Most people have not heard about manual osteopathy. At least, this is the truth in Calgary. In this post, I will shine some light on what manual osteopathy is about. I will also share with you five ways it can help you alleviate your pain and help to improve the quality of your life.
This post is not an extensive explanation by any mean. However, It will give you a brief introduction in this amazing modality which I have chosen to dedicate my life to learning.
Manual therapy with a holistic approach
In manual osteopathy, I am taught to approach the body as a whole. The structure and function of the different body parts are interdependent. For the body to be well, these parts have to work in harmony.
The pain that people usually experience is the consequence of trauma (direct or repetitive) or an adaptation or compensation that resulted from another area which is moving inefficiently.
So, a manual osteopath doesn’t just go straight to the site where the pain is. The therapist will assess the body in its entirety, determine the source of the pain and address it accordingly.
The first time I witnessed an osteopathic treatment, with my massage therapy background, I was very puzzled. The patient came in with a jaw condition. The patient had pain in her jaw, could not open her mouth fully, and the jaw made a clicking sound every time she opened and closed her mouth.
The osteopathic therapist went on to assess the patient and found that her hip had limited movement. The therapist did some more tests and moved on to treat the patient hip first, then her thorax, then her neck and finally her jaw.
“What does the hip have to do with the jaw pain the patient is experiencing?” I asked myself. Later, I found out that the pain and deficiencies in the patient’s jaw were the consequence of it trying to compensate for the less mobile hip.
I am in my first year of a five-year program at the time of this writing. The way of thinking of a manual osteopathic therapist fascinates me and inspires me to learn more and become an expert at my chosen profession.
Manual osteopathy is non-invasive
An osteopathic manual treatment involves very minimal discomfort if any. The notion of ‘no pain, no gain’ does not apply here. Let’s think about it for a sec. Pain is a sensation, and its job is to notify the body that something is not right and to initiate a response to address the cause of the pain.
In my humble opinion with my current knowledge, pain during a manual therapy treatment is not necessary (except for the need to break down scar tissue for it to move better). When treatment involves pain, the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) triggers and your body will go into defense mode. Treatment at this point is very inefficient because of the present of guarding.
The osteopathic therapist works with the body to achieve the desired result. The treatment aims at putting the body in the most favorable condition for self-healing. The session involves minimal discomfort or pain.
Working with existing compensations and not against them
We put a high demand on the body to perform the task that we want every day. It is my definition that functional compensations are the structural changes that enable us to respond to the environment and our daily tasks using the least amount of energy.
These compensations are needed and not necessarily pathogenic. Actually, by correcting these functional compensations, we might even create unwanted deficiencies.
A manual osteopathic therapist recognizes and can distinguish between the compensations that need correcting from those that do not. We do this by inquiring about your health history thoroughly. Treating in this way will ensure you will function efficiently in your unique environment and demands.
Manual osteopathy respects the body’s self-heal ability
Now, before you go all crazy and call osteopathy voodoo magic, let me explain. The self-heal ability I am talking about here is the innate desire to maintain homeostasis (state of equilibrium) internally.
The internal conditions of the body (blood pressure, sugar level, body temperature, etc.) operate in a reasonably narrow range. If these internal conditions and activities were to go outside the normal operational ranges, the results would be disorders, diseases, even death of the organism.
The body equips itself with many defense mechanisms to fight off pathogens (immune system) and the ability to repair itself (inflammation process, the formation of scar tissue, etc.)
One of the principles of manual osteopathy is to respect this ability of the body. We are not “treating,” or “fixing” per se, but we are merely facilitators of health. All we do is to try our best to put the body in the most favorable condition to it can defend, repair and thrive.
Manual osteopathy is a patient-centered system
In manual osteopathy, there is a saying “we treat the patient, not the condition.” Every single individual on this earth is unique in his or her own term. Everyone comes from a different background, has different experiences and deal with their health conditions base on various factors.
Two people can have the same condition, but the manifestation of the situation and how they deal with it can be completely different.
The osteopathic therapist structures the treatment around the patient with the consideration of how the patient perceives and deal with a particular condition. By doing this, the osteopathic therapist is doing their best to make sure the patient gets better in more than one aspect.
I hope this brief introduction gives you an idea about how a manual osteopathic therapist approaches his or her treatment. It might feel strange receiving such treatment since we are all so used to experiencing the therapists or doctors to go straight to where the pain is.
The manual osteopathy is not a new profession but still needs a lot more exposure from people in Canada. If you are experiencing pain, maybe it is time to give manual osteopathy a try and see for yourself what a fantastic modality it is. I will see you in the next post.
Yours in health