Thursday, April 06, 2006

Osteopathic Philosophy


Osteopathy involves manipulation of the skeleton and muscles to promote mobility and balance. The central belief of this manual medicine is that a healthy body relies on a structurally sound musculo-skeletal system. Only when the bones, joints and muscles are working smoothly and harmoniously can the other systems of the body function at their best. The osteopathic philosophy states that the body is capable of healing itself - and maintaining a healthy state - if barriers, such as structural problems and poor posture, are removed. Osteopathy was developed by a physician in the late nineteenth century and has since gained world-wide recognition as a valuable and effective healing system.

A range of disorders
Osteopaths treat a range of disorders, including:

Back and neck pain
Chronic fatigue
Joint pain
Repetitive strain injuries
Sciatica (shooting pains down the leg)
Sports injuries

Central to osteopathy is the study of 'biomechanics' - how each part of the musculo-skeletal system interacts with and influences every other part. Any joint or muscle injury must therefore be treated in the context of the whole body, since other parts of the musculo-skeletal system will also be affected. For instance, an ankle injury may mean that the patient limps and favours the other foot. Over time, this imbalance can lead to secondary injuries, such as soreness in the other ankle, knee or hip, or perhaps back pain. The osteopath will devise a strategy of treatment that takes into account the entire musculo-skeletal system. Attention is given to other systems of the body - such as the circulatory, nervous and lymphatic systems - since these all play significant roles in the healing process.

Hands-on treatment options
Osteopathy is a manipulative medicine. The osteopath focuses on the whole body including: soft tissue such as muscle, ligaments, tendons, the spine and nervous system. A practitioner might use a variety of different hands-on methods, depending on your needs, including:

Soft tissue techniques
Manually moving the joint through its range of motion
Stretching muscles
Encouraging muscles to work against resistance
Spinal manipulation
Restoring balance and movement with gentle techniques (osteopathy in the cranial field)
Manipulation of the abdomen (visceral manipulation).
Lifestyle and environmental factors

Osteopathy encourages the patient to take responsibility for their own long term health and wellbeing. For instance, an osteopath can help you discover the particular lifestyle and environmental factors that may be contributing to your disorder. These may include poor posture, stress or the need for ergonomic furniture. An osteopath might devise a range of treatments, including individually tailored exercise routines, relaxation techniques or body awareness sessions that show you how to move the body in gentler ways.

Special considerations
In some disorders - such as prolapsed discs, joint infections or bone disease - manipulation can be dangerous.

Things to remember
Osteopathy is a manual medicine that works on the soft tissue of the body to relieve pain and improve joint mobility. According to the osteopathic philosophy, the body can't maintain a healthy state without a properly aligned musculo-skeletal system. Osteopathy treats an injury or pain in the context of the rest of the body.


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