An osteopath reasons from his knowledge of anatomy. He compares the work of the abnormal body with the normal body.
A. T. Still

The word “diagnosis” means to know… through and through, the Greek roots “dia”, meaning ‘through’ (as in diagonal – an angle through) and “gnosis” meaning ‘essential knowing.’

The nature of an osteopathic diagnosis differs from a medical diagnosis used by a physician. The diagnosis is obtained after a thorough assessment is done. The osteopathic assessment consists firstly of a medical history and is followed by a physical examination. A full examination by the osteopath would include assessment of orthopedic (bones and joints), neurological (nerves), respiratory (lungs) and circulatory (heart and blood vessel) systems.

Using the information received through his hands, the osteopath considers the integrity and function of anatomic relationships, the ease of movement, the balance of tensions and the degree of freedom of various body tissues and structures.

Before treatment can begin, the osteopath must first learn the way in which ‘trauma’ has been imprinted upon the patient. This part of the diagnostic process is essential. Obviously, one cannot treat without knowing what one is treating! Osteopaths learn about their patients through “touch”. It seems this ‘one’ sense tells osteopaths so much more about their patients. Dr. Sutherland spoke of osteopaths having “thinking, feeling, seeing, and knowing fingers.”

The most common osteopathic diagnosis is “Somatic Dysfunction.” Somatic Dysfunction is defined as: “Impaired or altered function of related components of the somatic (body framework) system and related vascular, lymphatic, and neural elements.”

One of the peculiar aspects of osteopathy is that it is often difficult to separate diagnosis from treatment. Diagnosis and treatment, in a sense, blend together. Throughout the diagnostic process, the patient is being treated. Throughout the treatment process, the osteopath is learning about the patient – the sensory feedback is constant.

Though the osteopathic principles upon which treatment is based are constant, each osteopath practices in a unique way. Treatment styles may be as varied as a signature, yet the intention to restore fluid continuity, balance, and freedom remain universal. (Courtesy of

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