Osteopathynatural health care that focuses on treatment of the physical structure and function of the body
Osteopathy is a search for communication and cooperation with the natural laws of healing.James S. Jealous
Osteopathy is based on the perfection of Nature’s work. When all parts of the human body are in line we have health. When they are not the effect is disease.A.J.Still (Founder of Osteopathy)
What is Osteopathy?
Osteopathy is a government registered system of natural health care that focuses on treatment of the physical structure and function of the body. Well known for its precise, gentle and effective treatment of muscular and joint conditions such as back and neck pain, osteopathy can also have a significant effect on circulation, lymphatic drainage and the nervous system, and hence on a variety of conditions.
Key Principles and Philosophy.
Osteopathy is based on the view that the body has a natural capacity to heal itself of many conditions if blockages are removed. An osteopath is trained to diagnose and treat restrictions in the structure of the body that may be causing local symptoms, or that may be giving rise to other health issues. For example, even relatively subtle restrictions in the neck may be interfering with blood and nerve supply to the head, giving rise to a tendency to headache or migraine. This may be happening even if the neck itself is not painful. An osteopath’s range of diagnostic skills, and particularly their well-developed palpatory skill, enables them to diagnose such restrictions in the body, and to gently and precisely free them.
Osteopathy is also based on the understanding that the body is a whole, and that all aspects of its structure and function are inter-related. Osteopaths look to understand the cause of a restriction in a particular individual, and to treat according to that individual’s need. Several different people could present with a area of neck restriction that is giving rise to recurring headaches as described above: for one the problem could be caused by an occupational overuse of one arm that is causing chronic contraction of muscles from the shoulder to the neck; for another it could be that an area lower in the spine is out of alignment causing a compensatory a-symmetry in the neck, while for another the neck disturbance could be coming from a problem with the jaw. An osteopath uses their training and experience to assess what aspect of the body’s structure is interfering with its optimum function, and to treat as close to the cause of the problem as is possible.
A typical consultation.
On a first visit a medical history is taken and the osteopath will want to know about all symptoms, as well as details of any past accidents or traumas. Questions will be asked about lifestyle, diet and emotional wellbeing. The patient may be asked to perform some simple movements so the osteopath can observe how the body is being used, to identify any mobility impairment and to evaluate posture. Neurological and orthopaedic tests will be used where necessary to help with the assessment of the client’s complaint.
An osteopath’s highly developed sense of touch is one of their most important tools for understanding and diagnosing the presenting condition. By the end of the initial consultation, the osteopath will be able to offer a diagnosis and discuss a treatment program. If the diagnosis is one that requires further investigation or specialist intervention, an osteopath will suggest a referral to an appropriate practitioner. Osteopaths often treat in conjunction with a GP, dentist, podiatrist or other health care professionals.
It takes 5 years of university training to become an osteopath. In addition to academic training of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, embryology and pathology, practical hands-on training is a very significant part of this training, so osteopaths are therefore familiar with a very wide range of diagnostic approaches, and a wide range of manual procedures and techniques. Many soft tissue techniques including massage, stretching, muscle energy technique, myofascial release, and articulation or mobilization procedures are a part of the osteopathic repertoire. A range of manipulative adjustments are also learnt, as are very subtle techniques that ease strain out of the tissues of the body. Most osteopathic training programs also include training in osteopathy in the cranial field which is an exceptionally gentle way of diagnosing and working with the subtle fluid fluctuations within the body. Due to the comprehensive range of manual treatment approaches learnt by an osteopath, they are in a good position to be able to choose the treatment approach that is going to best suit a particular individual. Some people’s condition and body type responds optimally to a stronger treatment, and some respond best to a very subtle and gentle emphasis. This wide repertoire of treatment options is one of the main advantages of osteopathy.
Do all osteopaths treat the same way?
All osteopaths are trained in the variety of approaches and techniques described above. Some continue to use this variety throughout their working life, finding that this diversity enables them to match a particular treatment to the individual client. Others find that a particular osteopathic approach suits them very well, and they become specialists in this modality. As a result, there are osteopaths who specialize in stronger manipulative treatment, there are others who use a lot of soft tissue procedures, and there are others who specialize in the very subtle cranio-sacral work. If you are looking for an osteopath to suit your preference, it is quite appropriate to ask them or their receptionist which particular emphasis they use. Osteopaths at the Bardon Counselling & Natural Therapy Centre cover a range of treatment approaches, emphasising the very gentle techniques.
What is Cranial Osteopathy?
Cranial osteopathy is a very subtle form of treatment yet it can be powerful in its effect. Osteopaths working in this way are trained to feel minute movements that occur between cranial bones and in other tissues throughout the body. With this sensitivity, restrictions of cranial nerves, membranes, and cerebro-spinal fluid flow can be detected. Exceptionally gentle contact and movements are then used to free the cranial bones and other tissues.
Babies and Children
Osteopathy is suitable for all age groups from the newborn to the elderly. Cranial osteopathy in particular is becoming well known for its ability to assist conditions such as colic, reflux, irritability and recurring ear infections in babies and children. During the birth process, the baby is subjected to enormous forces, and occasionally this leaves subtle restrictions in the baby’s cranium that can give rise to
• sleep disturbances
• crying and irritability
• projectile vomiting
• reading difficulties
It is advantageous to have a baby checked by an osteopath soon after birth, to ensure that there are no restrictions that could e.g. interfere with the function of the vagus nerve and give rise to digestive or other problems. Arun is the osteopath at this Centre who specializes in treating babies and children.
How many treatments are necessary?
As osteopaths aim to treat as close to the cause of a problem as possible, many conditions only require 2-6 treatments. If, for example, a joint restriction is found to be contributing to a problem, the joint will be freed, but attention will also be given to the cause of this restriction so that the joint does not require repeated adjustments over many weeks or months. This is one of the advantages of an osteopath’s ability to treat the skeletal joints along with the surrounding muscles and fascia. All treatment programs are very individualised and depend on the patient’s current condition, past history, and other factors, and more complex conditions sometimes require a longer course of treatment. An osteopath’s aim is always to bring the body to a state of optimum functioning as soon as possible, and to enable this the osteopath may suggest ergonomic changes, exercise or lifestyle adjustments that will help stabilize wellbeing.
Relaxation and Balance
The philosophy and approach of osteopathy is to work with the body, guiding it toward wellbeing, rather than using force. Most people therefore find this treatment to be particularly comfortable and relaxing as well as very safe and effective. It’s not uncommon for patients to fall asleep during treatment, and a general feeling of ease and relaxation is often noted after. Because osteopathic treatment is usually relaxing, sometimes at a deep level, a common effect of treatment is balancing of the autonomic nervous system. Many health issues are caused or worsened by the stresses and demands of life on a physical, mental and emotional level. The effect of this stress can accumulate in the tissues and patterns within the body, and the nervous system can become chronically overactive, subtly influencing a range of functions in the body e.g. digestion, immunity, hormonal patterns. During osteopathic treatment, as restrictions are gradually eased, there is often a return of the nervous system to a more relaxed state. People often notice after a treatment that they sleep more deeply, or that their digestion is improved, or that their energy is more settled.
As osteopaths can diagnose and treat imbalances or restrictions in the body even before they cause symptoms, many people choose to have a regular maintenance treatment to prevent problems developing. Osteopathy is sometimes confused with chiropractic, however the two professions have different training institutions, professional associations, registration boards, philosophies and treatment applications.
At the Bardon Counselling & Natural Therapy Centre we have a team of two registered osteopaths who can help people with a wide range of symptoms including:
• Back pain
• Birth Strain/Trauma
• Blocked sinus
• Children with learning difficulties and developmental delay
• Colic and reflux in babies
• Ear Infections
• Functional breathing disturbances
• Headaches and migraines
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Jaw pain
• Neck and shoulder stiffness and pain
• Period Pain/ Fertility and Conception
• Postnatal discomfort
• Postural and/or mobility problems
• Postural disturbances
• Stress related conditions
• Tinnitus (Certain categories)