What is Osteopathy?
Osteopathy is a natural and gentle hands-on therapy that treats the individual as an integrated whole. Its aim is to restore balance and function to the body through various therapeutic manual techniques. These techniques are performed with a very refined sense of touch developed over years of training and practice.
Osteopathy considers all aspects of the individual and their complaint: physically, emotionally and spiritually. In this manner, osteopathic therapy nurtures everyone in a safe and unique way for them, and contributes to the body’s ability to return to, and maintain, its natural state of health.
Osteopathy is based in four main concepts that are used in every treatment for every patient:
Structure Governs Function:
How well the body is aligned and balanced determines how well it works. When the body is out of alignment it leads to dysfunction, compensation, and eventually pain. If the problem, or dysfunction, is large enough this can contribute to problems such as disc herniation, difficulty moving and walking, and needing to take time off from work in order to receive proper treatment, which in severe cases may take several months or even years.
In order to restore balance and allow for proper function of the body, osteopathic manual therapy involves gentle corrections of the muscles and bones of the body, as well as internal organ, or visceral, manipulation. This works because as bones are realigned and muscle tension is released, the nerves of the body that run to various muscles and organs are freed of any tension or compression caused by this misalignment. By freeing up the nerves, it ensures the typical pain signals associated with constant compression no longer need to occur, leading the body to be pain free.
The Body is a Functional Unit:
It is often misunderstood that all parts of the body are, in fact, aware of each other, and that the body is a whole. After all, how often does a person complain of tight and sore shoulders causing their headache? What about the person with a sprained ankle who after a few weeks of having to compensate by leaning more to the opposite side states their low back and hip hurts? Or complains of digestive problems like constipation?
By working with the first two principles, osteopathic treatment aims to maintain the body as a whole so it can function as a whole. Something out of place in the neck ultimately affects the digestive system, or the pelvis. Realignment of the joints and ensuring proper blood flow in local areas is important, but ideally this is just a single piece of the whole puzzle called the body. This is important to keep in mind during osteopathic treatment as the practitioner will be treating the body globally, and won’t necessarily be focusing where the pain is located.
Osteopathic treatment looks for the root cause of dysfunction and follows the path to enlightenment for the body in order for it to run smoothly. Put plain and simple: if the ankle was sprained the practitioner has to work on the foot, ankle and leg, as well as the low back, hips, neck, shoulders and head.
The Rule of the Artery is Absolute:
Simply stated, proper blood flow is essential to health and life because it defines the body’s ability to heal and maintain itself. Establishing proper circulation is key in osteopathic treatment as it ensures exchange of vital nutrients and gases occur in the body’s tissues, such as oxygen and carbon dioxide. When this is not the case due to high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, or lack of exercise in general, stagnation of blood occurs and can lead to varying complaints, including:
- Muscle and joint pain
- Problems breathing
- Vision problems
- Wounds that are unable to heal
Specifically referring to the above treatment methods, work to the heart and its surroundings, as well as its complicated network of blood vessels that deliver blood around the body, osteopathic treatment aims to eliminate and manage these problems by restoring essential blood flow through the whole body.
The Body has an Inherent Ability to Heal/Autoregulate Itself:
This means the body is capable of healing itself, although sometimes it does require a little outside help. Bodies heal themselves all the time, such as in the case of papercuts, colds and flus, bruises, etcetera. The Osteopathic Manual Practitioner is the aid the body sometimes needs to bring itself back into a place where it can perform its natural function of healing. This is done through a gentle, yet deep, sense of touch combined with the practitioner’s extensive knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology. By realigning and balancing the body through gentle muscle release and joint corrections, as well as work to the internal organs and cranium, the body can breathe a sigh of relief as it can focus 100% of its attention on healing instead of trying to keep itself from falling apart in the presence of dysfunction.