Q: What is Osteopathy and what are the qualifications of an Osteopath?
Osteopathy is a form of hands-on or manual therapy which aims to restore function and pain-free motion to the body. It is based on western medical science. All qualified osteopaths undergo 4-5 years of full-time education in Anatomy, Physiology, Biomechanics, Pathology, Nutrition and Pharmacology. The work of an Osteopath, therefore, complements standard medical care.
Q: How does Osteopathic treatment complement standard medical care?
Most GPs manage patients’ pain by means of prescribing analgesics (pain-killers) and anti-inflammatory medication. Osteopaths play an important complementary role by assisting with cases that do not respond satisfactorily to pain medication, helping to correct the underlying cause(s) of pain. Osteopaths are able to spend more time to assess and treat parts of the body that are restricted, which may not necessarily be where the symptoms manifest, in order to address the root of the problem.
Q: Why is Osteopathic treatment considered holistic?
What makes Osteopathy a truly holistic approach is its central tenet that the various parts of the body are interrelated. When one part of the body is restricted, other parts of the body have to compensate. Hence, Osteopaths will always put the symptomatic area (eg. knee pain) in the context of the rest of the body to address any underlying ‘silent’ factors (eg. low back or hip stiffness which may be driving the knee pain). Osteopaths can also help to identify unconscious movement or postural habits that slow down recovery, and provide practical means of managing stress should these be assessed as factors that contribute to the pain symptoms.
Q: How do Osteopaths identify the cause(s) of pain or dysfunction in the body?
Much in the same way a musician trains her sense of hearing, an Osteopath trains his hands to feel for subtle tensions, torsions or imbalances in the tissues of the human body. This is especially valuable in many cases where the cause of pain is due to functional problems (eg, tightness, laxity) in the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints which often do not show up in the static images of X-rays or MRI scans. The diagnosis from palpation is very precise in that Osteopaths are able to define which tissues are causing the symptoms and which require treatment.
Q: What conditions do Osteopaths treat?
Any pain condition that has a component of dysfunction in the soft tissues or joints of the body is amenable to Osteopathic treatment. The following is a list of the musculoskeletal problems which Osteopathy can help with:
Low back pain and sciatica
Neck pain and headaches
Chest pain (ribs & muscles)
Pregnancy back and hip pain
Repetitive stress injuries
Tendonitis or tendinopathy
Pain in the shoulder, elbow or wrist
Pain in the knee, ankle or foot
Jaw pain or TMJ dysfunction
Tailbone or pelvic floor pain
Q: How do Osteopaths treat?
Osteopathy has one of the widest range of hands-on treatment techniques amongst manual therapy professions. This makes it possible for an Osteopath to tailor treatment to the specific needs of each patient. Similar pain conditions are not treated in exactly the same way because every individual is unique. Treatment must be relevant to the person having the injury or dysfunction.
Some of the techniques include:
Deep soft tissue massage specific to diagnosis, to address muscle spasm and promote blood circulation and drainage
Trigger point therapy (dry needling) to deal with pain coming from stubborn, chronic muscle ‘knots’
Articulation and mobilisation to improve joint flexibility
Stretching techniques to lengthen shortened myofascial tissues
Gentle positional release techniques to balance and unwind tensions in the ligaments and joints
Dermoneuro-modulation gentle skin stretch approach to ease pain from 'entrapped' peripheral nerves
Q: How many sessions of treatment do I need?
Depending on the complexity of the problem, most patients see a definite change in their symptoms within 3 to 6 sessions of osteopathic treatment. Pain and stiffness commonly develop from months or years of accumulating tension and imbalances, including previous injuries, repetitive occupational or postural strain. Addressing the root cause(s) of pain requires a reasonable measure of consistency and regularity in treatment and self-management. Your osteopath may suggest that you consider committing to a few weekly sessions, for example, in order for the improvement of your condition to be better sustained. Osteopathy provides not a quick-fix but incremental and definite changes to health and quality of life.
Q: Is Osteopathic care effective in the long term?
Osteopaths believe that getting patients to keep returning for more treatments is not the best form of long term preventive care. The key to preventing health problems recurring, and to developing long-term solutions, lies in increasing patients’ awareness of the causes of problems, and in giving them the help they need to take responsibility for their own health. This may include dietary advice, stretches or strengthening exercises adapted to individual needs and capacity, or relaxation techniques to reduce stress.