Osteopathy is a ‘whole body’ system of physical diagnosis and manual therapy that uses a broad range of manual and movement techniques to treat neuromusculoskeletal pain and other functional problems. Osteopaths view the body from an integrated systems perspective rather than focusing only at the area of a complaint. By understanding how each of the body systems that may be involved in a condition are interrelated, osteopaths aim to correct the source of the problem. Treatment doesn’t stop there though; osteopaths will help you to optimise your physical function and teach you how to maintain it. Studies have consistently shown that people report a high level of satisfaction following their osteopathy treatment for pain problems.
In Australia, osteopaths are government registered practitioners, with a training background covering medical sciences and diagnostics, as well as orthopeadics, neurology, pain science and osteopathic manual therapy. This means that osteopaths are primary care practitioners and are trained to carry out standard medical examinations, provide conservative primary treatment for neuromusculoskeletal pain complaints, and to recognise conditions which require further medical investigation.
Diagnosis is key
Osteopaths take an integrated approach to health care, so we require a lot of information from you to help us accurately understand your complaint and then work to provide you with the most suitable treatment.
Firstly, we will ask you for a comprehensive history of your current complaint and about your medical history, including questions about previous surgery and illnesses, family history, medications and lifestyle. After we have understood the details of your complaint and your medical and health history we will need to do a physical examination. Osteopaths do careful and skilled examination by touch, picking up details that help us determine areas of sensitivity, inflammation, joint restriction, muscular tightness and other tissue changes that may be relevant to your complaint. Assessing how your well body moves both actively and passively also gives us important information. The physical examination will involve looking closely at the affected region and then assessing it in the context of the rest of your body. Any important functional tests will also be performed, such as a neurological and cardiovascular assessments.
After the examination we will have a good idea as to what has happened and will discuss with you how best to address the issue. Occasionally the next step will be a referral for diagnostic images (ultrasound, x-ray or MRI scans), or a visit to your GP or another health care professional, but in most cases, with your consent, we will be able to start osteopathic care so you can start feeling better.
With an emphasis on health literacy, preventative medicine and wellness, osteopathic philosophy takes an integrated approach to health care, providing best-practice care for conditions ranging from osteoarthritis pain and tension headaches to sports injuries that aims for a broader view of positive health and greater sense of self-efficacy for patients. We involve you in your own care, with support beyond illness recovery through to dynamic health and high level fitness.
Osteopaths believe that getting patients to back to health and teaching them to how to stay that way is the best form of long-term preventive care. The key to preventing health problems recurring, and to developing long-term solutions, lies in increasing your awareness of the causes of problems, and in helping you develop the awareness and skills you need to manage your own health. This can include:
- Identifying the causative factors, such as problems with overuse, deconditioning or workplace ergonomics.
- Teaching more efficient and less strenuous body usage in actions at home or at work.
- Providing individually tailored exercise programs both for rehabilitation and prevention.
- Teaching therapeutic movement exercises and relaxation techniques to reduce stress.
- Working in conjunction with other practitioners where appropriate.
Osteopathic treatment involves manual techniques including soft tissue stretching and massage, resisted muscle contractions, patient-inherent movements, nerve mobilisation, therapeutic needling, joint articulation and manipulation. The treatment is gentle and conducted with the your assistance.Because osteopaths look at the ‘whole’ picture of human functioning, they also use a variety of approaches which acknowledge the many factors contributing to balance and health. We may therefore provide advice on diet, exercise, posture and other aspects of daily life. This comprehensive approach to management will help you to achieve the best possible level of health.
Age or health status is not usually a barrier to osteopathic care. Children to patients in their 90’s plus and everyone in between can benefit from a personalised osteopathic approach to their health care if it is appropriate to their complaint.
Osteopathic treatment isn’t appropriate for all pain or functional conditions though. If we happen to be your first point of consultation on a new issue that isn’t likely amenable be to osteopathic care we can help identify the nature of your problem are refer you to the relevant health professional or specialist.
As a general rule, osteopathic manual therapy should not hurt and we do our best to ensure that you are comfortable throughout treatment. Occasionally, some techniques used can feel awkward or unusual but they should not hurt.
If you feel discomfort, then we just change the approach. Treating pain with more pain is rarely a good idea.
Yes. Extensive training over five years and government regulation ensures that osteopaths have the skills necessary to care for you safely. Most treatments are gentle and are aimed at getting maximum healing from the minimal necessary intervention. Osteopaths in Australia have an excellent safety record.
This depends entirely on the nature and chronicity of your complaint, as well as your general health. Some people feel immediate relief, while others may need a long course of treatment before significant improvement is achieved.
While it is rare for you to feel worse after treatment, occasionally you may be more aware of your symptoms for a short time. This is usually due to the release of chemicals that make nerve endings very sensitive and is a normal response that will resolve within a day or two.
We will often recommend some simple exercises that you can incorporate into your current routine. Sometimes it may be necessary to significantly modify your physical activity until your condition is resolved.
Since each of these three professions treat the same conditions, it is not surprising that this is one of the most common questions we are asked. Defining other professions isn’t our role, so this question is probably best answered by comparing your experiences with each approach.
What we can say is that osteopathy has been at the forefront of manual medicine treatment for nearly 150 years and therefore many of the manual treatment approaches used in other professions originated in osteopathy.
No. Osteopaths are government registered primary health care practitioners, so you don’t need a GP referral to make an appointment.