Osteopathy and Osteopathic Medicine: Heterodox or Orthodox? A Transnational Perspective

In medical historiography, osteopathy is seen as a product of nineteenth century America where it at the tail end of the Industrial Revolution was in its development influenced by a variety of social, geographical, economical, political, as well as medical and scientific factors and perspectives. The globalization of osteopathy and osteopathic medicine has not been a direct cross-cultural transplantation, but in its discourse has been shaped by self-interest, policies and institutions, which may be the main reasons for it defying definitions, making it subject to a number of interpretations based on a cultural, political and practical context. Complicating the issue is that it in the past hundred plus years has been called sectarian, labelled a cult, classified as unorthodox, until the present day, where at the boundaries of medical practice it is often considered complementary and even mainstream, while in other places considered alterative. For the self-conscious student and practitioner, this often leaves the question “What am I?”

This presentation will highlight the challenges and opportunities for osteopathic educators in the spirit of innovation in osteopathic education, osteopathy – tradition with vision, challenging the usual and often hagiographic rhetoric.


Christian Fossum, D.O. is the Head of Osteopathic Studies and an Associate Professor at the Norwegian School of Health Sciences Campus Kristiania in Oslo, Norway. He is a past Vice Principal of the European School of Osteopathy in Maidstone, United Kingdom; Associate Director of the A.T. Still Research Institute and Assistant Professor in the Department of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine, both A.T. Still University of Health Sciences, Kirksville, United States. He is currently completing his doctoral studies at the British School of Osteopathy and the University of Bedfordshire, United Kingdom. He teaches at under- and postgraduate level in Europe and North America.