Although many people visit an osteopath after having experienced an injury, or as a response to acute or chronic pain, regular osteopathic treatment can also lead to an overall enhancement of your general sense of well-being. In particular, osteopathy is especially effective at restoring your body’s natural sense of balance, because it revolves around a whole-body approach to health that seeks to remove the underlying causes of pain as well as treating more immediate symptoms.
1. Osteopathy is holistic
Osteopathic treatment is holistic and as well as addressing specific injuries or complaints, it also works towards towards restoring your body’s natural sense of balance and overall well-being. A programme of osteopathic therapy will therefore also involve an examination of all aspects of your lifestyle, including your life/work balance, the exercise you take and your diet. Osteopathy is based on the principle that all parts of the body should work together in balance, and therefore everything that impedes or inhibits it functioning at maximum capacity needs to be addressed.
Your osteopath will work with you to increase your awareness of how your body moves and functions, as well as helping you to understand how you can minimise the risk of further injury or damage, by looking at your posture, how you sit, and the sort of physical activity you engage in.
2. A whole-body approach to health
Osteopathy is predicated on helping the body to heal itself. As part of this process, your osteopath will examine and treat the structures in your body that are not functioning correctly, whether this be the result of injury, misuse or deterioration over time. These will include muscles, joints, tendons and soft tissues, as well as your nerve system, lymphatic system, and your blood flow and circulation.
This whole-body approach to health and well-being seeks to discover what is stopping the nervous system from being able to communicate effectively with all parts of the body, and what is therefore causing the discomfort.
3. Osteopathy is non-invasive
Treatment form an osteopath is non-invasive. Instead, structures in the body that are causing pain and discomfort are treated through manual manipulation of the affected areas, which is designed to increase blood flow, relax the muscles, free up joints and to promote the flow of bodily fluids.
Known as Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT), this involves your osteopath applying precise amounts of physical pressure to a specific location on the body—this may be the affected area, but it may also be at another point on the body to which it is connected. OMT sometimes involves a short, forceful movement known as a high-velocity thrust, during which you may hear a clicking or popping noise. This is caused by the releasing of pressure within the joint, and is entirely normal and not in any way painful.
There are a number of other manual therapies that your osteopath may also use as part of your treatment. These include the massaging of soft tissues, the articulation and mobilisation of joints, stretching exercises or a gentle manipulation of internal organs, and all are part of the process of enabling your body to begin to heal itself.
In addition to being non-invasive, osteopathic treatment is painless, and doesn’t involve placing undue stress or exertion on the areas being treated. The only side-effect associated with osteopathy is that sometimes after a session of OMT you might feel some mild soreness in the affected area, not dissimilar to that you experience after some vigorous exercise.
4. Osteopathic treatment is also preventative
Osteopathy helps you to recover from injuries, but also serves as a form of preventative medicine. Take a knee injury, for example—osteopathy will not only treat the pain and discomfort you’re feeling, but will also help any damaged structures recover in such a way that they become stronger, thereby preventing reoccurrences. Your osteopath will also work with you to show you ways that you can improve your posture and how you use your body during physical activity in order to prevent new injuries and to stop old ones from reoccurring.
This is particularly helpful if you take part in activities that place undue stress on your body, or if your job involves a large amount of physical labour. It is also especially beneficial for pregnant women and can significantly reduce the amount of back pain they experience.
5. Osteopathy is highly personalised
Osteopathic treatment plans are based around the needs of the individual. At the beginning of any course of treatment, you will discuss with your osteopath your medical history and any accidents or traumas that you may have experienced, as well as your overall feeling of health and well-being.
An osteopath will also give you a physical examination, exploring your bones and joints, as well as your tendons, ligaments and muscles. Your osteopath will also be interested in testing your flexibility in key areas, such as your back, legs and arms, focussing in particular on your spine.
All of the information gained from this diagnosis will then be used by your osteopath to create a personalised treatment plan. They will be able to explain you what outcomes they anticipate for your treatment and how long the course of treatment is expected to last. For some people, this might involve a regular, ongoing treatment plan, while others might require only a few sessions, perhaps followed by periodic check-ups.