5 reasons you might visit the Osteopath

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.


 -Dr Dan



(1)     https://ahpa.com.au/allied-health-professions/osteopathy/

Repeat after me...

Practice makes perfect.


How do we learn new things? Through practice of course. It’s not like we live in a world like Neo from The Matrix where we can just plug in and instantly learn a new skill. We have to work hard at it and that’s what I want to talk about today – forming habits in aspects of our lives where we want to improve and integrating these habits so that they become our new normal.  The best way to do that is through repetitive action.


So, forming habits through repetition sounds easy enough right? Studies have shown that if I place myself in a situation where I perform an action over and over, I’ll soon just get it, but how does that work[1]? Neuroplasticity my friends.


It’s a term you may or may not have heard and to put it simply I think of it like exercise itself; if we exercise our muscles regularly, they get stronger and better at performing their function.  This is because the brain has remembered this previous exercise, and that is where neuroplasticity comes in.  When we complete a certain exercise regularly, we are building and strengthening the synaptic connection between our neurons; when we repeatedly fire on our neuron’s connections, they will in turn perform better each time.  A common saying is “Neurons that fire together, wire together”[2].


The same theory applies when we are learning a new skill: the more we engage in certain patterns, the more facilitated that pattern becomes.  On a personal level, this is how I went from only being able to hold a handstand for a couple of seconds, to being able to confidently hold my handstand for over 20 seconds.


We can take this concept and apply it in many realms of our lives. In the sense of movement, it means that if we complete a certain pattern over and over, the brain activity will require lower levels of stimuli each time to perform that movement. If we are thinking about not forgetting to water our plants so they stop dying, we would keep our watering can close by and write a note that’s visible as a cue to remember. After a short about of time we will start to be more automatic in our thinking and the habit will be formed. 


They say it take 2 weeks to bed in the formation of neural connectivity when forming new habits so why don’t you get out there and have a go? Try that new exercise, or that new movement or even watering your plants consistently for 2 weeks and see what happens.

-Dr Dan


[1] Lally, P & Gardener, B 2011. Promoting habit formation. Health Psychology Review, pages s137-s158 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17437199.2011.603640?scroll=top&needAccess=true

[2] Hargrove, Todd, 2014, A Guide to Better Movement: The Science and Practice of Moving with More Skill and Less Pain, page 54.

Are you driving with the brakes on?

We all know the feeling of not being able to hit a fly that is buzzing around our head. Is it because the fly is very quick and constantly changing directions? Partially... Or maybe it’s has more to do with our inability to relax into the action of hitting the fly. We become frantic, stressed, and we hold excessive tension in our body. This tension is analogous to attempting to drive with the brakes on. We can push through it, but we intrinsically know it’s foolish. We’d cause excessive strain on the brake pads, we would lose fuel economy at an astounding rate, and if we even made it to our destination it would be multiple times slower than if we took the brakes off.

I don’t want to scare you away but we are going to get just a little bit spiritual on this one and refer to the symbol and concept of Yin and Yang and relate it to movement. Yin representing relaxation and Yang representing excitation and they are in a perfect balance. 

Let me first just note that we are speaking from a general point of view, there’s obvious differences if we look at a spectrum of movement from powerlifting (tension) and dance (fluidity). Commonly (especially in strength training disciplines) it’s believed that movement is primarily Yang dominant. We just need to excite more to move more? Doesn’t it take contraction/excitation/tension of a muscle/s to perform a movement?

Yes, we know that the musculoskeletal system is moved by agonistic contraction, eg. contraction of the bicep to do a bicep curl. But what if want to increase the speed of the movement? What if I need to integrate that particular movement into a sequence of positions and create fluidity? How do I achieve grace in movement where there is a seamless flow between positions? 

The answer, learn to turn the brakes off!

Now, obviously we don’t have a switch within the body to turn them off so how do we do it?

We train it, we learn relaxation methods such as meditation, visualisation, breathwork. Once Repetition is the other key component that when done enough, teaches the body how to do the movement with the least amount of energy expenditure by using the Yin component of movement. Our ability to relax into movements allows the energetic and nervous system to specifically target muscles that actually require activation and then allow for optimal relaxation of antagonistic/opposing muscles. 

The final question I leave for you is this. Where else can you apply this concept of ‘driving with the brakes on’ to your life?