The rule of the artery is supreme.

This seems to be a bit of a far fetched idea doesn’t it? The fourth and final of the four main osteopathic principles; the artery rules. Well lets not limit this to arteries just yet. Blood vessels in the body are responsible for transporting required substances to tissues throughout the body, for example oxygen (carried in haemoglobin) provided by the respiratory system, glucose and ionic minerals provided from the digestive system and hormones released by glands of the endocrine system. They are also required to remove waste products from these tissues. Without the blood vessels ability to provide these services tissues will not be able to function correctly or be existing in a toxic environment, which we can imagine would cause the tissues to eventually necrose. We all assume that our blood vessels are functioning correctly, yet there are numerous ways that can affect the performance of these transporting vascularities.

Internal changes to the structures such as arteriosclerosis (a broad term for various conditions causing hardening of the arteries) can thicken the walls of the blood vessels. If a thrombosis occurs (formation of a local intravascular clot) this can become wedged in the thickened structures reducing blood flow to the areas beyond that point. The Consequences of this are ischemia (reduced blood supply) and infarction (local tissue necrosis); potentially leading to disorders such as ischemic heart disease, myocardial infarction, stroke and gangrene at the peripheral extremities.

Impingement of the vascularities will incur similar results. Trauma, hypertonic muscles and inflammation are all potential contributors to this.

As mentioned, this principle shouldn’t really be limited to the cardiovascular system. The term artery can also be applied to other structures used for transporting or communicating throughout the body.

The lymphatic system works closely with the cardiovascular system in the transportation of fluids in the body. Its main functions are the removal debris from cellular decomposition and infections as well as the drainage of surplus fluid in tissues. These functions prevent tissues from being immersed in toxic surroundings so this is a very important system despite being so often overlooked. Swollen lymph nodes prevent the flow of fluid through this one way valved system. This means that the fluid, potentially containing pathogens to be destroyed, will remain in one area allowing the uncleaned fluid to become a perfect space for bacterial proliferation. This will the exacerbate the inflammation. The nodes become painfully enlarged worsening the issue, which can potentially lead to septicemia (blood poisoning).

Another important system relevant to this principle is the nervous system. Nerves may not transport but they are responsible for the communication of changes both inside and outside of the body as well as the actions of various structures, both voluntarily (somatic nervous system) and involuntarily (autonomic nervous system).
Pressure applied to a nerve results in parasthesia distal to the impingement. Crushing injuries causes weakness to the supplied organs or muscles, parasthesia, fibrosis to the weakened muscles. If the nerve is severed, the regeneration is highly unlikely and this will cause permanent damages to the supplied organs as well as degeneration of the nerve itself.

Each one of these systems compliments the other in supply, removal and sensory changes so if one is affected the others will be as a result, another reference to the body is a unit principle mentioned previously.

I haven’t gone in to too much detail on any of these principles as I plan to look at each system in greater detail, but I do hope that having outlined examples of why these principles are valid that you will have a reasonable understanding of why osteopathy is becoming such a popular medical science.


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