Holism in Osteopathy – Bridging the gap between concept and practice: A grounded theory study

  • Author Footnotes
    1 47 Silverton Drive, Ferntree Gully, Victoria 3156, Australia. Tel.: +61 3 87367077.
    Paul W.D. Turner
    Corresponding author.
    1 47 Silverton Drive, Ferntree Gully, Victoria 3156, Australia. Tel.: +61 3 87367077.
    RMIT University, Australia
    Search for articles by this author
  • Author Footnotes
    2 Private Bag Wellesley St, Auckland, New Zealand. Tel.: +61 3 9925 7179.
    Eleanor Holroyd
    2 Private Bag Wellesley St, Auckland, New Zealand. Tel.: +61 3 9925 7179.
    Auckland University Institute of Technology, North Shore Campus, New Zealand

    Centre for Women's Health, Gender & Society, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
    Search for articles by this author
  • Author Footnotes
    1 47 Silverton Drive, Ferntree Gully, Victoria 3156, Australia. Tel.: +61 3 87367077.
    2 Private Bag Wellesley St, Auckland, New Zealand. Tel.: +61 3 9925 7179.


      Background and objectives

      This study aimed to explore the meaning of holism to Osteopathic professionals and thus develop a theory to inform the gap between holism as a concept and its implementation in clinical practice.


      Osteopathic practitioners were purposively selected resulting in eight participants from eight clinics in different demographic regions of Melbourne, Australia. In depth interviews were conducted and data was analysed using grounded theory methodology.


      Results demonstrate that an understanding of holism in osteopathic health care (in education and clinical practice) required an “awareness of relationships”. The emerging theory relates concept and educational framework (i.e. both biomedical and holistic philosophical approaches), with the practice of holism and describes what holism means within the context of an individual treatment.


      Implications are for osteopathic education to provide a balanced emphasis between holistic and biomedical frameworks and theoretical insight into understanding patients presenting with chronic health issues.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic and Personal
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Baer H.
        The emergence of integrative medicine in Australia: the growing interest of biomedicine and nursing in complementary medicine in a southern developed society.
        Med Anthropol Q. 2008; 22: 52-66
        • McEvoy L.
        • Duffy A.
        Holistic practice – a concept analysis.
        Nurse Educ Pract. 2008; 8: 412-419
        • Paterson C.
        • Britten N.
        The patient's experience of holistic care: insights from acupuncture research.
        Chronic Illn. 2008 Dec; 4: 264-277
        • Strandberg E.L.
        • Ovhed I.
        • Borgquist L.
        • Wilhelmsson S.
        The perceived meaning of a (w)holistic view among general practitioners and district nurses in Swedish primary care: a qualitative study.
        BMC Fam Pract. 2007; 8: 8
        • Nissen N.
        Perspectives on holism in the contemporary practice of Western herbal medicine in the UK.
        J Herb Med. 2011; 1: 76-82
        • Solli H.M.
        • Da Silva A. Barbosa
        The holistic claims of the biopsychosocial conception of WHO's International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF): a conceptual analysis on the basis of a pluralistic-holistic ontology and multidimensional view of the human being.
        J Med Philos (United Kingdom). 2012; 37: 277-294
        • Willis K.F.
        • Rayner J.-A.
        Integrative medical doctors—public health practitioner or lifestyle coach?.
        Eur J Integr Med. 2013; 5: 8-14
        • Keshet Y.
        • Ben-Arye E.
        • Schiff E.
        Can holism be practiced in a biomedical setting? A qualitative study of the integration of complementary medicine to a surgical department.
        Health (London). 2012 Nov; 16: 585-601
        • Gershenson C.
        The implications of interactions for science and philosophy.
        Found Sci. 2012; : 1-10
        • Heusser P.
        • Scheffer C.
        • Neumann M.
        • Tauschel D.
        • Edelhäuser F.
        Towards non-reductionistic medical anthropology, medical education and practitioner–patient-interaction: the example of Anthroposophic Medicine.
        Patient Educ Couns. 2012; 89: 455-460
        • Saks M.
        Alternative therapies: are they holistic?.
        Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery. 1997; 3: 4-8
        • Engel G.L.
        The need for a new medical model: a challenge for biomedicine.
        Science. 1977; 196: 129-136
        • Ross C.L.
        Integral healthcare: the benefits and challenges of integrating complementary and alternative medicine with a conventional healthcare practice.
        Integr Med Insights. 2009; 4: 13
        • Barrett B.
        • Marchand L.
        • Scheder J.O.
        • Appelbaum D.
        • Chapman M.
        • Jacobs C.
        • et al.
        Bridging the gap between conventional and alternative medicine.
        J Fam Pract. 2000; 49: 234
        • Ruzicka S.
        • Sanchez-Reilly S.
        • Gerety M.
        Holistic assessment of chronic pain among elders.
        Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2007 Aug-Sep; 24: 291-299
        • Fernros L.
        • Furhoff A.-K.
        • Wändell P.E.
        Improving quality of life using compound mind-body therapies: evaluation of a course intervention with body movement and breath therapy, guided imagery, chakra experiencing and mindfulness meditation.
        Qual Life Res. 2008; 17: 367-376
        • Ventegodt S.
        • Thegler S.
        • Andreasen T.
        • Struve F.
        • Enevoldsen L.
        • Bassaine L.
        • et al.
        Clinical holistic medicine (mindful, short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy complemented with bodywork) improves quality of life, health, and ability by induction of Antonovsky-Salutogenesis.
        Sci World J. 2007; 7: 317-323
        • Paterson C.
        • Britten N.
        Acupuncture as a complex intervention: a holistic model.
        J Altern Complement Med. 2004; 10: 791-801
        • Hasegawa H.
        • Reilly D.
        • Mercer S.W.
        • Bikker A.P.
        Holism in primary care: the views of Scotland's general practitioners.
        Prim Health Care Res Dev. 2005; 6: 320-328
        • Berg G.V.
        • Hedelin B.
        • Sarvimäki A.
        A holistic approach to the promotion of older hospital patients' health.
        Int Nurs Rev. 2005; 52: 73-80
        • Berg G.V.
        • Sarvimäki A.
        A holistic-existential approach to health promotion.
        Scand J Caring Sci. 2003; 17: 384-391
        • Weise M.
        • Oster C.
        • Pincombe J.
        Understanding the emerging relationship between complementary medicine and mainstream health care: a review of the literature.
        Health. 2010; 14: 326-342
        • Hill F.
        Health promotion and complementary medicine: the extent and future of professional collaboration and integration.
        Health Educ. 2006; 106: 281-293
      1. Ward R.C. Foundations for osteopathic medicine. Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, Maryland1997
        • Shlapentokh V.
        • O'Donnell N.
        • Grey M.
        Osteopathic interns' attitudes toward their education and training.
        JAOA J Am Osteopath Assoc. 1991 August 1; 91: 786
        • Corbin J.
        • Strauss A.
        Basics of qualitative research; techniques and proceedures for developing grounded theory.
        3rd ed. SAGE Publications, California2008
        • Bryman A.
        Social research methods.
        4th ed. Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York2012
        • Tong A.
        • Sainsbury P.
        • Craig J.
        Consolidated criteria for reporting qualitative research (COREQ): a 32-item checklist for interviews and focus groups.
        Int J Qual Health Care. 2007; 19: 349-357
        • Holloway I.
        A-Z of qualitative research in healthcare.
        2nd ed. John Wiley and Sons Ltd, Chicester/GB2008
      2. Turner P. Holism in [Osteopathic] Health Care. [Unpublished Thesis]. In press 2014.

        • Greenman P.E.
        Principles of manual medicine.
        Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, Maryland1989
        • Patterson E.F.
        The philosophy and physics of holistic health care: spiritual healing as a workable interpretation.
        J Adv Nurs. 1998; 27: 287-293
        • Shroff F.M.
        Conceptualizing holism in international interdisciplinary critical perspective: toward a framework for understanding holistic health.
        Soc Theory & Health. 2011; 9: 244-255
        • Pitman V.
        Chapter 7-The relationship of classical Greek medicine to contemporary Western herbalism: an exploration of the idea of ‘holism’.
        in: Catherine O.S. Reshaping herbal medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh2005: 99-111
        • Cole W.V.
        Holism: its historic background and application in osteopathic medicine.
        J Am Osteopath Assoc. 1960; 59: 623-626