What is Osteopathy?

There is an intimate relationship between structure (mechanics) and function (physiology) in the body. Tissues that move freely are tissues that function well – unimpeded flows of blood, lymph and nerve impulses allow balance (homeostasis) to be maintained.

Any insult to tissues, e.g. following physical trauma, inflammation, infection or surgery, can cause mechanical problems in the form of abnormal tensions and restrictions. These alter the smooth, free movement of our joints and soft tissues, and can lead to dysfunction and pain.

Osteopathy is a form of manual (hands-on) medicine based on the above principle of structure-function inter-relationship. It was developed in the late 19th century by Dr Andrew Taylor Still, an American Physician. Osteopathy:

  • focuses on restoring tissue mobility to enhance function and health
  • looks at the whole body, and not just the area(s) where symptoms are felt – there are many possible interactions between the mechanics and function of different and sometimes distant parts of the body, and a global approach is required (cf. article on lesional chains).

During a consultation, the aim of the Osteopath is to identify and address the key areas of tissue tension and restriction in a patient. These are the tensions/restrictions most destabilising to the body and causing the most extensive compensations at other locations. For diagnosis, the Osteopath uses a combination of palpation and motion testing, as well as physical, neurological and orthopaedic examination as required. Because key tensions are often hidden deep in the body cavities, the Osteopath needs to look beyond the musculoskeletal ‘shell’ of the body and address the body in its entirety. Using his/her hands only, the Osteopath applies precise forces to gently mobilise and alleviate the identified tensions/restrictions. Depending on the specific needs of the patient, techniques such as joint mobilisation, fascial release, muscle stretching, visceral manipulation or neural manipulation may be used.

In Australia, Osteopathy is a 5-year university course. All Osteopaths are government-registered allied health professionals (for more information, see the AHPRA website). All major health funds recognise Osteopathy under their ancillary cover, and a referral is not required for consulting an Osteopath. You could also be eligible for a Medicare rebate for up to 5 sessions, which you can discuss with your GP.

For more information about Osteopathy, don’t hesitate to get in touch (info@naturamedica.net.au or 9481 5338).

What is visceral manipulation (VM)?

To function well, tissues in our body need to be mobile. This applies to our joints, but importantly also to our organs and their supportive structures (fascial attachments, nerves and blood vessels). Postural strains, physical traumas and chronic inflammation, for example, can all cause the normal mobility of these tissues to be lost.

Abnormal tensions or motion restrictions affecting organs can:

  • significantly impact body mechanics, with postural and motion compensations developing as the body tries to minimize these abnormal tensions and prevent any position or movement that would exacerbate them. This is why VM may be very effective in relieving some musculoskeletal restrictions and pains
  • alter organs function (physiology) by interfering with blood flow, lymphatic flow and nerve function. This may lead to functional disorders (e.g. IBS, period pain), and, in the longer term, contribute to the development of actual pathologies.

VM involves gentle mobilisation of organs and their supportive structures to eliminate abnormal tensions and hence enhance body mechanics and organs function. VM makes use of very low forces and high specificity, making treatments pain-free and well suited for all ages. VM shouldn’t be viewed as a separate treatment modality, but rather as an essential element of an integrative therapeutical approach to address dysfunction and pain in the body.

VM was largely developed by a renowned French Osteopath, Jean-Pierre Barral, who still teaches his innovative work all around the world. Natura Medica’s Osteopath, Nicolas Roost, is one of the most experienced practitioners of VM in Melbourne. He is a teaching assistant and study group leader in VM with the Barral Institute.