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Healthcare,  Osteopathy,  Philosophy

What is Holistic Healthcare

Many practitioners shy away from the use of the word holistic as it relates to their practice.  For some reason, this word is used in a negative context by many people. Perhaps this is because a holistic approach differs from what most people view as ‘traditional medicine.’

Lately, holistic healthcare has been considered a ‘New Age’ trend.  This trend focuses on spirituality, mysticism, and environmentalism.  These, surely, are facets of holism, but holistic health is much more inclusive than these ideologies.

To truly understand holistic healthcare, we must first understand what ‘holistic’ means.  When defining the term holistic, most sources cite two meanings: one based in philosophy, and one in relation to healthcare.  

Considering Osteopathy is a practice based upon principles, I will, first, expand on the definition based in philosophy.

‘Holistic’ as a Philosophy

In reference to philosophy, the term holistic is defined as the comprehension of the parts of something intimately interconnected and understood only by reference to the whole.  

In other words, holism is a concept which appreciates ideas that any one thing, organization, society, environment, etc. may be greater or equal to than the sum of its individual parts. 

We can apply this concept to a multitude of areas that we encounter daily.  A great example that is relatable to most people is the food we eat. 

When a chef prepares a meal he or she often has a goal in mind.  For simplicity sake, the chef chooses to prepare a delicious salad.  What is going to make that salad delicious? The obvious answer would be the ingredients they choose.

In this scenario, holism would suggest that the quality of the salad will be more dependent on which ingredients are selected, than the quality of the ingredients themselves.  Maybe to improve the salad, the chef needs to have the appropriate amount of tomato instead of finding a better type of tomato. Or maybe the red onion is overpowering and not allowing the other flavors to be tasted.  

This example shows that there are many reasons for success and failure, and holism provided an approach to analyze them both.

This philosophy doesn’t change when we apply it to other areas.  Now, I will elaborate on holistic health and why people are searching for these methods of treatment.

‘Holistic’ as an approach to Health and Wellness

In reference to medicine or healthcare, the term ‘holistic’ is an approach to treatment of the whole person, inclusive of physical, mental, and social factors, as opposed to the treatment of symptoms of a disease or disorder.

Of course, treatment of the ‘whole person’ can have different meanings to different people.  Often, it is thought to encompass treatment of the mind, body, and spirit.

I think this is where the line is drawn between conventional and holistic methods of treatment.  Traditional medicine strongly adheres to science, and their methods of treatment reflect this. Because there is no scientific proof, data, or material evidence that ‘spirit’ is even real, let alone a factor for treatment, many people have developed a negative perception of the term and its practices.  

Holistic healthcare is an approach which searches for the best possible way to treat each person.  An approach which focuses on spiritual well-being may be the best approach for some individuals; however, many people benefit from treatment that is focused on improving the body and mind.  

People are becoming more aware of the importance of mental health and the factors which affect it.  Additionally, the human body is an incredible machine that my fail when it is not cared for. All three areas are equally important in the overall health of the individuals.

When we view holistic health as a collective approach, we can see why practices, such as Osteopathy, are considered holistic. 

Is Osteopathy Holistic?

Osteopathy is a practice and philosophy that uses principles as a foundation for the application of treatment.  For decades the first principle of Osteopathy has been: The body is a dynamic unit of function. More recently, Osteopath’s have been adopting the phrase: The person is a unit of body, mind, and spirit.

The change in language does not not reflect a change in philosophy.  It is an adaptation which better reflects the factors determining health.

Osteopathic treatment usually involves treatment of the body in an effort to improve the body’s physiological functions.  When the body is functioning appropriately, the brain is receiving a healthy supply of blood and can process and respond to sensations of sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch.  These five sensations help create our thoughts and determine our body’s actions.  

When our mind and body are working appropriately, our overall vitality improves.   Vitality is the continuance of life. It is the thoughts, desires, and actions which give our lives purpose and meaning.  Essentially this is our spirit.  

Osteopathy will address the body through manual treatment, but practitioners are also aware that there may be mental, emotional, social, or other factors that may be contributing to a person’s health problems.  In some cases, positive communication and assurance that a patient’s health concerns are known and understood is an important part of revitalizing the body’s healing processes.  

Osteopathy is holistic in both principle and practice.  If you think Osteopathic treatment may be beneficial for your body, mind, and spirit, I encourage you to contact me, schedule an appointment, or find another Osteopathic practitioner in your area.


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