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What is Osteopathy?


Osteopathy is a drug-free, non-invasive, manual therapy that focuses on total body health by treating and strengthening the musculo-skeletal framework, which includes the joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and the spine. Its aim is to positively affect the body’s nervous, circulatory and lymphatic systems. Osteopathy considers the wider impact context of the patient including their medical history, medication interactions, diet, occupational and hobby stressors.

How is Osteopathy different from Chiropractic therapy? 

Osteopathy and Chiropractic Therapy have shared techniques like joint manipulation, trigger point therapy and exercise prescription. Principally the two methods are similar in that both place great emphasis upon the correct functioning of the whole body as a unit, but also remarkably different in the approaches used to manipulate the body. A chiropractor will encourage health by focusing primarily on the health and correct alignment of your spine, where after adjustment the spinal nerves can correctly function allowing your body to work properly. (Chiropractors are now divided into two political camps, the Mixers and the Straights, where the purest “Straights” believe and treat non musculoskeletal conditions like Asthma and Colic. Mixer chiropractors mix and use many different therapies as well as vertebral adjustments.) It is interesting to read Dr Simon Singh and Dr Edzard Ernst’s book “Trick or Treatment” regarding the evidence to back-up the straight chiropractors attempting to treat non musculo-skeletal diseases! Osteopaths find areas of your body that are restricted and encourage correct movement in those tissues. Chiropractors tend not to use soft tissue techniques like massage, typically they treat more often but allow less time per session, giving between ten and twenty five minutes per session, whereas osteopaths typically treat from between twenty and thirty five minutes.

What Happens on the Initial Visit?

osteopath derby

A full medical case history will be taken followed by an examination during which you may be asked to perform a few simple movements. Some clothing may need to be removed so that the area can be examined and treated. Based upon the findings of your case history you will asked to perform active movements, for instance you might be asked to bend your knee or hip. Then the osteopath will perform certain passive movements. Active movements tend to implicate muscle pain whereas passive movements tend to implicate connective and ligamentus. Where you might complain of a clicking or snapping hip the osteopath would perform special tests to identify the cause of the pain, perhaps arthritic, labral, musculotendinous and joint. To implicate a labral tear your hip would be placed into extreme flexion and internal rotation.

Is There Any Evidence To Support The Work of Osteopaths?

Osteopathy is a graduate profession regulated by Act of Parliament. This in itself lends osteopaths some credibility. The NHS click link for details on which types of treatments have good evidence.  Principally evidence supports osteopathy for “effective treatment for persistent lower back pain.” The National Council for Osteopathic Research NCOR researched cervical and Thoracic spinal manual therapy treatments and produced interesting evidence for the use of manual therapies. Link. Osteopathic education requires students to learn research techniques and approaches to be critical in practice. NCOR published  up-to-date research on Low Back Pain. Link

Additionally the osteopath will use their highly developed sense of touch to palpate and assess areas of tenderness, strain, restriction or weakness within your body.

After examination the osteopath will discuss their findings with you and advise whether osteopathic treatment is suitable.

osteopathy practice

Osteopaths usually start any treatment by releasing and relaxing muscles and stretching stiff joints, using gentle massage techniques, rhythmic joint movements and muscle release techniques. The osteopath may also carry out manipulation using short, quick movements to spinal joints. The treatment may be a bit uncomfortable at times as painful areas are being treated but the osteopath will work within your level of tolerance.