Van Buskirk Osteopathic - Restoring Musculoskeletal Balance

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Restore Balance and Musculoskeletal well being.

Richard L. Van Buskirk, D.O., Ph.D.
2900 S. Tamiami Trail
Sarasota, FL 34239
(941) 924-1729


Dr. Van Buskirk is credited with recovering and redeveloping the original osteopathic manipulative method used by the founder of Osteopathic Medicine, Andrew Taylor Still, M.D.






Osteopathy: What’s old is new again
As appeared in the Longboat Observer
February 17, 2010
by: Molly Schechter | Contributing Writer

If someone were to invent osteopathic medicine today, it would be launched with much brouhaha as the newest in holistic, mind-body healing.

Dr. Andrew Taylor Still would become an instant celebrity, much in demand for appearances on morning and late-night TV shows. He would explain how his philosophy was based on ideas that date back to Hippocrates and focus on the unity of all body parts. He would say the musculoskeletal system was a key element of health and place much emphasis on the body’s ability to heal itself. Finally, he would stress preventive medicine, proper eating and keeping fit.

Though it sounds startlingly contemporary, Still actually introduced osteopathic medicine more than 100 years ago in the late 1800s. A couple of years later, he began to teach it, and he founded the first college of osteopathic medicine.

Today, there are about 55,000 osteopathic physicians, known as doctors of osteopathy, or D.O.s, in the United States.

Seeking a better understanding of osteopathic medicine, I recently interviewed Dr. Richard Van Buskirk, a Sarasota-based doctor of osteopathy.

What is osteopathy?
Osteopathic medicine is an American-born medical profession dating to the late-19th century when a Midwestern doctor wanted to do something for patients besides poison them, addict them or cut things off. Still created osteopathy as an option to medicine as it was then being practiced. He believed that if he could help people find musculoskeletal balance and harmony, they could do a better job of healing themselves.

All osteopathic medical students receive additional training in musculoskeletal manipulative medicine that is not included in the M.D. curriculum. Otherwise, the educations differ little.

In recruiting students, the osteopathic medical schools may place slightly less emphasis on scores and grades and more on commitment to helping people heal. Some 60% of osteopathic students do M.D. residencies (in mixed-staff hospitals), because there simply are not enough osteopathic hospitals to accommodate them. In terms of education, it is difficult to distinguish D.O.s from M.D.s.

Typically, people see D.O.s for musculoskeletal pain or restriction or because they’ve been told they need surgery and want to explore a second opinion. Oftentime, people who are on narcotics for pain management are looking for an alternative.

Two things emerge as the major differences between conventional and osteopathic medicine.

The first is obviously focus on the musculoskeletal system — the bones, muscles, ligaments and other connective tissue that are the body’s architecture and mechanical engineering.

All of that accounts for 80% of the body by weight and volume, and it surrounds and interacts with all the other systems — circulation, respiration, digestion, etc. A key premise of osteopathy is that something out of balance in the musculoskeletal system can be a component, if not the exclusive cause, of a problem elsewhere. This gives the osteopathic physician a different and perhaps broader perspective on the symptoms with which he is presented.

A second differentiation is a broader view of the patient’s overall health, one that includes not just musculoskeletal balance but also mental, emotional and even spiritual aspects, and encompasses a belief that the body wants to heal.

Osteopathic treatment plans often include weight loss, movement-based therapies, including yoga, nutrition and other lifestyle modifications.

Musculoskeletal manipulation has been part of osteopathy from the start. Still developed what is now known as The Still Technique. His gentle, non-traumatic and specific method was one of seven or eight that were in use by the end of the century. Its popularity waned around 1920 because it required so much time and skill to practice. But until the 1980s, virtually all D.O.s did some form of musculoskeletal manipulation as part of their practice, regardless of specialty.

Manipulation declines
According to Van Buskirk, the use of manipulation has fallen off since then because it is physically demanding to do and because of the desire of D.O.s to be like M.D.s. Van Buskirk was instrumental in the rediscovery and redevelopment of the Still Technique, and his book on it has become the primary teaching text.

Van Buskirk went to medical school at age 36 when he already had a Ph.D. and was a professor of physiology. Because of his academic background, he is sought after as a diagnostician and often sees difficult cases — patients who have had surgery that didn’t work or are worried whether they need a surgery. “Most of the time,” he says, “they don’t.”

A sign that osteopathic medicine has found its way into the mainstream is that mainstream medicine is embracing many holistic, osteopathic concepts.




SARASOTA, FL (August 5, 2009) – Licensed physician Richard Van Buskirk, DO, PhD, FAAO, recently returned from Tokyo, Japan, where he presented a course to Japanese medical doctors and osteopaths. The three-day course focused on the Still Technique, the osteopathic manipulative method originally used by the founder of osteopathic medicine, Andrew Taylor Still, MD.

Dr. Van Buskirk was invited to teach the course by the All Japan Osteopathic Association. The professional association has sponsored courses by American osteopathic physicians who are considered masters in the area of musculoskeletal medicine. This is the third time Dr. Van Buskirk has lectured in Japan because of the popularity of the Still Technique among Japanese physicians and osteopaths and because of the release of the Japanese second edition of his text, The Still Technique Manual.

Dr. Van Buskirk is credited with recovering and redeveloping the Still Technique, considered lost for more than 80 years.

Through the use of non-invasive methods, Dr. Van Buskirk seeks to restore the balance, flexibility, strength and energy efficiency inherent in the human body. He also uses lifestyle modifications, exercise, stretching, medications and injections to restore neural and musculoskeletal health. He recently moved his practice, the Sarasota Osteopathic Medical Association, to a new location at 2900 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.





 Sarasota’s Dr. Van Buskirk Re-Elected AAO Governor
Promotes “Going Back to Osteopathic Roots”

SARASOTA, FL – Licensed physician Richard Van Buskirk, DO, PhD, FAAO, has been re-elected to the Board of Governors of the American Academy of Osteopathy (AAO).

Along with the daily delivery of medical care to his patients, Dr. Van Buskirk’s mission is to bring back “old-fashioned osteopathy” and the techniques of its founder, Andrew Taylor Still, MD ­­– considered to have been lost for more than 80 years. 

Dr. Van Buskirk is credited with recovering and redeveloping Dr. Still’s original osteopathic manipulative method.  A Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) and specialist in neuromusculoskeletal medicine, he published a book on the Still Technique, now in its second edition, and teaches around the world, including Europe, Canada and Japan.

Ironically, while the number of DOs is increasing, the number of DOs practicing traditional manipulative osteopathy is decreasing. “When I graduated in 1987, there were about 30,000 active DOs in the U.S., of whom 5,000 were practicing osteopathic manipulation,” he remembers. “Today there are about 60,000 DOs with active licenses, but only 2,000 practice osteopathic manipulation.” Of the 70 or so DOs in the Sarasota-Bradenton area, only Dr. Van Buskirk practices the Still Technique.

Because his specialty has been disappearing, his patients travel far and wide to see him, primarily from Tarpon Springs to Marco Island. Some have traveled from other states and Canada.

The American School of Osteopathy was born in 1892 when founder Dr. Still became disillusioned with late 19th Century medicine, observing that “all we can do is poison people, addict them, or cut things off.” He discovered that if he performed musculoskeletal manipulation, it improved his patients’ ability to heal on their own.

The original focus of osteopathic medicine was to provide medical care for the whole person. Osteopaths focused on the interaction of all parts of the body while understanding the individual organs in detail. Treatment of musculoskeletal problems included the use of manipulation, as well as use of medication and surgery where appropriate. Up until the 1970s, virtually all osteopathic physicians continued to include osteopathic manipulation as part of their treatment of most patients.

However – to counteract resistance from the traditional medical establishment – the osteopathic profession moved toward developing parity with MDs, and "in the process we lost our identity,” Dr. Van Buskirk says. Today, DOs are almost indistinguishable from MDs. Except for courses in musculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment, the training of osteopathic physicians is virtually identical to that of MDs. Most patients don’t even know there is a difference.
Traditional musculoskeletal medicine survives as a specialty in the osteopathic profession, with residency training and board certification.

Specialists like Dr. Van Buskirk focus on detailed diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal problems, including related vascular and neurological issues.
The Still Technique is one of about ten musculoskeletal manipulative methods that have been developed by the osteopathic profession over the past 117 years. All DOs are taught at least some of these methods during their first two years of medical school.  However, most are out of practice and are not comfortable performing it on their patients, so they do not include it in their practices.

The AAO is “the keeper of the flame,” Dr. Van Buskirk says. “Our mission is to go back to our heritage – to keep old-fashioned osteopathy alive. The musculoskeletal system is more than 80 percent of the body by mass and volume. Rather than relegating it to a minor role in medicine, it needs to be evaluated and treated with at least the same attention to detail as other systems.

The AAO promotes research and teaching, and sponsors courses for MDs and DOs.  This is Dr. Van Buskirk’s 10th year on the board.
Dr. Van Buskirk has been practicing in Sarasota for 19 years, starting out in family practice and becoming more specialized as his practice evolved. He recently moved to a new location at 2900 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, giving him the opportunity to associate with an acupuncturist and a clinical psychologist, also on the premises.


Richard l. Van Buskirk, D.o., Phd, faao


ittle Rock, Arkansas, March 27, 2009 – Richard L. Van Buskirk, D.O., FAAO has re-assumed the office of Governor of the American Academy of Osteopathy (AAO).

Dr. Van Buskirk is a 1987 graduate of the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. He received his PhD from Duke University in Neuroscience in 1976 and taught and did basic science research for a number of years before matriculating at WVSOM. After graduating from WVSOM, he did an osteopathic family practice residency. He has been in private practice and in 1997 was accorded the honor of becoming a Fellow in the AAO. He has published frequently, including JAOA articles on "Nociception and the somatic dysfunction" in 1990 and more recently an article describing a rediscovered manipulative technique of Dr. Andrew Taylor Still. Dr. Van Buskirk was a section-editor and author for the Osteopathic textbook project, Foundations for Osteopathic Medicine. He has recently published a book, The Still Technique Manual through the AAO and has taught courses in the US and internationally.


Stratford New Jersey, May 19, 2009 - Richard L. Van Buskirk, DO, FAAO presented a 20-hour course to American Physicians at the New Jersey School of Osteopathic Medicine.

Richard L. Van Buskirk, DO, PhD, FAAO presented a 20 hour course to American physicians (MD’s and DO’s) at the New Jersey School of Osteopathic Medicine, UMDNJ in Stratford, New Jersey May 15-17, 2009. The course, sponsored by UMDNJ and the American Academy of Osteopathy, was focused on the use of the Still Technique, a musculoskeletal manipulative method rediscovered and redeveloped by Dr. Van Buskirk after being lost for more than 80 years. The Still Technique was the original osteopathic manipulative method used and taught by the founder of Osteopathic Medicine, Andrew Taylor Still, MD.



Richard L. Van Buskirk, D.O., Ph.D. - Restoring Musculoskeletal Balance to the Sarasota community.

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