The Body is a Single Dynamic Unit of Function

The 4 Principles of Osteopathy

There are many unifying systems within the body. The circulatory system supplies blood to every tissue and organ. The nervous system connects and integrates all of the body’s functions. A third unifying system is comprised of a connective tissue matrix called fascia. The fascia is a continuous sheath of living tissue that connects the body front to back, head to toe. It surrounds every muscle, organ, nerve and blood vessel. A primary function of this fascial system is to support and lubricate. Thus, the circulatory system, the nervous system and the fascia all help to organize the body into a unified continuous whole. No single part exists independent of the whole. When even a small part of the body does not function optimally, the entire person is affected.

Consider the circulatory system. Dr. Still stated, “The rule of artery and vein is universal in all living beings, and the osteopath must know that and abide by its rulings, or he will not succeed as a healer.” Dr. Still used these words to describe the essential need for optimal fluid exchange. When blood and other fluids flow freely, the tissues can perform their physiologic functions without interference. Injury or strain may cause a fascial twist that can impair circulation in tiny blood vessels that supply nerves, larger vessels, organs or other tissues. Obstruction or limitation of blood, fluid and nerve flow causes areas in the body to become undernourished or congested resulting in weakness, pain and vulnerability to disease. It is similar to trying to water a garden with a kinked hose. The water will not flow properly and the garden will not receive its proper nutrition.

Understanding this concept of functional unity allows osteopathic physicians to diagnose and treat their patients as a functional whole. This may explain why an osteopathic physician may treat an area that is fairly distant from the area of pain or injury.