Osteopathy, from the eyes of the Osteopath.
So, you may be asking yourself: What is osteopathy? I would have to say the usual response I hear is “it has something to do with bones, right?” While this answer is correct, osteopathy is a modality that looks at so much more than just your bones, and here’s why:
The roughly 206 bones in our body create an internal framework, however this internal framework is not freestanding. The assembly of bone to bone is reliant on the connective tissues called ligaments.
Now, the task of moving all of these bones around in space is going to require something a bit more flexible. This is where our muscles come into play; to connect muscle to bone we have tendons (a type of connective tissue that’s strong and flexible). So we have a skeleton, which is connected together by ligaments, and we have muscles that are attached to our skeleton by tendons. With that information, I introduce the musculoskeletal system (MSK).
However, our MSK does not work on its own, so my next introduction is the part of our body that controls the MSK - the central nervous system (CNS) which is made up of nervous tissues. These tissues can be found in the brain, spinal cord and nerves and they are responsible for coordinating and controlling our body functions including operation of the MSK.
Now I could stop the story here and say that the role of the osteopath is to treat MSK dysfunction in the individual with the use of osteopathic manual techniques (OMT), manual soft tissue manipulation, repetitive soft articulation movements and selective stretches and exercises.
However, I believe that I would not be giving the whole picture. The ‘whole picture’ involves taking a holistic approach to my practice, and treating the patient in front of me as not just a body presenting with dysfunction, but as a person who is experiencing a challenge or injury that is affecting their life (not just on the physical level).
“Osteopathic medicine is a distinctive form of medical care founded on the philosophy that all body systems are interrelated and dependent upon one another for good health.”
My Osteopathic approach always starts with sitting down with my patient and gathering information about their medical history to create a map of the events that have transpired. Sometimes this can involve going deep into a patient’s history surrounding old injuries and/or dysfunction within their body that may or may not play a role in the way they are currently feeling (both physically and mentally). By taking a patient’s history, I can start to build a picture surrounding how behaviours may have changed, how a patient may have started using of their body in certain ways to avoid pain, and how this experience may have impacted their feelings and beliefs about their recovery. Over time, it has definitely become clear to me the way we use our body to compensate for injury or dysfunction impacts our daily life; sometimes an injury can carry more than just visual scars as a reminder of a trauma that may have happened years before.
So, what is it exactly that an Osteopath treats? Here are some common reasons (but not all) a person might visit an Osteopath: (1)
1. For assessment/management of a neuro-musculoskeletal injury or impairment and its functional impacts; or explore risk of possible injury based upon movement styles adopted
2. To examine the bio-mechanical, neural and/or musculoskeletal implications associated with a non-neural or musculoskeletal impairment
3. For advice on posture, positioning, improving body alignment, physical strength and/or conditioning
4. Strengthening the structure of women’s bodies pre/post child birth
5. Functional capacity assessment of injured workers for return-to-work planning.
Being an osteopath, and taking a holistic approach means that I will go that step further. Benefits to taking a holistic approach can include:
1. Getting to the core issues that may be driving your pain and discomfort
2. Being heard as an individual, not just as a number
3. Having a management plan designed around your recovery and goals based on evidence-based practice.
4. Forming a better understanding of your body and what is going on within it.
5. Learning new habits that will keep you feeling better for longer.
As a practitioner, my goal is help my patients through their past and present injuries and body dysfunction, and into better movement and mobility. I do this with thorough and ongoing treatments (as necessary) and through methods that are best suited to the patient.
However, when patients come to me with issues that may be out of my scope of practice, I will work with other allied health care professional to place that patient in the right hands that will assist in getting them back to better health.
For me, the patient comes first.