What is Osteopathy and how can it help me?

Alexandra is an experienced Osteopath at the Thornbury Clinic. Alex works in a holistic approach connecting all aspects of your past medical history to form a comprehensive Osteopathy treatment plan to resolve your issue. Alex has a passion for treating both sporting injuries and also those chronic injuries such as work related neck pain and chronic back pain. Alex has a special interest in treating fibromyalgia having written a paper on it in 2020.

Recently we have had a lot of patients asking me “what exactly is Osteopathy” and “is it the right form of treatment for me?”. Due to this I thought I would outline exactly what is entailed in Osteopathy and how it can help you!

What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is a non-medicinal manual therapy which primarily works with the musculoskeletal system (muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints) to restore and optimise health. Consideration of the neurological, circulatory and lymphatic systems are also a key component. Osteopaths believe in a holistic approach: they treat each patient as a whole, which will include understanding elements of physical, mental and social factors as well as the area of complaint. Similarly, an osteopath often assesses the function of areas of the body away from the complaint area, which could have caused or may be contributing to the complaint itself. Osteopathy is a way of treating or managing health problems to avoid or reduce the use of medication or surgery, however osteopathic management can be used as a complementary approach alongside other treatments including medication/surgery.

Osteopaths train for 4 years to obtain a master’s degree in osteopathy which involves detailed anatomy and physiology, disease and medical conditions, pharmacology, biomechanics, osteopathic technique and systems exams (cardiovascular, respiratory etc) to ensure they are qualified to manage people’s health effectively. Mandatory placement/clinical hours are also an essential part of qualifying as an osteopath, meaning they have experience of managing patients prior to graduating.

How does an Osteopath treat?

An osteopath will initially diagnose the complaint – this is done by gathering a detailed case history of the patient including details of the complaint(s) itself, past medical and drug history, social/occupational factors and what the patient aims to get out of treatment.

To diagnose the problem, the osteopath will take the patient through a series of assessment. The patient will be asked to perform some movements whilst the osteopath observes posture, form and quality of certain movements and how body parts are working together. Testing will be done where appropriate – this may include systems exams to make sure the patient is a candidate for osteopathy. For example, if cardiovascular symptoms are present, a brief cardiovascular assessment will be performed to ensure the patient is safe to treat or confirm the need for a GP referral for further investigation. Orthopaedic testing takes place to support diagnosis of musculoskeletal conditions/injuries. A major component of this process uses palpation – feeling the tissues and joints for signs of dysfunction, osteopaths rely greatly on their sense of touch as part of assessment and treatment.

Once a working diagnosis is established, an osteopath will discuss the implications of the diagnosis – aiming to educate patients on what is causing their pain, how long it is expected to take to recover, the treatment options available and lifestyle advice to support osteopathic management.

Treatment consists of hands-on techniques that include manipulation and mobilisation of the muscles, fascia and joints. Alongside hands-on treatment, exercise prescription is often an essential part of management which will support recovery/healing in between appointments. Focal stretching and strengthening muscles is used to restore the body back to optimal function and get patients out of pain. Medical acupuncture/dry needling is sometimes used by osteopaths to complement treatment also.

What can Osteopaths treat?

Osteopaths can treat muscle spasms, back pain (acute and chronic), joint pain, arthritic pain, sciatica and other neuralgia, mechanical neck pain, migraine prevention, minor sports injuries, rheumatic pain, circulatory problems, shoulder/elbow/hand pain and fibromyalgia.

This is not an extensive list, if you think you could benefit from osteopathic treatment ask our lovely reception team who will book you in for a consultation and start your road to recovery!