What does osteopathic treatment actually include? As an Edinburgh osteopath for 28 years now, I think I’m fairly well-qualified to answer your question…
But first, “What is osteopathy?”
First, it’s worth a brief definition of what osteopathy is. The below definition is straight from the Institute of Osteopathy’s website:
Osteopathy is a method of assessing, treating and preventing a wide range of health problems. Osteopaths use a combination of movement, stretching, targeted deep tissue massage and manipulation of a person’s muscles and joints to improve function, relieve pain and aid recovery.
What can osteopaths help?
As mentioned in the definition above, we address a wide range of health problems. At Active X Backs we have chosen to specialise in lower back pain and sciatica. I used to say that I cover everything from headaches to sore big toes and everything in between. Some osteopaths specialise in children’s problems. Some osteopaths specialise in a number of other areas, from headaches, to respiratory problems and digestive problems. There aren’t recognised specialisms in osteopathy the way there are in medicine. We don’t have Royal Colleges of this that and the other. And this can be a problem when you’re trying to work out how well-qualified or experienced an osteopath is. And whether they have a good claim to be a specialist in any of these fields.
So what does osteopathic treatment include?
Put another way, what techniques do osteopaths use? Osteopathy has always been a manual therapy. We rely on the laying on of hands to effect changes in the body. These techniques include a range of approaches, each trying to affect a particular “tissue” or groups of tissues. Tissues are muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, fascia etc.. So, techniques are chosen based on what effect we want to have on which tissues. If you have tense muscles we would employ “soft tissue techniques”. There are a wide range of these. If you have stiff joints we would articulate/mobilise those joints and possibly even use High Velocity Thrust techniques. HVT is one of the more memorable techniques; it’s when your joints “pop” or “crack”.
There are other techniques such as Craniosacral osteopathy, which entails very subtle pressures most commonly applied to the head and tail bone. Someone once said that there are as many osteopathic approaches as there are osteopathy. A reflection of the diversity of practice, which some think is good, some not so good.
Other components of the osteopathic approach
In keeping with most forms of rehabilitative medicine, osteopaths are increasingly involved in the prescription of exercises and lifestyle advice. Many problems, including lower back pain and sciatica are lifestyle-related. So apart from actual osteopathic treatment, you should definitely expect a fair bit of coaching in how to get better and stay better!
If this sounds like what you’re after, book an osteopathy appointment in Edinburgh.