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 tissues 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 in a calendar year, which you can discuss with your GP.
For more information about Osteopathy, don’t hesitate to get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org or 9481 5338).