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Osteopathy in academic medical literature - an evaluative analysis


Author: Wagner Malte
Supervisor: Roland Dreyer

Background: Osteopathy has split academic medicine into two camps. One camp claims that osteopathy is mainly based on neurophysiologically reproducible models of thinking, while the other camp considers osteopathy to be a pseudoscience or even !medical idling!.  

Aim: This thesis describes both the position of academic medicine, health insurances and health politics towards osteopathy as well as its impact on the socio-political and economic situation (approval from health insurance companies) of osteopaths in Germany.

Method: A search was conducted for publications, studies and reviews on this topic in German from 01/1998 to 12/2011. The research used databases from Medline, Cochrane Library / Wiley, Osteopathic-Research.com, Google Scholar, Springerlink and Springermedizin, Deutsche Ärztezeitung, Deutsches Ärzteblatt, Thieme Online as well as Elsevier Online.

Results and Discussion: The literature search resulted in 42 relevant articles from which a total of 30 arguments for or against osteopathy were extracted. Two of the important most arguments against osteopathy were the low number of scientific proofs of its effectiveness and the insufficient training of non-medical osteopaths in differential diagnoses, which may raise concerns regarding patient safety.

Conclusion: There is a great need regarding both quality and quantity of studies on osteopathy. Associations and teaching institutions are challenged to develop a nationally regulated curriculum for osteopaths and to advance osteopathy on a scientific basis.