Osteopathic thought, speech and practice is influenced by the philosophical principals which are laid down by A.T. Still, J.M. Littlejohn and W.G. Sutherland and their students. In osteopathic literature abstract and complex terms are expressed mainly by metaphors. The metaphor analysis - one of the more recent research methods in cognitive linguistics - is trying to gain insight into osteopathic concepts by systematically screening and analyzing the metaphors and the metaphoric concepts used.
The analysis of metaphors is producing distinguished results of the metaphoric concepts used by osteopaths combining quantitative and qualitative research approaches. While the quantitative aspect can reveal the frequencies and distribution pattern of metaphors among different categories of experience, the results of the qualitative analysis might suggest which mental model is at the basis of the process of acquiring, communicating and applying osteopathic concepts.
Metaphors serve predominantly in osteopathic medicine for the communication with colleagues, other medical practitioners and patients. By constituting osteopathic theories and practice (e.g. concepts of health or illness, diagnosis and methods of treatment) metaphors can help to realize osteopathic possibilities, but can also limit them. By reflecting and integrating complementary aspects of medical care metaphors can help to become more aware of ethical and social implications of health in osteopathy. The metaphoric concepts help to articulate and express practical experience and relationships in osteopathy under the condition that they are consciously reflected in order to use their cognitive qualities and not being used by them.
By teaching a combined approach of quantitative and qualitative research using the method of metaphor analysis students can become more aware of and improve the aspects of speech and communication. Recent research in cognitive linguistics has put the metaphor on top of the list of tools for generating meaning and allowing the management of physical and cultural experience on a cognitive level.
Andreas J. Risch, MSc, is practicing osteopathy in his private practice in Eichstaett, Germany since 2005 after completing his training in Munich at the COE. He graduated his Master education program in 2011 at the DUK in Krems and the WSO in Vienna, Austria. He also serves as a co-editor of the Osteopathic Medicine Journal published by Elsevier in Germany.