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What is Osteopathy?

"Osteopathy is a way of detecting and treating damaged parts of the body such as muscles, ligaments, nerves and joints. When the body is balanced and efficient, just like a well tuned engine, it will function with the minimum of wear and tear, leaving more energy for living"
General Osteopathic Council (United Kingdom)

Founded in the 1890's by American Andrew Taylor Still, Osteopathy is a well established, distinct and safe system of diagnosis and treatment aimed at allowing the body to move as well as it possibly can. Osteopaths believe that the body is a unit, where anatomical structure enables the body's ability to function and function guides the structure of the body. It is deduced that the body has self regulating mechanisms and therefore the capacity to defend and repair itself. When the body's normal adaptability is disrupted, or when environmental changes overcome the body's capacity for self-maintenance, "disease" or pain may ensue. Osteopaths focus on the body's skeleton and joint function along with the underlying muscles, soft tissue and nerves. Palpation, range of movement and muscle testing are used to diagnose problem areas in the body. Treatment usually consists of a combination of soft tissue (muscles, tendons and ligaments) releasing techniques, joint mobilisation and spinal adjustment. Advice on how to prevent symptom reoccurrence is also offered.

osteopathy - foot

The body has an amazing capacity to adapt to everyday stresses and strains. However when the body's ability to absorb these insults is exceeded subtle changes may occur in the body's mechanics. Compression may be increased on one particular area of the body or a joint may become restricted in its range of motion. Both of which will influence the circulation and nutrition to the affected area and the body's ability to heal after subsequent injuries / insults. Therefore when pain does arise it may be as the result of a trivial activity or persist for longer than expected. Other symptoms such as fatigue and disturbed sleep, headaches, changes in mood, digestion and breathing and a vulnerability to infections may accompany pain and the onset of injury.

Osteopaths identify factors within the body and in an individual's activities of daily living which prevent the resolution of symptoms and help the patient to address these through treatment, exercises and advice on posture and ergonomics. Overall this enables the enhancement of the body's own self healing mechanisms.

Osteopathy can be used as a preventative therapy and can prove to be a positive step in the preparation for sporting events and childbirth.

Osteopaths use their hands to treat the body. The type of technique used depends upon the condition being treated and the individual; their age, health, body type and what the patient is happy and confident with. Ultimately the aim of treatment is to improve tissue nutrition, decrease pain and inflammation and restore the body's self healing mechanisms.

The most commonly used Osteopathic techniques include:

  • Soft tissue massage to reduce muscle tension
  • Articulation or gentle joint movement to improve nutrition in and around the joint and to increase the joints range of motion
  • Osteopathy in the Cranial Field (Cranial) is a technique primarily used to treat babies and children but can be used in the treatment anyone.
  • Inhibition / Neuromuscular Release to release acute "muscle spasm" without causing further irritation to inflamed tissues
  • Manipulation and mobilisation to increase the range of motion of a specific joint
  • Visceral techniques to influence the body's organs

Coupled with manual techniques advice is also provided on posture, ergonomics (mechanical use of the body).

Osteopaths focus on the bones and muscles but also pay particular attention to the nerve supply and tissue nutrition. Osteopathy is suitable for everyone; from new born babies, pregnant women, sports people, office workers, the elderly and everyone in between. As a result a variety of conditions can be treated. Some examples of which include:

  • Back pain
  • General joint pain, stiffness or injury
  • Muscle aches & pains
  • Sporting injuries
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Discs injury and sciatica
  • Pins and needles and numbness from trapped nerves
  • Golfers/Tennis elbow
  • Repetitive strain injury (RSI)
  • Work related stresses and strains
  • Digestive disorders
  • Asthma and chest complaints
  • Painful periods
  • Discomforts during and after pregnancy

Babies and Children:

  • Crying babies; Colic, sickness, and wind
  • Feeding difficulties
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Ear infections

For more information on the treatment of babies and children please see Osteopathy and Children

The above is by no means an exhaustive list of conditions treated. In order to determine if Osteopathy can benefit you please do not hesitate to contact us.

Your first appointment will last approximately 60 minutes. A medical history will be taken. You will be asked about your symptoms and factors that affect them. Detailed questions about your general health, any accidents or trauma and your past medical history including illnesses and operations will also be asked.

It is important that the Osteopath can examine the area of complaint properly and therefore you may be asked to remove some items of clothing.

You will be asked to stand, for assessment of your posture, and then perform a series of simple movements. This allows the Osteopath to identify which structures in your body are causing your symptoms and to assess how your body moves. A manual examination of your musculo-skeletal system will be performed and if indicated further examination of your nervous, respiratory and cardiovascular systems will also be performed. It may be requested that you undertake extra examinations such as medical imaging or blood tests to further aid diagnosis and treatment. All these findings provide for a diagnosis.

Once a diagnosis has been made, you will then be treated if it is appropriate to do so. Treatment options, expected time frames of recovery and your expectation of recovery will be discussed with you. Most patients are seen an average of 4 - 6 times. However you will be referred if Osteopathic treatment is not the most appropriate form of treatment for you or if further medical intervention is required.

What should I bring?

Please bring any relevant X-ray, ultrasound and / or MRI reports, ACC information and medical history.

What should I wear?

It is important to be able to see the area of injury so you may be asked to remove some clothing or to roll up trouser legs etc. Therefore please wear or bring comfortable clothing that provides easy movement such as shorts, singlets or tights.

Post treatment:

Patient response to treatment is varied and depends upon the individual, the method of treatment and the initial complaint. Typically the patient may experience tiredness, minor discomfort, stiffness or heat in the treated area, or the patient may not. Discomfort lasting up to 3 days post treatment is not always negative and may indicate the initiation of the healing process. Your Osteopath will discuss with you, on an individual basis, what symptoms you are to expect after treatment. If symptoms last longer than 3 days or cause you concern do not hesitate to contact your Osteopath.

What to do in follow up to an Osteopathic treatment:

Your Osteopath will give you specific advice on the best way to proceed after an Osteopathic treatment. For example you may be instructed to apply ice or heat to a specific area, to avoid an activity or motion suspected of triggering symptoms or to perform specific exercises to help repair and strengthen an area. It may be requested that you visit your General Practitioner if diagnostic tests such as X-rays and blood tests are required.

Osteopathic treatment of Children:

Children of any age are treated at the clinic and those below the age of 16 are required to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Please bring your child's health records, such as their Plunket book, with you as they can aid in the diagnosis and subsequent treatment of your child. If there is anything that you would like to tell the Osteopath without your child knowing, then please either call beforehand or write it down.

During the treatment of younger child the parent or guardian may be required to entertain them. Therefore feel free to bring any favourite book or toy of the child's. Please note that the child's siblings are more than welcome to accompany them but it is requested that their siblings do not disrupt the treatment process unnecessarily.

osteopathy - abdomen