The practice of osteopathy was first coined by Andrew Taylor Still in the United States in 1874 with the arrival of the first osteopathic school in the UK in 1917. The concept of treatment was based around a non-invasive and medicine free type of manual therapy that would focus on the body as a whole and try to address strain patterns and mechanical dysfunctions. The efficacy of Osteopathic treatment was finally accepted in to mainstream health care in the UK in 1993 with the formation of the General Osteopathic Council. Since then, many osteopaths have had great success with treating all types of musculoskeletal presentations that cause discomfort on a day to day basis. However, osteopathy can also be used to help prevent some of these types of complaints before they ever happen which may result in less treatment being needed in the long run and saving you some money at the same time!

The human body is a constantly adapting and re-structuring entity that will change to suit the everyday needs of the individual which in many circumstances cause a person to adopt a distinct strain pattern to an affected area. For example, for someone who works at a desk full time there may be aches and stiffness in the neck and shoulders or for people that work manually with lots of lifting involved there can be times of aching low backs and tightness in the surrounding muscles. A paper published by the Health and Safety Executive on sick day statistics found that 553,000 days were lost due to Work-related musculoskeletal disorders in the UK in 2015. This alarmingly high number accounted for approximately 44% of all sick days lost last year and that’s just the cases that were recorded.

So with these statistics in mind, why wait for these types of symptoms to turn in to painful and sometimes quite debilitating presentations before going to see someone? One of the underlying principles behind osteopathy is that “the body has within all the mechanisms needed to heal itself”. This being the case, osteopathic treatment is aimed at returning problematic areas of the muscular and skeletal system back to an optimum position to give the body it’s best chance of being able to heal itself and relieve pain. However, what most people don’t understand is that pain is in fact one of the last indicators or symptoms experienced by an individual with an ailment or structural impairment.

In otherwise healthy people with little or no pain, osteopathic treatment can be used to help maintain a healthy range of motion through most, if not all the joints in the human body, keeping them supple and well lubricated with the body’s natural synovial joint fluids. It can help to relive tension areas and ‘knotted’ muscles which occur as a consequence of day to day over use, thus keeping muscles feeling healthy and vibrant and not hardened and tough. It can be used to influence and enhance the exchange of fluids and arterial blood flow which can, in turn, optimise the delivery of nutrition carried in the blood around the body and also enhance the body’s capacity to dispose of metabolic waste from cells which can be processed within a system called the lymphatic system which helps to cleanse the body. But perhaps the most important aspect of osteopathic treatment is the diagnostic stage.

A very important goal of osteopathy is not to find the problem; it’s to find the reason behind it. When diagnosing a patient, the osteopath will take in to account many factors that they feel may be contributing to this area of pain. It is for this reason that an osteopath has at their disposal a very holistic outlook to the human body trying to encompass all of the contributing factors to the reason behind an area of dysfunction. The same rule applies for people who are not in pain. A practitioner could look at a patient who was not experiencing any pain and spot a strain pattern emerging from their occupation or hobbies’ and treat that area before it ever becomes painful.

This also goes for people playing sports or who are into their fitness and gym training. All of these active past times will put the body under a certain amount of stress which will start to enforce changes to the body’s morphology. A visit to the osteopath could not only try to correct that before it becomes a problem but it could, through the treatment of restricted areas actually enhance performance by allowing that extra aspect of rotation through the spine during that golf swing at tea off, or the extra 5kgs on a one rep max in the gym due to the muscles being in a more optimal bodily position allowing you to perform to your maximum potential.

So is osteopathy only for people in pain, certainly not! If you’re concerned about keeping and maintaining a healthy body in order to stay in work, or you’d like to enhance your performance and prevent sporting injuries, book in with your local osteopath for the human equivalent of an ‘M.O.T.’ and see if you can stay in tip top shape no matter your chosen walk of life.

Written by Wayne Beck, Osteopath.

References

HSE, (2015). Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorder (WRMSDs) Statistics, Great Britain, 2015 [online] http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/musculoskeletal/msd.pdf [access date 23/01/2016]

Parsons, J, Marcer, N. (2006). Osteopathy models for diagnosis, treatment and practice. UK, Churchill Livingstone, p9-11

Taylor Still. A (1874). [online] http://cdm.sos.mo.gov/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/atsu&CISOPTR=693&REC=1 [access date 24/01/2016]

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