Osteopathy is a healing art which involves the diagnosis and treatment of structural and mechanical dysfunctions of the body.
Osteopathy recognizes that the body is an intrinsically self-healing, self-regulating and self-correcting organism. Osteopaths believe that physical imbalances and strains can impair the ability of the body to maintain itself in a state of health. Osteopaths do not simply concentrate on treating the problem area, but use manual techniques to balance interrelated systems of the body to improve health and wellbeing.
Osteopaths consider that health is not simply the absence of disease or pain. It is a state of balance and harmony between the body, mind and spirit of a person. In health a body should be able to deal with health challenges and restore itself to optimum health afterwards.
Accumulation of stress in the body
Most of us have been exposed to stressful physical or emotional events at some stage in our life, and the effects of these events can accumulate. Gradually the body may find it more and more difficult to cope, and symptoms may start to show.
Patients may say that they feel as though their body has 'got stuck', and is unable to work properly.
The whole body is connected
The body is largely made of connective tissues (bones, muscles, ligaments, fascia, blood vessels, even internal organs are simply specialised connective tissues) and water. The connective tissues are continuous throughout the body, and are maintained in a state of balance rather like a giant mobile. Any area of restriction or tension will change the balance throughout the connective tissue system, ie the whole body.
Imagine a tangle in a mobile which causes the whole mobile to hang crooked, or if someone was hanging on to your teeshirt, you would feel that your whole shirt was uncomfortable and twisted. So for example, a limp will change the balance of the pelvis, lower back and neck, and this has to be accommodated by the pelvis, spine, rib cage, shoulders and neck. Stiffness or restricted mobility in any of these areas can make it difficult to compensate for the limp, and symptoms such as aching or pain in the low back or neck, or tension headaches may result.
Good circulation is essential for health
Another fundamental principle of osteopathy is that mechanical imbalance in the musculoskeletal framework of the back and spine can disturb related circulation or nerves.
Osteopaths believe that restricted blood flow into or out of any area of the body, or restricted lymphatic drainage will compromise the health and healing ability of that area.
For example, our priority in treating areas of inflammation is to help restore good circulation to clear the build up of chemicals and waste products, and allow the body to heal.
An osteopathic consultation
During a consultation, the osteopath tries to build up a clear picture of the individual, their health and lifestyle. Each person is unique. The consultation begins with a detailed case history that involves discussing:
The case history is followed by a thorough examination. This may involve observing the posture, testing ranges of movement in joints, standard diagnostic procedures and a detailed palpatory examination.
Many patients present with symptoms that they have had for a very long period of time, or that keep recurring. Osteopaths are interested in understanding why a problem has developed, and treatment is aimed at trying to prevent it from recurring. So an osteopathic diagnosis is in two parts:
Explanation and treatment plan
Osteopaths like to involve the patient in maintaining their own health, and will ensure that the patient understands what is wrong with them and why.
The treatment plan will be explained, and may include recommendations for lifestyle changes, diet or exercises that may help.
How do osteopaths treat?
Osteopaths have a highly developed sense of touch or palpation. They have an extensive knowledge of anatomy and physiology and can detect very subtle physical imbalances in the body.
Osteopaths use a very wide range of techniques throughout the body, many of them very gentle and subtle to ease out areas of tension and restricted mobility, help improve local circulation and help the body to return to a better state of balance and health.
Osteopaths maintain good working relationships with medical practitioners and may refer the patient to their GP.
Osteopaths may have different specialities including minor sports injuries, paediatrics, visceral (related to the internal organs of the body) or cranial osteopathy. Cranial osteopathy is known for its very subtle and gentle techniques applied throughout the body using osteopathic principles.
Osteopathy is an art as well as a science and skilled osteopaths work intuitively with great empathy with their patients.
Osteopaths treat all the family
Osteopaths are true family practitioners, and can help people with mechanical problems associated with every age from newborn babies to the elderly.
Regulation of osteopathy
In 1993, osteopathy became the first major complementary health care profession to be accorded statutory recognition under the 1993 Osteopaths Act. Osteopaths are regulated by the General Osteopathic Council.
Osteopaths are skilled health care professionals who undergo an in-depth training
Osteopaths deal with pain every day
UK osteopaths treat six million people every year who are suffering from pain
Osteopaths treat acute and chronic pain
Osteopaths treat to help prevent pain recurring
Osteopaths can help you both with treatment and advice on self-help.
What can osteopaths treat?
Osteopaths treat the whole person to support the body's own self-healing ability and do not focus on treating conditions.
Osteopaths are best known for treating the spine and joints related to the back and spine. Our experience is that patients also report improvements in many other symptoms. Osteopathy is known to help:
If you are unsure whether your problem can be helped with osteopathy, then it is strongly recommended that you speak to your osteopath for advice before booking an appointment.
It may be possible to claim for a course of osteopathy if you have private health insurance policy. Check with your insurance provider to confirm the available level of cover and to find out whether you require a referral from a GP or specialist. All insurance companies have help lines to explain your benefits and methods of claiming.