Welcome to our frequently asked questions page. Our intention here is to highlight some of the unique aspects of osteopathy and our clinic Balmain Osteopaths. We hope you find this information useful whether you are a Health Care professional or just interested in osteopathy.
Please note that osteopathy is a very large subject and is not covered in its entirety on this website.
If your question is not covered here then go to Contact Us and follow the link to send us an email.
- What is osteopathy?
- Is osteopathy safe?
- What happens in a consultation?
- Why am I in pain? The osteopathic perspective…
- Can you treat babies and children?
- What does osteopathy treat? People, not just conditions.
- What common conditions can osteopathy help?
- How do I get to Balmain?
What is osteopathy?
Osteopathy is a system of healthcare grounded in human anatomy and physiology. It is bound by the principles of natural science, of how the body functions and its interaction with the natural world. It is the science, philosophy and principles that define Osteopathy, rather than any particular form of diagnosis or treatment.
Osteopathy was founded by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still and emerged in America towards the end of the 19th century. Dr. Still was a Medical Physician who was disillusioned with the medical practice of his time. Through the dedicated study of anatomy and physiology over many years he developed a system that enhanced the body to return to and maintain health. Dr. Still called this system Osteopathy because he realized that dis-ease often begins with a disturbance in the functioning of the body framework. He founded the first osteopathic school in Kirksville, USA in 1894. Like many clinical investigators of his time, Dr Still considered the patient to be his field of study and spoke of Osteopathy as: a Science, a Philosophy, and an Art. The following principles guide the practice of Osteopathy.
- The body is a unit and the person is a unit of body, mind and spirit.
- The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing and health maintenance.
- Structure and function are interdependent: This concept avoids the artificial separation of physiology, anatomy and biochemical and electrical fields.
- Rational diagnosis and treatment is based upon an understanding of the basic principles of body unity, self-regulation and the inter-relationship of structure and function.
Principles in Practice:
As the osteopath takes the case history, examines, diagnoses and treats the patient, they are using these principles to develop an understanding of the person. They consider the nature of the problem, how it relates to its surrounding structures, what the vitality of the body system is like, and how the person’s body is functioning as a whole. All of these factors have a bearing on the diagnosis, treatment and recovery.
It is the philosophy and principles of osteopathy that render it unique and different to comparable modes of physical therapy, such as chiropractic and physiotherapy. Osteopathy is a safe, gentle and effective form of diagnosis and treatment for people of all ages.
Is osteopathy Safe?
Osteopathy has one of the best safety records of any medically-related profession. Osteopaths are trained to be responsible practitioners who take practitioner competence and patient safety seriously.
Part of an osteopath’s job is to differentiate between what is appropriate to treat and what may require referral. This is an everyday clinical decision for an osteopath.
Osteopaths are registered health practitioners in every state and territory of Australia. The training is five years fulltime to gain the appropriate qualifications in clinical health science, diagnosis and treatment. One must have completed training at an accredited university, and satisfied the Osteopathic Registration Board competence requirements before one can practice as an osteopath.
The Australian Osteopathic Association (AOA) is the national professional body representing Osteopaths in Australia and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a mandatory requirement.
All of the osteopaths who work at our clinic are registered osteopaths, members of the AOA, and actively pursue post-graduate education.
What happens in a consultation?
The Initial Consultation:
This is a longer consultation where the osteopath takes a detailed case history, performs tests to examine movement and function, arrives at a working diagnosis of the problem, and applies corrective treatment appropriately. During the case history, the osteopath will ask questions about your current problem, however they are also interested in your general health. This is because there may be facts in your past that may be contributing to your current condition, or, limiting your body’s ability to rebalance and return to health.
During examination you may be asked to partially disrobe. This is to enable the osteopath to observe how your body responds to movement. The examination helps to identify causes and contributing factors to the problem, and how the physical condition of your body is coping with it.
After examination, the osteopath arrives at a working diagnosis, which is a synthesis of the information gathered so far. The osteopath may refer to previous scans or reports which you are asked to bring with you. If the conclusions are unclear or if there is doubt, the osteopath may refer you at this point.
Osteopaths are trained and experienced in gathering information by the sensitive use of their hands. Treatment continues to provide the osteopath with more detailed information about the function of your body. A variety of hands-on treatment approaches can be used depending upon the both your problem and the osteopath’s specialty. Techniques can be used which directly address motion restrictions by applying pressure or a counter-balancing force against the resistance. Examples range from tissue-specific massage, stretching, myofascial release, joint articulation, and mobilization. Techniques can also be used that employ your body’s inner self-correcting ability to address the restriction in movement or function. These approaches are extremely gentle as the osteopath engages the inherent rhythmic functions of the body which utilize breathing, circulation, and involuntary motion patterns. These include functional technique, balanced ligamentous tension, cranial or biodynamic approaches.
Osteopathic treatment is intentionally tailor-made to work in synchrony with your body, which adds to the uniqueness of osteopathy.
Subsequent consultations are shorter in duration, although there is an ongoing review of function and progress. In a course of osteopathic treatment, the osteopath should be able to explain: how osteopathy can help, what is wrong and which muscles, joints or nerves are involved, and the likely causes for its onset. They can advise how many sessions it may take to manage or resolve the problem, what you can do to assist your recovery, and what can be done to avoid a recurrence of the problem in the future. It may also be necessary to refer to other practitioners in the process of managing your condition.
The focus is always on you as the patient, supporting a return to healthy function, work, and the activities of life.
Why am I in pain?
The osteopathic perspective…
Symptoms are messages from our body asking us to pay attention. But many of us are not used to listening to our bodies, or we may find its messages confusing. Sometimes we don’t want to know and just want the pain to go away, but this strategy is rarely helpful. Symptoms appear because function has been compromised. Osteopaths are trained to understand symptoms, tracing their causes within the person’s body or environment, and to treat the person to encourage health and balanced function. Below are some common scenarios that can give rise to symptoms.
The most obvious cause is the result of a traumatic event, for example a car accident, fall, sports injury, or an awkward bend or lift. In the case of trauma, the relationship between the injury and onset of pain or symptoms is usually more obvious.
Another cause is more gradual and mysterious because multiple factors contribute to the onset of symptoms. Multi-factorial causes can be understood by the story of ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’. Here the pain results from the final straw being placed onto the camel’s back. How can a single straw have such a big effect? It doesn’t make sense unless you realize that the camel already has a huge weight of straw on its back, and this final straw is what triggers the symptoms.
In this scenario the cause is not obvious because there is a hidden history of mini-traumas and a gradual wearing down, much the same as the camel story. Over time, our bodies slowly begin to show signs of accumulated strain and incomplete recovery. Transient aches and pains when we are tired might be the first signs that something is not right. And if left unattended the symptoms can become more persistent and our bodies take longer to recover. The answer is to pay attention earlier on and seek advice.
Complex multi-factorial causes:
In this scenario the stressful events are not limited to physical traumas and can involve different body systems and stages of life. The reality for most of us is that we are a complex and layered picture of the major events in our health history, which may or may not be resolved. For example major accidents or illnesses, recurrent infections, sports injuries, surgeries, nutritional issues, inherited weaknesses – the range is as varied and unique as each person. Each contributing factor on its own may not be too significant, but the combination of unresolved events in one’s health history leads to accumulated strain and limits the body’s ability to recover from the current problem.
Our body tells the story:
The osteopath listens to the history and the story of the body as it unfolds in examination and treatment. Sometimes the job is straightforward, and sometimes not. Understanding the causes of symptoms, the relationship of stressors, and the big picture is a crucial aspect of osteopathy. Investigating this complexity can make the treatment uniquely effective, achieving results that other similar treatment modalities may fail to achieve.
Seeking help early is advised in order to ease pain, to regain movement and function, and to enable your body a better recovery.
Can you treat babies and children?
Osteopathy has a unique ability to work with babies and children. Osteopaths identify tensions and restrictions within the baby’s head and body that may be the result of birth strain, childhood accidents, illnesses or inherited conditions. Gentle hands-on treatment is applied to correct motion disturbances within the child’s body, promoting relaxation and balanced movement, which can allow the child to develop to a fuller potential. This approach is referred to as Cranial Osteopathy.
Prior to birth, moulding forces compress and shape the baby’s head and body in preparation for birth. The process of birth itself places physical stresses on the baby, the degree of which varies with the circumstances of each individual pregnancy and labour. Un-moulding is the natural consequence of the baby entering the atmosphere when all of the pushing and compressive forces are removed. The process continues as the baby moves, cries, suckles and yawns.
Common effects on the baby or child:
Many common problems such as distressed and irritable babies, feeding difficulties, reflux, colic and wind, sleep disturbances, and mis-shaped heads can be improved by paying attention to how well the baby’s body coped with moulding and the circumstances of delivery. There are many contributing factors to how well a baby’s body moulds and consequently un-moulds. Sometimes the residual effects of the moulding process can remain and contribute to problems in the older child. Unresolved strain can be a factor in the development of poor posture, scoliosis, chronic ear, nose and throat problems, asthma, headaches, or learning difficulties.
Uncovering the cause:
An osteopath is interested in uncovering the cause of the child’s problem. When taking a history, the osteopath may find indicators; by considering events during the pregnancy, the duration of labour, difficult presentations, assisted deliveries and caesarean births, which may point towards poor moulding or poor resolution of the process.
What the osteopath looks for:
When an osteopath examines a child they check the body to see how easily and how well it moves and functions and look for signs of tension, asymmetry or restricted movement. They consider how the body is growing, whether the child’s vitality is inhibited, and how they are reaching their developmental milestones.
The osteopath’s role:
The osteopath aims to balance and integrate movement in the child’s developing body which can allow it to function better as a whole system. By releasing tensions and restrictions held within body an osteopath can influence function and postural development, and therefore prepare the child’s body for the next stage of growth.
When to treat?
Early assessment and intervention is recommended, however the body has an indwelling capacity for health and balance so it is never too late to seek osteopathic advice and treatment.
What does osteopathy treat? People, not just conditions.
People come to an osteopath because there is a problem. However, the osteopath is interested in both the problem and the whole person. This is because general health influences the body’s ability to recover from stress and injury. Osteopaths aim to identify the factors causing the symptoms, to treat the stresses within the body, to stimulate the body’s self-healing ability, and to advise on how to maintain health and function.
Osteopaths are like detectives:
An osteopath is trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of dysfunction. But for an osteopath, this is not necessarily the full story: they are trained to investigate and explore a bigger picture. They are trained to look for the cause of things using the case history, physical examinations, and perceptive sensitive hands. They seek to find answers both within the body and clues in the external environment that may be contributing to the problem.
Osteopaths are like mechanics for the body:
The osteopath is concerned with the mechanical aspect of the body’s structures and functions. This includes evaluating joint range of motion, muscle and connective tissue function, breathing efficiency, nerve function, and the circulation & drainage of the body fluids.
The osteopath identifies where there is imbalance and applies appropriate hands-on treatment in order to restore balanced function and assist recovery. The osteopath uses their eyes and hands look for asymmetry, motion restriction, and the texture and tension of the connective tissues. This informs the osteopath about the condition, where treatment is most needed, and how severe or long the problem has been there.
Parts of a whole:
If an aspect of body is out of balance, then that part can disrupt the function of body as a whole. Osteopathy takes this dynamic relationship into account because it considers the problem and how it relates to the whole health of the person. The osteopath’s role is to identify and treat whatever is hindering body unity, which enables the self-healing ability to be expressed more fully within the person.
Osteopathy finds health within the patient:
Osteopathy treats the person, not just the condition. For this reason, it is not limited to treating biomechanical problems. Osteopathy can assist in the management of many health conditions by supporting the body’s ability to cope with the condition. Improved body mechanics promotes balanced physiological function and allows the body system to work better as a whole. Please see below for common conditions that osteopaths manage and treat.
|Osteopaths Commonly Treat the Following Conditions|
|Back and Neck pain||Accidents and Falls|
|Shoulder, elbow and wrist pain||Sports injuries|
|Hip, knee and foot pain||Whiplash|
|Headache and Migraine||Postural strain|
|Neck and Back pain||Sciatica|
|Preparation for Labour||Recovery after Labour|
|Postural change||Post-birth pain|
|Osteopaths assist Babies and Children with|
|Birth trauma||Feeding difficulties|
|Distressed or Irritable babies||Wry neck (Torticollis)|
|Reflux, Colic and Wind||Crawling or Walking problems|
|Mis-shaped heads||Growth disturbances|
|Sleep disturbances||Growing pains|
|Recurrent ear infections||Learning difficulties|
|Nose & throat infections||Hyperactivity|
|Recovery from accidents & falls||Constipation|
|Osteopaths Assist in the Management of the Following|
|Asthma||Stress and Anxiety|
|Post-operative care||Low immunity|
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