Osteopathy is an extremely difficult profession to describe succinctly.
Words like ‘holistic’, ‘manual therapy’, ‘physical therapy’, ‘primary health care’, ‘allied health care’ and ‘complementary medicine’ are thrown around. But what does that actually mean? All of those descriptors are incomplete. These words tell you hardly anything about what an osteopath does.
It is a real down fall of osteopathy that we cannot easily define what we do. It definitely does not help our self-promotion.
No I do not treat bones.
Yes, osteo = bone, and pathy = pathology or disease of. But we do not treat bones.
What do you do then?
We treat patients who are in pain. They might have muscle pain, joint pain, nerve pain, headaches, abdominal pain, period pain. Occasionally a patient will come in with other symptoms like tiredness or coughing. Sometimes we can help these patients, other times we refer on.
Our examination is thorough. Osteopaths like to know what tissue is causing pain, and why. You might present with knee pain, but the source of the problem is the hip, or low back. We screen the whole body before narrowing our focus on the areas of concern.
We use a variety of hands on techniques to make you feel better. Our techniques range from joint mobilisation to joint manipulation, soft tissue massage to counterstain techniques, and many more. The techniques we use depends on what symptoms you have, how long they have been there, and what you prefer.
We diagnose musculoskeletal conditions, but also have a solid understanding of medical pathology. This means we can pick up signs and symptoms which may indicate underlying diseases or disorders. If you need onward referral to a different health practitioner or imaging, we can facilitate that.
A big part of our job is talking. It is important to educate our patients on their diagnosis, and how long it will take to see improvement. We also provide advice in many different areas. Nutrition, exercise rehabilitation, ergonomics, relaxation, to name a few.
Osteopaths can treat patients of all ages. As a profession we do not perform manipulation techniques on babies or children. In fact, manipulation is only conducted on patients who give us explicit consent to do so. We are lucky that we learn so many techniques, we can pick and choose the ones that are most appropriate for the individual in front of us.
So is osteopathy a new thing?
Osteopathy was invented/discovered/established in the 1870s in America by a fellow named A.T. Still. It was around before chiropractic or physiotherapy.
A.T. Still was a very smart man for his time, but several of his philosophies were wrong and controversial. Modern day osteopathy has moved away from many of Still’s teachings, but at it’s core, our profession is based on his fundamental theories.
Osteopathy is a rapidly growing profession in Australia. So next time you find yourself in pain, come and see what we really do.