--- Frequently asked questions FAQ ---
Osteopathy is a system of diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of medical conditions. It works with the structure and function of the body, and is based on the principle that the well-being of an individual depends on the skeleton, muscles, ligaments and connective tissues functioning smoothly together.
To an osteopath, for your body to work well, its structure must also work well. So osteopaths work to restore your body to a state of balance, where possible without the use of drugs or surgery. Osteopaths use touch, physical manipulation, stretching and massage to increase the mobility of joints, to relieve muscle tension, to enhance the blood and nerve supply to tissues, and to help your body's own healing mechanisms. They may also provide advice on posture and exercise to aid recovery, promote health and prevent symptoms recurring.
Individuals are precisely that. Individual. Each person has his or her own unique combination of body shape, lifestyle, occupation and personal history. Osteopathy's main strength lies in its unique way of assessing patients from not only a mechanical, functional and postural standpoint but by also taking these factors in to account. This approach enables osteopaths to identify things in your life that may be hindering your body's ability to heal itself or resulting in the onset or reoccurrence of your symptoms. It is important that a full diagnosis and treatment plan is tailored to your needs if you are to beneft from osteopathic treatment.
Osteopaths aim to identify what's causing your current symptoms, the initial cause of your pain or discomfort and anything that may be preventing it from resolving naturally (restrictions elsewhere in your body for example). This is why it is so important to get to know you, what you and your body have been through and what your hopes and expectations are.
Osteopathic treatment in itself is not 'preventative'. Osteopaths respect the body's natural ability as a self-regulating mechanism and only intervene when pain or discomfort is present. The benefits of osteopathy are the general improvement in mobility and structural stability of the body. In turn, other systems of the body such as the circulatory, nervous and lymphatic systems function more effectively and for a number of general conditions, minimal treatment is required.
At the first consultation, your osteopath will compile a full case history of your symptoms, as well as asking for information about your lifestyle and diet. We may also observe you making some simple movements to help us make a diagnosis. You will usually be asked to remove some clothing near the area of the body to be examined.
Osteopaths are trained to examine areas of the body using a highly-developed sense of touch, known as palpation, to determine conditions and identify the body's points of weakness or excessive strain. Osteopathy is a 'package' of care that includes skilled mobilising and manipulative techniques, reinforced by guidance on diet and exercise.
The osteopath will discuss with you the most appropriate treatment plan, estimating the likely number of sessions needed to treat your condition effectively. If your osteopath thinks that your condition is unlikely to respond to osteopathic treatment, you will be advised about how to seek further care. Your osteopath should make you feel at ease and communicate what s/he is doing. Do ask questions at anytime during your consultation if you are unsure.
In general, the first treatment lasts about 45 minutes, and subsequent treatments around half an hour. Your first appointment is usually slightly longer to allow for a full case history to be taken.
Yes. GPs refer patients to osteopaths where they believe this intervention would be beneficial. Referral guidelines are provided by the General Medical Council and British Medical Association.
Undergraduate students follow a four or five-year degree course combining academic and clinical work. Qualification generally takes the form of a bachelor's degree in osteopathy - a BSc(Hons), BOst or BOstMed - or a masters degree in osteopathy (MOst). Many osteopaths continue their studies after graduating. Osteopaths are required to update their training throughout their working lives.
Who sets the standards of training and practice for osteopaths? In the UK for example, the standards of osteopathic training and practice are maintained and developed by the General Osteopathic Council, the profession's statutory regulator established under the Osteopaths Act 1993. In other countries, similar legislative bodies regulate standards.
A recent survey of Osteopathic practices underlines the wide range of patients treated.
* Half suffer low back trouble. Most back pains result from mechanical disturbances of the spine - postural strains, joint derangements and spinal disc injuries. Osteopathy, with its comprehensive approach to health care,is a common treatment modailty for patients with low back pain.
* Over half are women. Many women are working mothers and both aspects of their lives can give rise to problems, from the perennial headache to severe musculo-skeletal disorders. Many headaches originate from stiffness and tension in the neck. Pregnancy can put a strain on the low back and pregnant women often visit an osteopath.
* A quarter are in their forties. Many patients are losing fitness at this stage in their lives and are more prone to injury. Osteopaths consider all the factors, examining posture and the strength and flexibility of muscles, ligaments and tendons.
* Many are elderly. Painkillers are not the only solution for the aches and pains associated with ageing. For more permanent relief it is necessary to eliminate the underlying causes of pain and reducing stiffness in the less acute stages of arthritis.
* Many problems relate to work. Work, whether it be a computer terminal or in heavy industry, can give rise to disorders of the muscles, tendons and joints, particularly in the back, hands and arms. Remedial advice and preventative exercise are useful to prevent work related aches and strains.
With our lives becoming increasingly busy, yet more sedentary, Osteopaths can offer prevention advice such as stretching exercises, lifting techniques, posture, breathing and stress reduction which is a great way for individuals to maintain their own health. In addition some lifestyle changes including diet or workplace ergonomics can dramatically improve ones health and reduce ongoing health costs. Early intervention by an Osteopath means you can be aware of potential sources of referred pain, and how you can make changes to your lifestyle now, so you won't have to deal with the pain later on. Preventing injuries means less time off work and therefore more time keeping active and enjoying the benefits of general good health.
There are many forms of treatment and therapy available for back pain. Writer and BBC TV presenter, Dr Mark Porter, says "Doctors are not very good at treating simple back pain." Painkillers or low dose Diazepam can make life more comfortable and ease painful muscle spasm. There isn't much evidence to support the use of creams and sprays. Most complementary health practitioners would often claim to be able to help back pain and, indeed, there are numerous medical treatments varying from drugs to exercises to surgery that may, again, be useful to some people with certain types of back pain.
The same reasons that allow back pain to develop in the first instance can also allow it to become chronic or long lasting. Additional risk factors for the development of persistent back pain include restricted spinal movement and the presence of pain going down the leg. Women are also more at risk of long term back pain. For some people the lack of an early diagnosis and appropriate advice and treatment can lead to chronic conditions.
A key indicator of pain or discomfort is lack of sleep or restless nights. An effective osteopathic treatment outcome often reflects the first signs of recovery with a good night's sleep. Poor sleep patterns only serve to magnify the body's inability to function adequately and reduce our psychosomatic (Psychosomatic illnesses are those in which physical symptoms are caused or aggravated by emotional factors) ability to cope with pain.
Osteopathic treatment positively affects the nervous, circulatory and lymphatic systems, to deliver a more balanced body and better health overall. This combined with good dietary and /or exercise prescription can enhance a patient's well being and often leads to a positive approach to individual health responsibility.
Injuries in sports and often in everyday life are common. Many individuals may prefer to turn a blind eye to recurrent pain or long-standing problems, hoping that the pain may go away, or continue medication, which may not always be the best alternative or offer long-term improvement. Injury and pain may be caused either extrinsically by direct contact from another player or object or intrinsically by a weakness or dysfunction in the body's ability to deal with the forces placed upon it by an activity. Both may result in trauma to the soft tissue of the body, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves.