What is Osteopathy?
Osteopathy is a "whole body" system of manual therapy, based on unique bio-mechanical principles, which uses a wide range of techniques to treat musculo-skeletal problems and other functional disorders of the body. It was developed in America in the 1870’s by a Missouri Doctor, Andrew Taylor Still, and has developed to the point where it is now widely recognised throughout the world as one of the most scientifically validated and effective "complementary" therapies.
The World Health Organisation recognises the Osteopathic concept of somatic dysfunction as being scientifically proven, and the British Medical Association also recognises Osteopathy as a discrete medical discipline. In Australia, Osteopaths are statutorily registered practitioners and five year, full-time university training is available, which covers anatomy, physiology, pathology and general medical diagnosis in addition to Osteopathic technique. Osteopaths are primary care practitioners, and are trained to be able to recognise conditions which require medical referral. They are also trained to carry out standard medical examinations of the cardiovascular, respiratory and nervous system.
What conditions do Osteopaths deal with?
Osteopathy is best known for the treatment of a wide variety of musculo-skeletal problems, but it also has a role to play in the management of a number of other conditions. The most common complaints for which patients consult Osteopaths include:
- back and neck pain,
- pains in peripheral joints such as shoulders, knees and ankles,
- tendinitis and muscle strains,
- work-related and repetitive strain injuries, and
- sports-related injuries.
How do osteopaths treat?
In carrying out treatments, Osteopaths can call upon what is probably the largest range of techniques used in any manual therapy. These include:
- Massage and stretching techniques;
- Articulation techniques, in which joints are mobilised by being passively taken through their range of motion;
- Muscle Energy techniques, in which contracted muscles are released by alternately being stretched and made to work against resistance;
- Counterstrain techniques, which achieve release of restriction by placing the affected joint or muscle in a position of comfort, while applying a "Counter" stretch to the antagonists of the tight muscles;
- Functional techniques, which involve gentle mobilisation of joints in a way which "probes" barriers to normal movement until a way is found through the restriction;
- Manipulation, which may be used where it is appropriate and safe to do so, though it is not the mainstay of most Osteopathic treatments. Osteopathic manipulations are carried out using minimum force levels in order to maximise safety and minimise patient discomfort;
- Many Osteopaths also use what is known as "Osteopathy in the Cranial field", which is a gentle release technique particularly suited to young children and the physically frail;
- "Visceral" techniques are used in the management of conditions affecting internal organs. These involve gentle and rhythmical stretching of the visceral areas; and
- Osteopathic treatments are tailored to the requirements of the individual patient, and techniques are selected which are appropriate to the patient’s needs.