What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy, also referred to as osteopathic medicine or osteopathic manipulative medicine, is a form of manual medicine where the health of the body is considered in its entirety or as a whole; also referred to as a holistic method of healing.

One of osteopathy’s key principles is that the whole body is interconnected. This means that the patient’s site of pain is never looked at in isolation; other parts of the body will be examined as well. Osteopaths believe that pain and dysfunction in one site of the body will cause the body to compensate and manifest in other areas of the body if left untreated.

The goal of an osteopathic treatment is to remove the obstacles/pain and allow the body to restore itself to a natural state of health. Osteopaths use their knowledge of the human musculoskeletal system, comprising of bones, muscles, joints, and nerves, to diagnosis, examine, and treat the body and restore it to optimal health. Osteopaths use a variety of techniques that include stretching, massage, mobilisation and safe joint manipulation. They will also often provide advice on corrective exercise, postural changes, and lifestyle modifications beyond the osteopathic treatment.

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What is Manual Medicine?

Manual medicine, or manual therapy, refers to the treatment of pain or dysfunction within the body predominantly using the practitioner’s hands and non-invasive instruments to administer the treatment. It can be distinguished from other forms of medicine such as surgery and pharmaceutical medication by its non-invasive and “bloodless” nature, and it is not administered orally (swallowed) or intravenously (injected into the vein).

A manual medicine treatment often incorporates stretching, joint manipulation, limb mobilization, and muscle pressure and stimulation. The goal of manual therapy is to reduce pain, restore movement, and improve the internal “flow” of the body through improving joint mobility, removing muscle restriction, and stimulating stagnant internal structures and fluids.

The most commonly-known form of manual medicine is massage, but also includes methods such as acupuncture, dry needling, gua sha, cupping, and more. Manual medicine professions include, but are not limited to, osteopathy, chiropractic, physiotherapy, and myotherapy.

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What’s the difference between Osteopathy, Chiropractic, and Physiotherapy?

Osteopathy, chiropractic and physiotherapy can all be categorized as manual therapy disciplines. There is a lot of confusion and uncertainty regarding the difference between these professions predominantly because many of the conditions they treat appear to be the same e.g. back pain, neck pain, sports injuries, arthritic pain etc. Whilst the professions heavily revolve around ensuring the health of the musculoskeletal system (comprising of bones, muscles, joints, and nerves) and resolving pain in a drug-free, non-invasive manner using manual therapy (soft tissue massage, stretching muscle groups, joint manipulation, and spinal adjustments), there are differences in governing principles, focus, and treatment techniques.

Osteopathy takes a holistic, whole-body approach to healthcare, focusing on how the skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves, circulation, connective tissue and internal organs function as a holistic unit. An osteopath does not concentrate only on the problem area but uses manual techniques to remove the obstacles/pain, balance all the body systems, and allow the body to restore itself to a natural state of health with the aim of overall good health and wellbeing. An osteopathic treatment is likely to involve focus on the problem area as well as dedicating some time to treating the rest of the body. Osteopaths work on the premise that bad posture, injury, and/or negative lifestyle patterns compromise anatomical structure and lead to poor health; they will often provide advice on corrective exercise, postural changes, and lifestyle modifications.

The theory behind chiropractic is that proper alignment of the body's musculoskeletal structure, particularly the spine, will enable the body to heal itself without surgery or medication. This means that a chiropractor’s focus is more likely to be on the position of the spine and joints, locating misalignments through palpation, x-rays and imaging. Subsequently, chiropractors will correct these misalignments with the aim of improving the body’s nerve function and healing ability. Spinal manipulation, which chiropractors call "spinal adjustment" or "chiropractic adjustment", is the most common treatment used in chiropractic care, but a chiropractic treatment often combines hands-on care, physical therapy modalities (e.g. ultrasounds) and exercise. Many chiropractors also incorporate nutritional counselling and exercise into their treatment plan.

The aim of physiotherapy is to rehabilitate and improve a person's ability to move and function, using their expertise in anatomy and physiology to treat movement disorders and health conditions. While physios are well-known for their treatment of sporting injuries, they also develop treatment plans and work with premature babies, stroke recovery patients, brain or spinal cord injury victims, and people with conditions such as Parkinson's disease, arthritis, osteoporosis and cystic fibrosis. They are well-known for re-training patients to walk, cope with crutches, walking frames, or wheelchairs, and more generally, helping lessen recovery time after trauma or surgery. On top of manual therapies and exercise programs, physios are more likely to employ electrotherapy techniques like Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), laser therapy, diathermy, and ultrasound. Physios tend to work in a wider variety of environments including hospitals, sports clubs, and rehabilitation centres for example.

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Why should I choose Osteopathy over Chiropractic or Physiotherapy?

So, which one is best for me? I hear you ask. Well, the answer is that there is no short and definitive answer to that question. I would suggest that you find the manual therapy, whether it be osteopathy, chiropractic or physiotherapy, that best aligns with your personal philosophy. Speaking broadly, osteopathy has a whole-body health focus, chiropractic has a spinal adjustment focus, and physiotherapy has a rehabilitation focus. All the disciplines aim to improve their patients’ musculoskeletal health in a drug-free, non-invasive manner.

Further to finding the discipline that best aligns with you, each practitioner within your preferred discipline is different. The nature of manual therapy is that practitioners apply treatments with their own hands. Inevitably, practitioners have different treatment styles, different specialities, and may also choose to offer extra services to support their primary service. Many patients swear by their osteo, chiro, physio, and we have no doubt you will too, once you find the one that is perfect for you!

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What can I expect an Osteopathic treatment to involve?

The first osteopathic consultation you have will typically be up to 45 minutes long to allow for taking a case history, including presenting condition(s) and relevant medical history. A comprehensive examination focusing on your presenting complaint and other areas of your body will be performed to diagnose your condition. Should it be required, your practitioner is trained to perform basic medical examinations, such as neurological and orthopaedic testing. Time will then be allocated to treat any dysfunctions found. After your first appointment, subsequent appointments are usually around 30 minutes in length.

A typical treatment will involve a variety of techniques that include stretching targeted muscular areas, soft tissue massage, gentle mobilisation and safe joint manipulation.

Your osteopath will also provide post-treatment advice and develop an in-depth management plan that consists of home-based corrective exercises like stretching, myofascial release, postural changes, and addressing other lifestyle factors such as workplace health, ergonomics, and exercise prescription. If applicable, advice will also be given on whether to apply ice or heat to an area of the body, as many people mistakenly apply heat to an area where ice is the preferred option.

Always feel free to ask as many questions as you like during the consultation, or even phone us and talk to your preferred practitioner.

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How many Osteopathic treatments do I need?

The aim of osteopathic treatments is to remove the root causes of pain and allow the body to restore itself to a natural state of health. A famous osteopathic maxim is “find it, fix it and leave it alone!”. With that in mind, the number of treatments required will depend on the nature of the patient’s condition, overall health and fitness, and their willingness to do the prescribed rehabilitation.

Although each patient’s body and circumstance is unique, as a realistic guideline, most acute cases will generally require 3-5 treatments for the full effects of osteopathy to be gained. Once a favourable treatment outcome is reached, the patient is encouraged to maintain their health by exercise and stretching. For long standing conditions, more regular treatments may be required. Many patients also choose to have regular osteopathic treatments simply to maintain their state of health.

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How often do I need to see an Osteopath?

Patients will generally see an osteopath for a presenting complaint every 10-12 days for 3-5 treatments to reap the benefits of osteopathy. Treatment frequency will vary depending on the severity of the presenting complaint and the patient’s lifestyle demands. Other patients without specific complaints choose to come in on an ongoing basis for treatment and maintenance, usually every 21-28 days. Osteopaths do not believe in over-treating patients; treatments are uniquely tailored to each patient and will incorporate advice on lifestyle modifications to allow your body to stay in an optimal state of health for longer.

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Do I need a referral to see an Osteopath?

Osteopaths are primary health care professionals which means you do not need a referral from your doctor. You can simply contact us directly via phone, email, sms, Whatsapp or book online to make an appointment. Where applicable, we will work in conjunction with your doctor or other healthcare professional in order to provide the best possible care and treatment outcome for you.

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Are there any side effects to Osteopathy?

Post treatment discomfort is a common occurrence following many forms of manual therapy. It may develop as soon as a few hours following your treatment and typically resolves within 24-72 hours after your treatment as the body adjusts to changes. The risk of major adverse effects following manual therapy is low. Some of the mild to moderate symptoms you may experience include:

• Tenderness, soreness and/or achiness
• Fatigue
• Headache
• Light-headedness
• Generalised discomfort
• Mild bruising
• Clicking joints

These post-treatment symptoms are not bad and in fact, after these symptoms subside, you are likely to find the presenting complaint your osteopath has treated has also subsided.

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I’m feeling discomfort after my Osteopathic treatment. What should I do?

You can support the healing process from home following your treatment by:

• Trying to remain mobile; avoid sitting or lying in one position for too long
• Performing gentle mobilising activity (e.g. rolling your shoulders)
• Doing gentle stretches
• Drinking plenty of fluids
• Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables
• Avoiding processed and high sugar foods
• Avoiding caffeine and alcohol
• Waiting to engage in any strenuous physical activity for a day or two after the treatment, or as advised by your practitioner
• Refraining from having another type of treatment or bodywork immediately after the treatment

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