History of Osteopathy



In 1900 the American-trained osteopath Arthur S. Burgess (born in 1873) in Montreal, published the first, and only, issue of a journal, ‘The Canadian Osteopath’.

The journal starts with a page of definitions of osteopathy, followed by a four-page short history and explanation of the discipline. An editorial entitled “Greeting” comes next, which ends, “Therefore to those who know nothing of Osteopathy and to those who would know more, to those who seek the aid of Osteopathy and to those engaged in its practice, we commend this journal for kindly consideration.”the-canadian-osteopath1

In 1926 Osteopathic physicians in Canada formed the Canadian Osteopathic Association. But since health care is a provincial responsibility and health care professions are regulated by the provinces, different restrictions were put on the practice of osteopathy in each province. Osteopathic physicians in Canada wanted to be given equal status with allopathic physicians (doctors of traditional Western medicine) but at this time, allopathic medical associations did not want osteopathic physicians to participate along with them in the same way, within the Canadian health care system.

There continues to be no osteopathic medical schools anywhere in Canada to the present day.

The Medicine Act, 1991 is proclaimed in Ontario.  Only members of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario can use the title “osteopath”, an abbreviation or variation in another language.


Osteopathy and Osteopathic Medicine: A Global View of Practice, Patients, Education and the Contribution to Healthcare Delivery



Download the Osteopathy and Osteopathic Medicine Book (PDF) Osteopathy and Osteopathic Medicine Summary Flier (PDF)

The document was created at the request of our members during the 2010 San Francisco Annual Conference, in order to augment the World Health Organisation’s Benchmarks for Training in Osteopathy. The report is supported by OIA surveys that produced an audit of current osteopathic practice, based on a global ‘snapshot’ of patients, as well as a survey of osteopathic organisations and practitioners in more than 30 countries.

Osteopathy and Osteopathic Medicine: A Global View of Practice, Patients, Education and the Contribution to Healthcare Delivery describes the current state of the osteopathic profession globally and how it functions within national health delivery systems across a range of countries. The report builds upon the OIA’s Status Report document, published in March 2012.

The WHO was involved the preparation and layout of the document, following a formal meeting at our 2012 Paris Conference, where it was recommended that the report serve as an initiative to document the growing significance of osteopathic healthcare worldwide. The WHO also contributed a foreword to the report.

Osteopathy and Osteopathic Medicine is presented in four parts: the concept, history and spread of osteopathic healthcare; practitioners, patients and the scale of osteopathic practice; models of education and regulation; and efficacy, safety and cost-effectiveness. It brings together data from a range of international sources including a survey of international practice and a census of covering 33 countries.

  • The opening chapter on concept history and spread of osteopathic healthcare charts how the two different streams of the profession – osteopaths and osteopathic physicians – have emerged both working with a shared paradigm of osteopathic healthcare.
  • The chapter on practitioners and patients identifies that there are now at least 87,000 osteopathic physicians and 43,000 osteopaths working in over fifty countries. It also identifies the continuing significant growth of both streams of the profession around the world. Data from an OIA practitioner survey, and other national surveys and research, identifies patient demographics, patient pathways, presenting health complaints, and treatment modalities for both osteopaths and osteopathic physicians.
  • The chapter on models of education and training sets out the increasing depth and breadth of osteopathic education and training including the osteopathic physician model with full medical practice rights and the osteopath model with a growing move towards Master’s level educational qualifications. The chapter also explores the variety of current and emerging regulatory and recognition models around the world, including scope of practice and the maintenance of registration or licensure.
  • The final chapter explores the evidence that exists for the efficacy, safety and cost effectiveness of osteopathic healthcare including the available evidence on the outcomes of osteopathic techniques. The chapter concludes with the acknowledgement of the osteopathic profession that more research is needed.

History and Current Context of the Osteopathic Profession


The Status Report on Osteopathy has been prepared to present the broad range of osteopathy and osteopathic medicine, including both professional “streams”: the osteopaths and osteopathic physicians worldwide. The report has been developed by the OIA Board of Directors, with input from our member organisations and in concert with the World Health Organisation. It is a resource regarding the osteopathic profession and covers the following topics:

  • Osteopathy/osteopathic medicine in its historical and current context
  • Osteopathic core competencies
  • Existing regulatory models
  • Educational standards worldwide

The statutorily regulated models of USA, Europe and Australasia are referenced. Details such as standard curricula, core competencies and practice standards are part of the Annexes below.


10 steps to utilise the OIA Global Osteopathic Reports

  1. OIA write to UN member nation health ministers including report
  2. Members write to national, state and local health minister or authority, bringing their attention to the report. Include opposition leaders and copy both
  3. Members write to national, regional and local newspapers bringing their attention to the report. Target health writers/ editors
  4. Members contact TV and radio. Target health and current affairs programs
  5. Members target any national or regional health initiatives that are current in their country. e.g.; National Pain Summit Australia. Send Chair and Secretary copies of the report
  6. Individual practices encouraged to mention Status Report in their clinic newsletter with links
  7. Local informative meetings for all health care professions like doctors, nurseries, midwives, physical therapists etc.
  8. Local patient information in adult education centers or evening classes or parent information in schools
  9. Presentations to graduating health professions in universities
  10. Use Status Report for newsworthiness for media releases during International Osteopathic Healthcare Week