Osteopathy For Children & Youth

By Carlisle Holland, DO, © Copyright 2008.

Osteopathy Has Helped Kids With

  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Balance or coordination problems
  • Birth trauma
  • Cancer
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Ear infections
  • Emotional distress
  • Eye coordination problems
  • Headaches
  • Head injuries
  • Jaw problems (TMJ)
  • Learning problems
  • Menstrual pain
  • Migraines
  • Neurological disorders (including ADD, ADHD, PDD)
  • Repetitive stress injuries
  • Rheumatological problems
  • Scoliosis
  • Seizure Disorders
  • Sinus problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Spinal disc problems
  • Stomachaches
  • Strains & injuries
  • Traumatic injuries (motor vehicle and others)
  • Vertigo/dizziness

Osteopathy Can Help In The Following Areas

Spirit: Since the spirit suffers when the body suffers, treating the physical relieves the spiritual.

Body: Osteopathy is excellent for many physical conditions including asthma, cerebral palsy, sports injuries, sleep apnea and ear infections.

Mind: Decreasing pain and suffering increases the child’s ability to concentrate and relieves the depression that often accompanies physical illness.

Emotions: Emotions are stored in the body. Release them and many physical and emotional problems are also released.

Social: Children are able to enjoy more social activities when they feel better physically.

Brief Description Of Osteopathy

  • Osteopathy, a practice that includes a combination of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment and standard Western Medicine, helps children with a wide range of challenges. Osteopaths understand that humans function as a complete working system. The body structure, organ systems, mind and emotions are all interrelated and mutually interdependent.
  • Manipulation balances muscular and autonomic reflexes. There is much focus on easing muscular tension, which not only alleviates pain and stiffness; it also allows for the unimpeded flow of blood and lymph fluids.

Success With Osteopathy

  • Billy, age 4, had chronic ear infections, to the point where another doctor had recommended putting in tubes. With one osteopathic treatment, however, normal physical movement was restored and the infections disappeared.
  • Jenny, age 5, developed asthma. Her parents tried conventional treatments, including an inhaler. With three osteopathic treatments to her chest wall, normal breathing patterns were restored. She receives follow-up treatments each spring during allergy season.
  • Janie, age 8, had spina bifida, and one of her hip bones kept popping out of her pelvis. Surgery was recommended. The osteopath manipulated her pelvis, moving the bone back into place. He also measured her legs and, finding that one was shorter than the other, he recommended a lift in her shoes. The need for surgery was eliminated.

Osteopathy Is Appropriate For Ages

  • Newborn through adolescence

Children & Youth’s Reactions to Osteopathy

  • They often respond very quickly to treatment.
  • They usually enjoy sessions with their doctors.
  • They are relieved to be treated with respect and careful attention.
  • Most children love their treatments since it doesn’t hurt them and often makes them feel better very quickly.
  • Children need to feel they are perfect. The osteopath shows them they are perfect - they just have a problem that needs to be fixed.

Extra Care Is Needed

  • During pregnancy

Contraindications: When Osteopathy Should Be Avoided

  • There are no absolute contraindications for involving Osteopathy.


  • Begun in 1873 in Missouri by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still. He conceived of what is now known as holistic medicine in an effort to reform what he felt were some of the more extreme excesses of traditional Western medicine as it was then practiced.
  • Dr. Still and his sons founded the first college of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri in 1892.
  • Despite opposition from the American Medical Association, the number of osteopathic colleges and the number of osteopaths grew. Today there are 23 osteopathic colleges throughout the United States and over 60,000 osteopathic physicians.

Basic Concepts And Components Of Osteopathy

  • The body is a unit.
  • Structure and function are reciprocally related. ( Form follows function and the properly functioning body displays balance and harmonious motions in all its processes.)
  • The body tends to heal and DOs are taught to trust the inherent healing powers of the body’s physiology.

Description Of A Typical Session

  • During the first visit, the practitioner listens to the chief complaint, then takes a complete history and conducts a complete traditional and structural exam.
  • The practitioner chats with the child and tries to develop an understanding of her/him as a person.
  • The practitioner checks the child’s posture and does a biomechanical test on all the joints - from the toes to the top of the head.
  • During the course of the exam the practitioner treats the child all over, then manipulates the restricted joints - starting from the biggest one. An osteopath often uses a vibrator as part of the treatment.
  • Lastly, the practitioner performs a cranial treatment, which is very subtle movement of the head.
  • The practitioner not only treats the child for the chief complaint, but also finds hidden symptoms and treats them as well.
  • Drugs may also be prescribed as necessary.

Major Differences Of Opinion Between Practitioners

  • Some osteopaths are more inclined to prescribe drugs than others.

Fees/Costs In 2007

  • Fees are $100 - $200 per visit.
  • Insurance Companies usually cover some or all of the cost.

Average Time Per Session

  • One hour for the first visit
  • 20-30 minutes on subsequent visits

Recommended Length Of Time Between Sessions

  • Usually treatments start out weekly, then move to biweekly, monthly, etc. for up to six months.

Estimated Length Of Time Before Improvements Can Be Expected

  • Three to five sessions

Suggestions To Make Osteopathy More Effective

  • Have confidence that treatment will be effective and express that belief to the child.
  • Parents need to be united in their treatment of the child. If parents are at war, the child senses this and has a harder time getting well.
  • Parents can learn some simple manipulations, drainage techniques, etc.
  • Be aware of child’s sensitivities to foods, animals, down, plants, etc.

Other Methods That Are Similar To Osteopathy

  • Some forms of chiropractic manipulation are similar.
  • Many traditional Western medical doctors have studied Osteopathy.
  • Naturopathy, nutrition, and holistic healers are similar.

Other Methods That Complement Osteopathy

  • Acupuncture, homeopathy, nutrition, and phytotherapy (medicinal herbology)

Nature And Length Of Training To Be A Practitioner

  • A minimum of three years of undergraduate education (98% have four years or more) is needed.
  • Four years, or the equivalent, of osteopathic medical school, and a one year rotating internship is needed.
  • All graduate programs in physical therapy teach Osteopathic Manipulation techniques.
  • DO specialists have spent an additional two to five years of residency, training in hospital situations.
  • DOs are now all required to do three-year postdoctoral residencies to practice.

Special Training Needed To Work With Children & Youth

  • There are residency programs in pediatrics, but 90% of children’s problems can be handled by a general practitioner.

Certification/Licenses Held By Practitioners

  • A degree from a certified Osteopathic College of Medicine
  • A license from the state certifying that the physician has passed the state medical examination

Professional Associations To Contact For Names Of Local Practitioners

  • The American Osteopathic Association; 142 E. Ontario Street; Chicago, IL 60611; Ph: 800-621-1773; Fax: 312-202-8200; Website: www.osteopathic.org; Email: available through website
  • The American Academy of Osteopathy; 3500 DePauw Boulevard, Suite 1080; Indianapolis, IN 46268; Ph: 317-879-1881; Fax: 317-879-0563; Website:www.academyofosteopathy.org
  • Each state has its own osteopathic association to contact for referrals.

Number Of Certified Practitioners In U.S., Canada, And Mexico

  • There are thousands in all three countries.

What To Look For When Choosing The Best Practitioner

  • Check their licenses.
  • The practitioner has compassion and patience with both the child and the parent.
  • The practitioner has the willingness to take the time to take a thorough history and do a complete exam before making a diagnosis.
  • The practitioner has a good sense of humor.

Leading Clinics, Centers, Practitioners

  • Viola Frymann and the Osteopathic Center for Children and Families; 4135 54th Place; San Diego, CA 92105; Ph: 619-583-7611; Fax: 619-583-0296; www.osteopathiccenter.org; Email:info@osteopathiccenter.org
  • Pat Crampton, Executive Director of the Cranial Academy; 8202 Clearvista Parkway, Ste. 9D; Indianapolis, IN 46256-1457; Ph: 317-594-0411

Research Papers

  • Viola Frymann’s articles on academic difficulties, vision problems, scoliosis, asthma, etc. can be found at the Osteopathic Center for Children and Families’ website: www.osteopathiccenter.org/articles.html.


  • Collinge, William. The American Holistic Health Association Complete Guide to Alternative Medicine. New York: Warner Books, 1996.
  • Jones, Bob E. The Difference A DO Makes. Oklahoma City: 1978. Now available through the Oklahoma Educational Foundation for Osteopathic Medicine; 4848 North Lincoln Boulevard; Oklahoma City, OK 73105-3335; Ph: 800-522-8379; Website: http://www.okosteo.org.
  • Frymann, Viola. Articles available online at: www.osteopathiccenter.org/articles.html.

Helpful Tips For Parents

  • Provide the child with a calm, peaceful environment.
  • Be sure your child is eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Use any treatment techniques the practitioner has provided at the time of the child’s office visit.

Biography of Carlisle Holland, Author

  • Years experience: 30
  • Approximate number of children and youth patients: 10 – 15 per week
  • Degrees: B.A. in Biology – University of Texas at Austin; DO (1977) from Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, Fort Worth, TX.

To Contact Dr. Carlisle Holland, Who Contributed This Chapter

Dr. Carlisle Holland; c/o Holonomic Institute; 130 S. Main St. #104; Sebastopol, CA 95472; Ph: 707-824-8764; Fax: 707-824-8766; Website: www.holonomicinstitute.com; Email: info@holonomicinstitute.com

Marie Mulligan’s Comment About Osteopathy: I have seen Osteopathy help many children & youth, especially after accidents.

Rick Geggie’s Comment About Osteopathy: Classic Osteopaths who still practice Osteopathic manipulation really impress me. I have seen many children helped dramatically. While Osteopaths in the United States are licensed as medical doctors, they also have a superior knowledge of how the body works mechanically. As a result, I have noticed they can help children who have not been helped by traditional medicine.

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