Osteopathy embraces the philosophy that the body has an innate or natural ability to self-regulate and to heal itself. The key factor that permits this process to proceed unimpeded is the ability of the body to circulate all of its fluids and liquids. These fluids include the blood, lymph, synovial fluid, digestive juices, cerebrospinal fluid, axoplasm, and all the other intra and extracellular fluids of the body.

Over time, the body gradually loses its ability to efficiently self-regulate and to self-heal. Some of this loss may be due to the aging process, the prolonged influence of gravity on posture, trauma, accident, illness, surgical scarring, childbirth, repetitive activity, or the cumulative effects of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual stress. The Osteopath is said to assess the whole body. Although treatment may be directed toward several specific areas, the effect of that treatment is often felt throughout the body. It is for this reason that the Osteopath is also said to treat the whole body.
 
Osteopathy should not be thought of as an alternative to conventional medical treatment. Instead it is complementary to it. Osteopaths frequently rely upon the medical profession's diagnostic tools and skills to determine the appropriateness of osteopathic treatment.