Osteopathy is a holistic approach to health, stress and the significance good anatomical movement in our overall well being. It is one of the ten regulated healthcare professions in Australia and osteopaths must complete a five-year university degree and be registered with the Osteopathy Board of Australia.
People consult osteopaths for a wide range of disorders and conditions. If you’re considering visiting an osteopath for the first time, here’s everything you need to know about how it works and what the potential benefits are.
It’s a drug-free manual therapy
Osteopaths believe that in many cases the body can heal itself if the right combination of manual techniques are employed.
Your osteo will take into consideration your medical history, and observe how your body functions in a variety of circumstances. They will also physically examine you in order to assess which parts of your body are healthy and which are in pain.
An osteopath will always refer you back to your GP or another type of doctor at any time if they determine that osteopathic treatment is not suited to you.
It works by manipulating your musculoskeletal framework
Osteopaths focus on your entire body, including your spine, soft tissues and nervous system. A central focus of osteopathy is ‘biochemistry’ – the study of how each part of the musculoskeletal system influences every other part. Any injury is considered in the context of the whole body, as it will affect other parts of the system. An osteo will use a variety of methods to manipulate your musculoskeletal framework, such as:
- Soft tissue massage
- Spinal manipulation
- Muscle energy techniques (pushing your muscles to work against resistance)
- Stretching muscles and joints
- Visceral manipulation (movement of the pelvic area and abdominal muscles)
- Cranial osteopathy
Focuses on joints, muscles and the spine
While patients consult osteopaths for issues anywhere in the body, the most common issues are related to the spine, muscles and joints. An osteopath will work to alleviate strains in your joints and muscles in order to reduce pain, through rebalancing and aligning your body. However a good osteopath is not just limited to the musculoskeletal system. They will actually focus of getting all the tissues of the body to move well, including your circulatory system, which delivers the nutrients to heal your injuries and may be much more beneficial than simply “cracking” your back. Osteopathy is far more nuanced than most people realise and can often employ very subtle techniques.
Arthritis, back pain and headaches
Patients commonly consult osteopaths for a range of medical issues including arthritis, back pain and headaches. While there is no cure for arthritis, osteopathic treatments may be recommended to relieve pain, reduce swelling and increase mobility and joint movement in arthritic patients. This is achieved by minimising symptoms through early diagnosis and helping you to implement lifestyle changes to prevent further damage.
Osteopaths are also consulted for back pain, as well as performing preventative treatments. This is done through the manipulation of all of the tissues of the body, not just the bones and the muscles. They may also suggest dietary changes and alternative ways of working and sitting at your desk if posture is an issue.
Finally, one of the most common complaints that patients consult osteopaths far are headaches and migraines. Your body is routinely working to keep your eyes and ears level to prevent you from feeling dizzy. However, this means that strains further down your body can lead to strains in the neck that cause headaches. Osteos focus on alleviating strains in the neck and from your posture in order to reduce neck tension and minimise your migraine and headache symptoms.
Chronic pain can lead to sleepless nights and restlessness. In turn, a lack of sleep can make your pain even more severe, thus beginning a vicious cycle. Patients consult osteopaths for the symptoms that are keeping them up at night.
Osteopaths may also recommend lifestyle changes to improve the quality of sleep.
If you’re suffering from aches, insomnia or headaches and migraines, consider visiting your local osteopath and exploring your treatment options.