Osteopathy is a form of drug-free non-invasive manual medicine that focuses on total body health by treating and strengthening the musculoskeletal framework, which includes the joints, muscles and spine. Its aim is to positively affect the body's nervous, circulatory and lymphatic systems.
This therapy is a unique holistic (whole body) approach to health care. Osteopaths do not simply concentrate on treating the problem area, but use manual techniques to balance all the systems of the body, to provide overall good health and wellbeing.
Dr. Andrew Taylor Still established the practice of Osteopathy in the late 1800s in the United States of America, with the aim of using manual 'hands on' techniques to improve circulation and correct altered biomechanics, without the use of drugs.
What does osteopathy treat?
Osteopaths treat more than you think. Many patients present with complaints of aches in the head, back, neck, and heel/ foot pain; sciatica; shin splints; tennis elbow and repetitive strain injury. Other patients suffer from asthma; arthritis; digestive problems; carpal tunnel syndrome; whiplash and postural problems.
Osteopaths also deal regularly with patients who have been injured in the workplace, at home or while playing sport.
What are the qualities of Osteopathy
The philosophy of Osteopathy is what sets it apart from other medical disciplines. The key principles are based on all parts of the body functioning together in an integrated manner. If one part of the body is restricted, then the rest of the body must adapt and compensate for this, eventually leading to inflammation, pain, stiffness and other health conditions. When the body is free of restrictions in movement, Osteopathic treatment assists the body with pain minimisation, reduced stress and greater mobility providing the body with the opportunity to heal itself.
Osteopaths use a broad range of gentle hands-on techniques including soft tissue stretching, deep tactile pressure, and mobilisation or manipulation of joints.
In some cases, Osteopaths can complement the advice given by GPs. For example, people who suffer from arthritis are often prescribed medication by their GP. In addition to that, Osteopaths can ease the pain caused by joint and muscle stiffness, by improving joint mobility and the flow of blood to the joints, and show arthritis sufferers how to prevent causing injury to themselves.
Osteopathy is a five-year university course, which includes a degree and masters qualification. Senior Osteopathy students complete clinical training under the supervision of registered Osteopaths at student teaching clinics.
Osteopaths believe in working as part of a health system of health providers and often refer back to the G.P. or another allied health professional where appropriate.
Benefits of Osteopathy
Osteopathic treatment in itself is not 'preventative'. Osteopaths respect the body's natural ability as a self-regulating mechanism and only intervene when pain or discomfort is present. The benefits of osteopathy are the general improvement in mobility and structural stability of the body. In turn, other systems of the body such as the circulatory, nervous and lymphatic systems function more effectively and for a number of general conditions, minimal treatment is required.
Osteopathy and sleep
A key indicator of pain or discomfort is lack of sleep or restless nights. An effective osteopathic treatment outcome often reflects the first signs of recovery with a good night's sleep. Poor sleep patterns only serve to magnify the body's inability to function adequately and reduce our psychosomatic (Psychosomatic illnesses are those in which physical symptoms are caused or aggravated by emotional factors) ability to cope with pain.
Osteopathy and the nervous, circulatory and lymphatic systems
Osteopathic treatment positively affects the nervous, circulatory and lymphatic systems, to deliver a more balanced body and better health overall. This combined with good dietary and /or exercise prescription can enhance a patient's well being and often leads to a positive approach to individual health responsibility.
On the next page we look at osteopathy as a treatment for back pain and we examine what osteopathic treatment involves.