Hello Neuromuscular Therapist, and welcome to the UK Skeptics forum.
I don’t think that present-day osteopathy is quite so mired in quackery as chiropractic, however they are quite similar in that both use spinal manipulation – although it’s probably true to say that osteopaths tend to use it less in favour of soft tissue work (which is gentler).
For anyone who has read ‘Suckers’ it’s really quite understandable why Bindeweede lumped osteopaths and chiropractors together. Here’s a reminder of what he said:
I hope people won't mind this. I am about half way through Rose Shapiro's "Suckers". Her chapter on osteopathy and chiropractic I found fascinating, as I didn't really know much about either. Unless I've got it wrong, they were both established by ignorant conmen with spiritual overtones, simply as money-making cons. Not really like MLMs, but with a similar objective - conning the gullible. Chiro seems especially dangerous.
In support of Bindeweede’s comments, the following is a summary of pages 130-135 of the ‘Bad Backs’ chapter of Suckers - the pages which look specifically at osteopathy:
Chiropractors are more likely to manipulate the spine directly; osteopaths may use the limbs as levers and in this way try to mobilise the spine.
Both osteopathy and chiropractic originated in America. They were a development of the medieval folk medicine practice of bone setting.
In America today there are more than 49,000 Doctors of Osteopathy (known as DOs) who are trained in orthodox scientific medicine with additional training in manipulative therapies. They have the same entitlements to prescribe and perform surgery as mainstream medical practitioners and make up 20% of all general practitioners is the US.
The UK’s 5,000 or so osteopaths, require no scientific medical training and so are more firmly established in the ‘alternative’ camp. Very few are MDs and many combine osteopathy with dubious practices such as naturopathy and cranial osteopathy. They are regulated by statute.
In a review of current research that ‘enraged’ osteopaths and chiropractors, Professor Edzard Ernst concluded that here was no evidence to suggest that spinal manipulation was an effective intervention for any condition and that the finding applied to both osteopathy and chiropractic.
Osteopathy and chiropractic were invented, or ‘discovered’ by a pair of determined and charismatic Americans in the late 19th century – Andrew Taylor and Daniel David Palmer. They both could be described as chancers and fantasists who had tried and failed to make their fortunes in a variety of jobs and get-rich-quick schemes. They saw themselves as visionaries and spiritual leaders and believed they had discovered a single cause and a single cure for all diseases.
Andrew Still claimed he had been a battlefield surgeon, but no record of it exists. He found phrenology and mesmerism interesting and following the deaths of three of his children he became a magnetic healer. He went on to have a ”prophetic vision” which apparently revealed a truth to him that if bones could be manipulated back into alignment then the nerves would “properly conduct the fluids of life” and so-called diseases or effects would trouble the patient no longer. In the mid 1880s he coined the word ‘osteopathy’ and business was booming.
Not exactly reassuring.
As for chiropractic, for the benefit of any drive-by readers of this thread, this recent video presentation (42 mins) is well worth viewing:
The Kinsinger Report on Chiropractic 2008
WARNING: Chiropractors won’t like it.