Osteopathy is a system of diagnosis and treatment based on the theory that when the body is functioning correctly, it has an innate ability to heal itself.
Whether this principle applies to all conditions is a moot point, but it certainly applies to the musculo-skeletal system. Due to postural problems, accumulation of minor strains and unresolved old injuries, our bodies are often not functioning properly. The upshot is that quality of life can be affected. It is probably true to say that for many of us, our bodies are only working to a fraction of our capacity because of accumulated stresses.
Osteopaths are trained to identify and treat the cause of dysfunction and so enable the body’s natural healing mechanisms to come into full play. This way they not only help resolve painful conditions but also improve quality of life.
They do this by employing various forms of soft tissue work (massage, stretching, isometric work etc.). They may also use manipulation to restore mobility to the joints.
In appropriate cases, infants and children for example, treatment is limited to extremely gentle techniques.
VISITING AN OSTEOPATH
Osteopaths consider each person as an individual. On your first visit the osteopath will spend time taking a detailed medical history, including information about your lifestyle and diet. You will normally be asked to undress to your underwear and perform a series of simple movements.
Osteopaths use their hands to identify abnormalities in the structure and function of a body, and to assess areas of weakness, tenderness, restriction or strain. By this means, your osteopath will make a full diagnosis and discuss with you the most appropriate treatment plan, estimating the likely number of sessions needed to treat your condition effectively.
Then they work with your body’s ability to heal itself. They will usually start any treatment by releasing and relaxing muscles and stretching stiff joints, using gentle massage and rhythmic joint movements. The particular range of techniques your osteopath uses will depend on your problem.
The first treatment generally lasts about 45 minutes (to allow for case history taking and diagnosis) and subsequent treatments tend to last around half an hour. Osteopaths also offer added exercises and health advice, to help reduce the symptoms and improve your health and quality of life.
The osteopath should make you feel at ease during your consultation and explain everything that is happening. Do ask questions at any time if you are unsure or have any concerns.
If you have private health insurance it may be possible to claim for your treatment. You will need to ask your insurance company about the available level of cover and whether you need to be referred by your GP or a specialist.
Most patients ‘self refer’ to an osteopath for treatment. Although referral by a GP is not necessary, patients are encouraged to keep both their GP and osteopath fully informed, so that their medical records are current and complete and the patient receives the best possible care from both healthcare practitioners. Osteopaths are skilled in diagnostic techniques and trained to identify when a patient needs to be referred to a GP.