Margaret Sorrel, DO, FCA - Osteopathic Manual Medicine

Some Have Called Osteopathic Medicine the Best-Kept Secret in Health Care.

With DOs (Doctors of Osteopathy) representing only 6% of the physicians in the United States and the powerful American Medical Association promoting MDs (Medical Doctors) as the physicians, this is no surprise. DOs and MDs are the only fully licensed physicians and surgeons. The curriculum is rigorous and comprehensive in both osteopathic (DO) and allopathic (MD) medical schools. The same is true of their often shared post graduate training programs.

Since its inception in the 1870s the profession has grown to over 25 colleges, including two in California. Sixty percent of these fully licensed osteopathic graduates offer primary care in family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology and emergency services, and often offer these services in rural areas. Thirty percent enter specialty care such as surgery, cardiology, psychiatry or dermatology. Ten percent specialize in osteopathic manual medicine.

DOs tend to think more holistically, looking for the relationships between medical problems and the many factors that influence a person's health. Appreciating the fact that each person is a unique individual, DOs are less focused than MDs on labeling a patient with a diagnosis and try to offer each patient a treatment plan that meets their individual needs.

The Distinctive Difference

What, beyond this more holistic outlook, makes osteopathic medicine distinctively different? Osteopathic physicians are trained to look for the relationship between the structure (bones, muscles, connective tissues, fluids...) of the body and its function. All osteopathic medical colleges devote a significant percentage of their curriculum to this structural diagnosis and treatment, but not all graduates choose to incorporate osteopathic manual medicine into their practices.

I am one of the 10% of osteopathic physicians who have chosen to focus their life's work on that which makes osteopathic medicine distinctively different, osteopathic manual medicine. I remain appreciative, though, of my full medical training which allows me to understand complex medical problems and to make appropriate referrals when pharmaceuticals, surgery or a specialist's wisdom is the right choice.

Treating the Whole Person

Osteopathy's founder and those of us who have focused our practices on the pure principles of osteopathy depend on a vast knowledge of anatomy and physiology.

This knowledge is the foundation of the choices we make in the holistic individualized approach to our patients. We look toward the bones, the muscles, the connective tissues, the membranes, the lymphatics, the venous and arterial blood flow, the cerebrospinal fluid, and the organs and their fascial envelopes as factors just as important to consider as germs in the health of the individual.

Osteopathic physicians are looking for the causes of medical problems. Our detective work includes a thorough health history of the patient and an extensive structural examination which looks at the overall posture and alignment as well as the subtle motions of the tissues of the body. Through this approach we are directed toward manual medicine approaches that enhance the overall health of the patient as well as addressing the presenting problem.

Osteopathic Beginnings

Osteopathic medicine began in the 1870s after three of Dr. Andrew Taylor Still's children died of spinal meningitis.

Himself an MD and devastated by the deaths of his children, he began to seek an alternative to the medicine of his day. After many years of study of the human body and the laws of nature he opened a school of osteopathy in Missouri.

In the first half of the 20th century, two students of A.T. Still, William Garner Sutherland and Charlotte Winger Weaver expanded the osteopathic concept to include the cranium. Charlotte Weaver: Pioneer in Cranial Osteopathy, by Margaret Sorrel, DO is available from the Osteopathic Cranial Academy.

MDs and DOs alike were called upon to treat victims of the influenza epidemic of 1917-1918. While 6% of those under MD care for the illness died, only ¼ of 1% treated by osteopaths died.

Osteopaths utilized techniques to foster relaxation of the deep spinal musculature and they mobilized the spine in the region of the ribs. Treatment in subsequent influenza epidemics also included various techniques to improve lymphatic function, foster appropriate immune response and aid in the respiratory motion of the ribs.

Osteopathic Resources

Further information on osteopathic manual medicine can be found through the American Academy of Osteopathy, www.academyofosteopathy.org or the Osteopathic Cranial Academy, www.cranialacademy.org.


"Dr Margaret treated my son as an infant for reflux and while you couldn't exactly see what she did, the results were self evident. He went from utter misery to calm. The notion of magic and miracles certainly comes to mind. "
— Heather B.

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Margaret Sorrel, DO, FCA - All Rights Reserved © 2011