Osteopathy: your skeleton key to fitness …

, Thursday, 3 September 2020

The body’s largest system is its framework of bones, joints, muscles and ligaments. It is this framework that allows us to walk, run, drive, speak, write, build, play sports – in fact, carry out any physical activity. Osteopathy, one of the most widely used of all the complementary forms of medicine, aims to diagnose and treat mechanical problems in the framework.

These problems may be caused by injury or stress, for example, and they prevent the framework from functioning comfortably and efficiently. Osteopaths believe that when the structure of the body is sound, it will work just like a well-tuned engine, with the minimum of wear and tear.

Standing upright imposes a great and constant strain on the mechanism. The force of gravity is particularly severe on the vertebrae of the spine and the cushioning discs between them. The spinal joints and their discs have become weight-bearing in the upright position, a burden which poor posture increases, so making mechanical problems more likely to occur. Osteopaths use their hands for massaging and manipulating the framework to restore normal, more comfortable function.

Standing upright imposes a great and constant strain on the mechanism. The force of gravity is particularly severe on the vertebrae of the spine and the cushioning discs between them. The spinal joints and their discs have become weight-bearing in the upright position, a burden which poor posture increases, so making mechanical problems more likely to occur. Osteopaths use their hands for massaging and manipulating the framework to restore normal, more comfortable function.

Vertebra spine

Osteopathy who it can help

People with spinal problems, such as low back pain and neck pain, account for more than half of an osteopath’s work load. But practitioners also bring relief to mechanical problems in many other parts of the body – often resulting from stresses at work. Tension headaches caused by contraction of the small muscles at the base of the skull are another problem frequently treated by osteopaths.

Many patients have sustained sports injuries to muscles or to the joints of the hips, knees, ankles, feet, wrists, shoulders or elbows. Older people suffering the onset of OSTEOARTHRITIS can also find treatment beneficial. During pregnancy many women develop back pain because of a change in posture, and they, too, can often be helped by osteopathic treatment.

What is osteoarthritis

Wear and tear on the joints, which eventually damages shock-absorbing cartialges between the bones, is the usual cause of the of the condition. Symptoms include pain, stiffness and deformed joints, and affect mainly the hips, knees, spine and fingers

Finding an osteopath practitioner

The General Council and Register of Osteopaths (GCRO) was established in 1936 on the recommendation of the health minister to produce a register of qualified osteopaths. The GCRO monitors the training and ethics in practice of its members, who can put the letters MRO (Member of the Register of Osteopaths) after their names and use the title registered osteopath. They have successfully completed a four-year full-time degree or diploma course at one of the three osteopathic colleges accredited and monitored by the GCRO.

Osteopathic treatment is not readily available on the National Health Service, but general practitioners are increasingly referring their patients to registered osteopaths.

You can ask at your local doctor’s surgery whether patients are referred to a particular osteopath in the area. If you cannot get advice there, look in Yellow Pages for the names of registered osteopaths; or ask for a list from the General Council and Register Osteopaths, 56 London Street, Reading Berkshire RG1 4SQ.

Consulting an osteopath practitioner

Finding and osteopath in London

The osteopathy will first want to know how your symptom began and what makes them better or worse. Your medical history and any current treatments you may be receiving will be noted. Then the practitioner will carry out detailed physical examination. He will serve you standing, sitting, lying down and performing certain movements such as bending forwards, backwards and to the side. The range and quality of movement in particular joints will be assessed, and the osteopath will examine by touch the soft tissues, muscles and ligaments to see if they are abnormally tense or stressed.

During this ‘structural survey’ the osteopath diagnoses any abnormalities in the body’s framework, which may be confirmed by other tests, such as the conventional testing of reflexes with a small hammer. In some cases an osteopath will ask for an X-ray, particularly if there has been a recent accident or major health crisis.

If the examination shows that your condition is suitable for treatment, a course will be planned. If not, the osteopath may recommend that you see your doctor again. Length of treatment by an osteopath varies enormously. It may last over several sessions for a long-standing condition, but a recent, acute problem may be relieved immediately. A treatment session usually lasts 20-30 minutes, and most people find it relaxing and enjoyable. Several techniques may be used.

Soft tissue and remedial massage relieves tension and improves circulation. Gentle, repetitive movement of joints improves mobility and decreases tension in surrounding muscles.

Fixed or malfunctioning joints may be released by guiding the joints rapidly through its normal range of movement. This produces the clicking that many people associate with osteopathic treatment. Exercise, advice on posture, and relaxation techniques are often recommended; patients implement these at home between treatment sessions.

For some conditions, including head and facial pain, cranial osteopatathy may be used. This involves applying gentle pressures to the head and upper neck and upper neck. Areas where there is strain or where movement is restricted are help painlessly at point of tension until the condition is relieved.

body's machine run smoothly

Making the body’s machine run smoothly

An American doctor, Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917), founded osteopathy in the mid-1870s after he became dissatisfied with orthodox medicine. He felt that stimulating the body’s natural powers of self-healing would be prefer-able to using the often-dangerous drugs of his day.

His detailed knowledge of human anatomy, combined with his earlier study of engineering, made him interested in the body as a machine. He became certain that many illnesses arise when part of the body’s structure gets out of alignment. Manipulation could, he decided, restore the balance and cure the illness.

Strong initial opposition to Still’s ideas gradually dwindled in the United States, and now osteopathy is unaccepted part of established medicine. Most modern research into osteopathy has been carried out in the United States, which now has 15 osteopathic medical schools and some 20,000 osteopathic physicians.

Osteopathy came to Britain at the turn of the century, and the British School of Osteopathy was established in London in 1917 by Dr Martin Little john, one of Still’s pupils. Today the school is one of the three accredited British training schools, but there are still only about 1400 registered osteopaths in Britain.

Osteopathy self-help on wheels

Car drivers often have a poor and restricted posture behind the wheel, which can lead to back pain, stiffness in the neck and shoulders, and tension headaches. To help people avoid these discomforts – and so take the ‘pain’ out of driving – osteopaths suggest a set of procedures which are easy to follow and put into practice.

Make sure that the car seat is adjusted so that the steering wheel and pedals are all within easy reach. You should be sitting up straight with your knees slightly bent but not so bent that they interfere with the steering wheel. To remind you to sit up straight, every time you get in the car make sure that to your bottom is as far back in the seat as possible. Then straighten up and, if necessary, adjust the rear-view mirror to your needs.

As your hands hold the steering wheel (preferably at between nine and ten o’clock and at between two and three o’clock, if you imagine the wheel as a clock face), your arms should be slightly bent. Adjust the seat to lean very slightly back, as this will make it easier for you to maintain a well-balanced and comfortable position for your neck and back.

If you do have a back problem, you can buy or make a simple lumbar roll to tuck behind you and support the curve of your lower back. This will help to prevent strain being placed on your spine and shoulders.

When you are driving, check from time to time that your shoulders are relaxed. Keep your head upright with your chin tucked in; if it juts forward, the muscles at the back of your neck are under strain.

There are several relaxation exercises that you can do in a traffic jam or at traffic lights:

  1. Shrug your shoulders towards your ears and then roll them backwards with your head bent slightly forward. Repeat two or three times.
  2. Tighten and relax your stomach muscles two or three times – you can do this while you are driving as well as at stops. It improves your posture and helps circulation in the legs.
  3. Tuck your chin close to your chest and then relax it back to normal. Repeat this several times and you will feel the muscles at the back of your neck stretching gently.

Osteopath treating an injured knee

Sports injuries account for many joint problems, and here a patient is examined by an osteopath after twisting a knee while playing tennis. By making a ‘structural survey of the problem area, the practitioner diagnoses the extent of the injury. He also asks the patient for her full medical history in particular, if she has previously suffered any pain or discomfort in the knee.

After assessing the damage – and deciding that the patient is a suitable case for treatment – the osteopath sets to work on the injured knee. He manipulates the malfunctioning joint back into working order and guides it through its normal range of pain-free movement. In addition, the gentle manipulation of the joint eases tension that has built up in the nearby muscles.

An orthodox view

Many doctors recognise the benefit of osteopathy for people suffering from mechanical problem and strain. More and more general practitioners refer patients to registered osteopaths, and more doctors have themselves take post graduate osteopathy courses accredited by the GCRO. There are now more than 100 doctors in Britain who are also qualified registered osteopaths.

Conventional doctors would dispute the value of osteopathy for patients with non-mechanical symptoms. They see correct diagnosisby a qualified medical practitioner as essential before it can be decided wheter osteopathy is the right treatment.

Ben has been a practical pain management trainer and a celebrated massage therapist. He believes human well-being is deeply connected to the health of mind and body both, including deep tissues. He holds numerous certifications for best of breeds massage techniques helping him on a mission for healthy London and then rest of the world. He has been an active contributor in massage technique research and on Massaggi blog.