Dear health enthusiast,
I sat in my medical school class as a new osteopathic medical student. I was finally embarking on my journey towards being a doctor. It was something I had sought after for so long. After a few minutes of sitting in the chair, I began feeling a familiar discomfort in my back and hips. It was a feeling that I was far too familiar with. I had had it for as long as I can remember.
It was this achy feeling and this sensation that the bones in my back needed to “pop” and I could not be comfortable until I tried. I twisted my back in one direction and a series of “pops” went up my spine. I twisted the other way and another series of “pops” happened again. Then I had to twist my neck trying to get “pops” again. Finally, sometimes I had to use the edge of the chair trying to “pop” my tailbone.
Pain is something I had been all too familiar with up to this point. There were places in my back I could not get to. I used to look for corners of desks or walls that poked out enough that I could dig into to try to get some relief. I had tried so many things for pain relief and never had serious relief. I finally had this realization as a future doctor:
“If I cannot help myself, how can I expect to help other people?”
I had sought osteopathic medicine because I felt like it offered something unique, a hands-on approach called osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT). With everything I had tried for relief in the past, nothing had the results that I sought. I felt like there had to be a better way and I felt like osteopathy could have the answers that I was seeking.
Osteopathic medicine was started by a civil war physician, Andrew Taylor Still, M.D., D.O., who was seeking a better way after losing many family members to meningitis. At that time, standard practice included bleeding people and giving them mercury. Through years of searching, he found his answers and successes in nature. He realized the body was capable of healing if all the different parts of the body were working correctly. He noticed that a malfunctioning part could have lingering effects throughout the rest of the body. He concluded:
“Osteopathy is based on the perfection of Nature’s work. When all parts of the human body are in line we have health. When they are not the effect is disease.” Andrew Taylor Still, M.D., D.O.
Dr. Still was so successful that in the 1800’s, trains full of people traveled from all over the country seeking relief. Ardent supporters of osteopathy included Samuel Clemens (aka – Mark Twain), Buffalo Bill, Hellen Keller, and Teddy Roosevelt. Ultimately, osteopathy gave rise to the chiropractic profession, craniosacral therapy, and influenced much of what is done by massage and physical therapists.
At this point, I hoped osteopathy had the answers that could finally provide me with long lasting relief. Luckily, I stumbled across an amazing osteopathic physician early on in my training. His approach was unique. It was subtle, but profound. Most of the time, it just involved a light touch. Superficially it had an aura of mysticism and intuition. However when I heard his explain his thought process through cases, I realized that it was purely based on a profound understanding of anatomy of the human body. It really wasn’t intuitive. He had learned to tap into and harness a process in the body that resulted in healing.
I was intrigued with my initial experiences and decided I would go to him as a patient. As a patient I was fascinated. Although it did not feel like he was doing much, I could feel my body changing. Sometimes it would feel like a whole region of my body was tingling like it was finally waking up. Sometimes I could just feel an area relax that I had never been able to relax. When I would get up off of the table and move around, it’s when I could really feel the change. There was a freedom in my body that I had not experienced before. It was like being in a new body.
Soon after a few visits I remember sitting in class. It was a class just like any other, but it was also totally different. I remember because as I sat in class expecting to get the sensation and feeling that I always did: the discomfort and strong urge to twist to “pop” all my vertebrae in my back and neck. I was astonished because I just didn’t get that feeling. I tried twisting and… nothing happened. It just felt like a good stretch, but felt more limber than ever. That was over a decade ago, and I have never had to “pop” my back like that since. When I do, I know that something is wrong and needs to be resolved.