothers and fathers come by legions, and ask why this flag was not thrown to the breeze before.”  Osteopathy was to be a drug-less manual form of medicine that only relied on surgery only in extreme cases.

The Growth and Development of Osteopathy

After years of research and practice Dr. Still coined the term Osteopathy and began teaching this new art and science at the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri, USA during the year 1892. The fundamental principles that he used to found Osteopathy may be summarized as follows:

  • A Person is a dynamic unit of function
  • A person has self-healing, repairing, and defense mechanisms
  • Structure (anatomy) and function (physiology) are interrelated at all levels
  • Rational treatment considers and uses these basic principles

In the late 1800′s,  Osteopathy was introduced to John Martin Littlejohn PhD,  who went on make key contributions to the field.  Littlejohn had been forced to leave his native England in search for a better climate due to his ailing health. In 1897, he received a treatment from Dr. Still and improved after only one treatment.  He was so intrigued by Dr. Still’s work that he registered as a student at the American School of Osteopathy.  It was there that he not only learned all the principles of Osteopathy from Dr. Still,  but taught physiology to his fellow students.  Following graduation, he established the Littlejohn College of Osteopathy and Hospital in Chicago in 1900. He taught and practised until 1913, when he returned to London and founded the British School of Osteopathy (BSO) and the Journal of Osteopathy in 1917, finally laying the foundations for Osteopathy in Europe.

John Martin Littlejohn eventually decided to pass on the torch to a young man named John Wernham.  Wernham was passionate about film and photography but under the influence of Littlejohn studied to become an Osteopath in 1928 at the BSO.  With the death of Littlejohn in 1947 and the restructuring at the BSO, Wernham established the Maidstone Osteopathic Clinic in 1949.   Mr. Wernham’s clinic was the home for the Institute of Applied Technique which he cofounded with T. E .Hall and Jocelyn Proby in 1956.  The name was then changed to the Institute of Classical Osteopathy in the 1990′s.  The aim of the Institute was “to bring together in one body those members of our profession who are prepared to interpret and apply osteopathy as it was laid down by A. T. Still.”
Under its Constitution the Institute is designed:

  • to promote research into the skeletal structure and mechanics of the physiological movements of the spine, and the techniques based thereon;
  • to preserve the fundamentals of the osteopathic concept and to create a nomenclature by which the mechanics of the osteopathic techniques may best be described;
  • to publish books and pamphlets of a technical nature, to build up a library, and by these means to gradually establish a centre to which the profession may look for assistance in technical problems

John Wernham had a tremendous passion for teaching others about Classical Osteopathy. In 1974, he played a key role in the formation of the European School of Osteopathy, which found its home in the Maidstone Osteopathic Clinic.  It eventually relocated to its current address in 1983.  This sparked John Wernham to found the Maidstone College of Osteopathy in 1984, which was devoted to the teaching of Dr. J. M. Littlejohn.  The College was renamed The John Wernham College of Classical Osteopathy (JWCCO) in 1996 in honour of its founder.  The College continues the legacy left by John Wernham through the Clinic, Postgraduate Courses on Classical Osteopathy, and publishing. John Wernham was practising, teaching, writing and publishing until his death at nearly 100 years of age.

These founders helped shape the way we treat and care for our patients. They contributed greatly to our view of the human body and how we can help everyone to live longer, healthier lives.