Osteopathic Medicine is a system of diagnosing and treating the whole person by working on the bony, muscular, nervous, emotional, immune and circulatory systems. It is based on the principle that problems in any one system can upset the body's delicate physiological balance overall. This disruption leads in turn to discomfort, dysfunction and disease.
Diagnosis is initiated on your first visit; a full case history will be taken and you will be given an examination. You may be asked to remove some of your clothing and to perform various movements. By carefully palpating and feeling what happens, areas of poor function and points of excessive strain or weakness will be identified within the body. It will usually be important to touch and feel any areas that are in trouble so close-fitting gymnastic apparel (a.k.a. "school drop-off kit") is often a hindrance. Likewise, if you would like me to have a look at problems with you feet, a quick rinse beforehand goes a long way. Otherwise, gents, if your neck needs a tweak, please do not plaster your hair with handfulls of Brylcreem or "Styling Wax" in advance. And ladies; in later life, the combination of a thong and an incontinence pad is not a good look!
Treatment can begin once we have discussed a rough idea of what might be going on and will involve guiding the body by hand back towards a healthier condition. To be fully effective, treatment will also include an element of working together with the patient in addressing all of the systems above as well as other aspects of their life, as required or requested. Specific structural tensions will be freed and this should release stress throughout the body as well as the mind. Patients will usually find that they are able to enjoy some spin-off with other health issues because of treatment for what appeared to be a simple structural problem. Advice can also be given on self-help treatments and lifestyle changes. Exercises and other homework may be suggested to patients, to help them build on what has taken place in clinic. Having overcome a specific acute problem, continuing osteopathic care is an important way of ensuring full health. Rather like visiting the dentist, a routine couple of visits per year should be considered by everybody. In specific instances, this will be more frequent if needed to address an on-going situation.
Techniques employed will depend on the individual patient on a particular day. Treatment usually consists of a combination of soft-tissue releasing techniques together with some specific adjustments affecting joints and soft-tissues (muscles, tendons and ligaments). High Velocity Thrusts are an osteopathic trademark. They offer a swift but careful and often painless adjustment of a joint that sometimes produces a click This is used to un-block joints, relax muscles and relieve pain. Muscle-Energy Techniques are useful for patients with sports injuries or post-operatively. They encourage muscles to return to a normal length or tension and heal quickly, with the minimum of scar tissue. Gentle traction techniques also help when freeing adhesions in conditions such as frozen shoulder or pelvic strain from pregnancy. Exercise and lifestyle, diet and general naturopathic or vitamin guidance may be offered by way of "homework" for a patient. Practical counselling and advice is also available.
Limitations to osteopathic treatment are very few. Clearly, osteopathy is not a cure for severe osteoporosis, broken bones, or cancer etc. Everybody can receive help, however, with symptoms such as pain, tension, poor general health and bad posture. The aim is to help people (no matter what their ailment) rather than to conquer diseases and, with care, even patients nearing the end of their lives or in considerable pain can benefit greatly. Treatment throughout prenancy is almost always helpful providing it is carefully tailored to the stage reached. Don't sit and suffer!