Osteopathy is a therapeutic system of diagnosis and treatment which addresses structural and mechanical dysfunctions of the body. It is both science and healing art.
Osteopathy recognizes that the body is an intrinsically self-healing, self-regulating, self-adjusting organism. Osteopaths believe that physical imbalances and strains can impair the ability of the body to maintain itself in a state of health.
Osteopaths do not simply concentrate on treating the anatomical area of the body which is producing symptoms but use manual techniques to balance all the systems of the body, to restore health and wellbeing.
Osteopaths consider that health is not simply the absence of disease or pain. It is a state of balance and harmony between the body, mind and spirit of a person. In health a person’s body should be able to deal with health challenges, trauma or stressful situations and restore itself to optimum health afterwards.
Most of us have been exposed to stressful physical or emotional events at some stage in our life, and the effects of these events can accumulate. Gradually the body may find it more and more difficult to cope, and symptoms may develop.
Patients may say that they feel as though their body has ‘got stuck’ and is unable to work properly.
A large proportion of the body is connective tissues (bones, muscles, ligaments, fascia, blood vessels. Even internal organs are simply specialised connective tissues) and water. The connective tissues are continuous throughout the body, and are maintained in a state of suspended balance rather like a baby’s mobile toy. Any area of restriction or tension will change the balance throughout the whole connective tissue system, ie the whole body.
Imagine a tangle in a hanging mobile which causes the whole thing to hang crooked, or if someone was hanging on to your T shirt. You would feel that your whole shirt was uncomfortable and twisted.
So for example, a limp will change the balance of the pelvis, lower back and neck. The body copes with this by altering mechanical relationships in the pelvis, spine, rib cage, shoulders and neck. Stiffness or restricted mobility in any of these areas can make it difficult to compensate for the limp and aching or pain in the low back or neck, or tension headaches may result.
Another fundamental principle of osteopathy is that mechanical imbalance in the musculoskeletal framework of the back and spine can disturb related blood circulation or nerves. Osteopaths find that restricted blood flow into or out of any area of the body, or restricted lymphatic drainage will compromise the health and healing ability of that area.
For example our priority in treating areas of inflammation is to help restore good circulation to clear the build up of chemicals and waste products, and allow the body to heal.
Osteopaths have a highly developed sense of touch or palpation. They have an extensive knowledge of anatomy and physiology and can detect very subtle physical imbalances in the body.
Osteopaths use a very wide range of manual treatment approaches, many of them very gentle and subtle to ease out areas of tension and restricted mobility, help improve local circulation and help the body to return to a better state of balance and health.
Osteopaths maintain good working relationships with medical practitioners and may refer the patient to their GP.
Osteopaths may have different specialities including minor sports injuries, paediatrics, visceral (related to the internal organs of the body) or cranial osteopathy. Cranial osteopathy is known for its very subtle and gentle techniques applied throughout the body using osteopathic principles.
Osteopaths are true family practitioners, and can gently and safely help people of every age from newborn babies to the elderly.
In 1993, osteopathy became the first major complementary health care profession to be accorded statutory recognition under the 1993 Osteopaths Act.
Osteopaths are regulated by the General Osteopathic Council.