What Is Osteopathy?
Osteopathy is a branch of complementary medicine which provides specialist diagnosis, treatment, prevention and rehabilitation of problems that arise in the “biomechanics” (framework of the body) which can be as a result of direct injury e.g. sports injuries, or develop from poor posture or wear and tear over time. This can disturb the circulatory system or nerves to any part of the body, and affect any aspect of health. Osteopaths complete a four or five-year degree course combining academic and clinical work. This is similar to a medical degree, with more emphasis on anatomy and musculo-skeletal medicine and includes more than one thousand hours of training in specific osteopathic technique.
While “Biomechanics” has become one of the most rapidly developing areas of medicine in recent years, Osteopathy was one of the first professions to incorporate biomechanical analysis to determine how injuries occur and what the secondary effects are likely to be. To take a simple example: if you go to an Osteopath with a shoulder injury, the Osteopath will do much more than just examine and treat your shoulder. They will want to know exactly how the injury occurred in order to assess, not just which tissues in the shoulder are injured, but also whether there may be any involvement of other areas with a mechanical relationship to the shoulder, such as the neck, elbow, mid back and maybe even pelvis, and the associated soft tissues.
They will then want to analyse any possible secondary effects. For instance, you may be “avoiding” the bad shoulder and putting more strain on the other side. Over a period of time, this may lead to problems developing in the lower neck or the “good” arm. The Osteopath will then use this information to prescribe a treatment plan that addresses not just the shoulder, but all of the other areas of the body and associated tissues that may be involved. The plan will include attention, not just to the joints and their associated soft tissues, but also to the blood supply to the affected areas, the nerve supply, the lymphatic drainage etc., in order to include all those factors which will affect the success of healing. It is this “whole body, multi-system” holistic approach that has been the basis of Osteopathy’s success over the last century.
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A little about 'Biomechanics'
When you bend a joint it undergoes what osteopaths refer to as a 'prime movement'
This is initiated by the agonist muscle or groups of muscles and decelerated or stabilised by the antagonist group(s).
In order this occurs without injury, the joint(s) have to move freely but with enough stability and coordination to avoid excessive glide or shear.
This relies on appropriate muscle strength and coordination and correct nerve firing and balanced joint range of motion.
Most people would be unable to tell if they had a large joint like a hip restricted, let alone one within the spine.
Here's where the plot thickens..
1. Most people don't know they have in imbalance/restriction in the spine as it won't initially cause symptoms
2. Many times we can make inappropriate movements and cause micro-trauma. Tears/damage so small that in isolation cause no issues. Until that is, they build up, repeatedly at the same location- "all of a sudden my back went" is usually the opening gambit we hear in consult.
These are two example of accessory motion, a motion that occurs incidentally and to a degree is absolutely normal.
1. There is an imbalance with the supporting agonist/antagonist muscles- take a forward bend/ flexion hinge in the spine by way of example. As you bend forwards the joints compress slightly at the front and open at the back. In certain spinal joints in the low back, as you reach a certain degree of forward flexing, like a skier facing down a slope, the vertebra will want to glide or shear forwards. If this accompanying (accessory motion) occurs to the right degree, it helps give amazing flexibility to the spine if it is controlled throughout the motion and decelerated appropriately, no problems arise.
2. Restricted joints place more pressure on other joints creating hypermobility. This increase over normal range, particularly involving accessory motion makes the spine much more vulnerable. Like a screw in a loose hole, it can become ever more likely to 'cross thread' and catch at the wrong angle. In the case of a back, this catch can pinch part of the joint capsule or nerve resulting in sudden pain and protective muscle spasm around the joint.
3. They also must receive adequate neural input throughout the action. After injury, joints lose something called proprioception. This is essentially balance feedback and can be relearnt.
It is one of the prime goals of spinal rehabilitation.
You are in safe hands
Osteopaths complete a four or five-year degree course combining academic and clinical work. This is similar to a medical degree, with more emphasis on anatomy and musculo-skeletal medicine and includes more than one thousand hours of training in specific osteopathic technique.
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.
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.
Osteopaths are required to update their training throughout their working lives. We must complete at least 30 hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) per year in order to remain registered.
The British Medical Association’s guidance for general practitioners states that doctors can safely refer patients to osteopaths.
All of our highly trained Osteopaths are registered with the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC). GOsC "regulate the practice of osteopathy in the United Kingdom. By law osteopaths must be registered with us in order to practice. We work with the public and osteopathic profession to promote patient safety by registering qualified professionals, and setting, maintaining and developing standards of osteopathic practice and conduct."
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