Osteopathy is a holistic system which can treat a wide range of medical conditions. It is a scientifically founded method of treatment with foundations in the disciplines of Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, and Pathology. It can complement orthodox medical treatment – some conditions respond better to osteopathy, and some conditions respond best when treated both osteopathically and through orthodox medicine – and is officially recognised by the British Medical Association and the National Institute of Clinical Excellence.
Contrary to popular opinion, osteopathy looks at more than just ‘bad backs’. The scope is far greater and can involve treating the entire body from head to toe. Using hands-on techniques such as joint manipulation and articulation; stretching and massage; an osteopath will assess your musculoskeletal function, and adjust it to allow the body to heal naturally and efficiently. Treatment rarely causes discomfort and can help many conditions (have a look at the “what do we treat” section for more information).
The holistic element stems from one of the core principles of Osteopathy: the notion that the body should be viewed as a single, whole entity. For example if a patient presents with hip pain as the original complaint, an osteopath will examine and treat the surrounding areas at the same time (back, knee and leg for example) in an effort to re-align and stabilise the body’s functions.
Long-term health and continued improvement is important: in addition to clinic-based treatment sessions an osteopath can advise on exercise rehabilitation, ergonomics and in some cases diet.
The body has a natural ability to heal itself and osteopaths use this to return their patients to good health. Patients of all ages – from babies to old-aged pensioners, and situations – pregnant women to sports fanatics, can benefit from seeing an osteopath to alleviate a wide variety of complaints.
There are four types of osteopathic treatment:
Structural osteopathy This is the most common treatment approach and is the basis for modern osteopathic training. It involves the osteopath using manual techniques to affect the musculoskeletal system (moving joints, stretching muscles) to treat specific ailments whilst ensuring that the treatment also addresses the surrounding areas and any root causes.
Classical osteopathy Classical osteopathy is also structural in its approach but is based on more traditional principles as first developed by the profession’s founder, Dr Andrew Taylor Still back in 1874. It is based on a specific routine known as the ‘body adjustment’ where the whole body is treated and more specific treatment is subsequently directed as appropriate. This form of osteopathy is now less widely practised.
Cranial osteopathy This approach uses a gentle method of touch to identify and, where necessary, adjust the cranial rhythm around the body. A typical session will begin with the osteopath identifying your cranial rhythm by feeling around your skull, comparing your rhythm with the ‘norm’ and using any anomalies to identify and treat the affected areas of your body. Given its gentle nature, cranial osteopathy is often the chosen method of treatment for babies and children.
Visceral osteopathy The visceral approach looks at the physical structure and the organs and their relationships with each other. Today’s modern living sees our bodies placed under a large amount of stress associated with poor posture, diet and lifestyle pressures and as such areas of tension can build around the visceral organs.