Osteopathy is a form of hands on complementary 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.

Osteopaths apply 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. This philosophy and approach to treatment is what sets osteopathy apart.

A treatment using techniques such as stretching, massaging and mobilisation of specific joints and soft tissues, osteopathy is a form of manual medicine which recognises the important link between the structure of the body and the way it functions. Osteopaths focus on how the skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves, circulation, connective tissue and internal organs function as a holistic unit. Using skilled evaluation, diagnosis and a wide range of hands-on techniques, osteopaths can identify important types of dysfunction in your body.

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.

Benefits of Osteopathy

Osteopathic treatment in itself is ‘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 musculoskeletal pain

With our lives becoming increasingly busy, yet more sedentary, osteopaths can offer prevention advice such as stretching exercises, lifting techniques, posture, breathing and stress reduction which is a great way for individuals to maintain their own health. In addition, some lifestyle changes including diet or workplace ergonomics can dramatically improve one’s health and reduce ongoing health costs.

Early intervention by an osteopath means you can be aware of potential sources of referred pain, and how you can make changes to your lifestyle now so you won’t have to deal with the pain later on.

Preventing injuries means less time off work and therefore more time keeping active and enjoying the benefits of general good health. It is vitally important for all people to be aware of how injuries can occur and what we can all do to avoid them.

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.

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.

What does osteopathic treatment involve?

The first visit to an osteopath will run along the same lines as an initial visit to a GP. A complete medical history is taken and questions asked about lifestyle, diet and emotional status. The osteopath will want to hear about all symptoms, as well as details of any past accidents or traumas, even if they may seem unrelated to the patient’s current problem.

The osteopath will then perform a musculoskeletal assessment, observe how the patient is using their body, identify any obvious mobility impairment and evaluate posture. Neurological and orthopaedic tests help the osteopath to eliminate possible underlying pathologies and differentiate the basis of the patient’s complaint.

Osteopaths are highly trained to manually locate points of restriction or excessive strain in various parts of the body. Using a finely tuned sense of touch or palpation, the osteopath will assess the spine, joints, muscles and tendons. An osteopath may also refer for further testing (X-rays) to confirm findings, or review existing diagnostic results where available.

The initial consultation will take around 45 minutes to complete, after which the osteopath will be able to offer a diagnosis and discuss a treatment program. Treatment could include such techniques as soft tissue (massage) stretching, to increase blood flow and improve flexibility of joints and muscles; articulation to mobilise joints by being passively taken through their range of motion; dry needling muscle energy, to release tightness on the muscles by alternatively being stretched and made to work against resistance.

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 professional.

Because osteopathy emphasises self-healing, an osteopath may also advise home exercise programs and lifestyle adjustments. All treatment programs are highly individualised and depend on the patient’s current condition, past history, and ability to adapt to change.

Determining number of consultations/treatments:

Different conditions and individuals will require a different number of treatments to help get you back on track. In general, the longer you have had a condition, the longer it may take to resolve or become properly managed.

Some people find they only need a few consultations, some with more persistent problems require more. A management plan and treatment approach will be discussed with you at the time of consultation.

It is likely that we will give you ‘homework’, which may include: stretching techniques, exercise advice, the use of heat or ice and referral advice.