What is an osteopath? How do they differ from other manual therapists?
While osteopaths may use some similar management and techniques to other complimentary health professionals, we differ greatly in our philosophy and how we approach each patient.
Osteopathy was originally developed as an alternative to medicine and while now considered complimentary, is still practiced outside the medical mainstream. Osteopaths primarily treat issues with the musculoskeletal system but also assist in the co-managment of other medical issues.
Osteopaths are facilitators of the innate healing capacity within the body. The body is always striving towards balance and equilibrium. We treat by providing an external force to remove impediments to the natural healing process throughout different systems of the body including: muscles, bones, vessels, nerves, connective tissue and organs.
Through a thorough history and examination, an osteopath identifies ‘what’ is causing the pain or dysfunction using a combination of primarily touch, movement observation and orthopaedic testing. However, we are more interested in ‘why’ and ‘how’ the system was overloaded and unbalanced in the first place, and what is preventing it from returning to health.
A hands on technique helps the nervous system to calm, re-calibrate and adjust tissue tension. It increases the range of motion of the joints and connective tissue, allowing more space for structures that may be under adverse tension to improve local tissue circulation and lymphathic drainage. Osteopaths also provide an explanation on how pain is processed by the body and incorporate movement/ rehabilitation strategies to compliment the treatment. In addition, we offer advice about ergonomics, posture, diet and lifestyle. This is designed to reduce the overload of different structures and teach the nervous system how to move efficiently without pain and dysfunction.
Particularly for more chronic issues, patients need to be aware that a resolution of their symptoms will not be instantaneous, but should be able to notice a change in their symptoms within 2-3 treatments. Although, for some complaints ongoing treatment and management may be indicated, an osteopath aims to address the cause and predisposing factors of the problem so that you do not need to be treated on an ongoing basis.
Treatment styles vary from patient to patient and from practitioner to practitioner but the application of the philosophy remains, that is, providing a specific and individualised treatment and management plan for each osteopathic patient.
- ‘Osteopathy Explained, Version 1.4. Smartt, John. “Osteopath In Sydney CBD”. Smarttosteopath.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 23 June 2016.
- Still, A. T. The Philosophy And Mechanical Principles Of Osteopathy. Kirksville, Mo.: Osteopathic Enterprise, 1986. Print.
- Lewis, John Robert. ‘From the Dry Bone to the Living Man’ A.T. Still. Print.