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Osteopathy FAQs

Osteopathic medicine is a non-invasive, drug-free form of healing that aims to improve health across all body systems. Osteopathic physicians heal by strengthening and manipulating the muscles and other features that make up the framework of your body. The work of an Osteopath focuses on the muscles, joints, and spine. Healing these areas ensures a treatment model that positively impacts vital, life-sustaining body systems such as the circulatory, lymphatic and nervous systems.

What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy or Osteopathic medicine is a whole-body (holistic) approach to healthcare. The treatments provided by Osteopaths are referred to as manual treatments. This means the tools and techniques that Osteopathic physicians use are “hands-on” techniques. When you choose an Osteopathic approach to medicine, both the diagnostic and treatment process are achieved using the hands rather than other tools. These treatments aim to improve circulation and alter how the body functions without the use of pharmaceutical interventions. Osteopathy is typically considered a complementary therapy and used in conjunction with conventional therapies to improve your overall health and wellness.

What Can an Osteopath Treat?

Osteopathy is a highly beneficial treatment for many common medical concerns. Osteopathic treatments can help to provide relief and, in some cases, cure chronic physical ailments such as:
In addition to helping address and relieve discomfort associated with a vast range of conditions, osteopaths can also detect other medical conditions (not treatable through Osteopathic methods) and refer you to a medical specialist.

What are the Four Principles of Osteopathy?

From the beginning of their training, Osteopaths are trained to approach patient care and treatment from a holistic or “whole-person” perspective. As a result, much of their patient care and treatment planning centers around four principles.

 

The body is a unit; the person is a unit of body, mind, and spirit.
This principle focuses on the idea that no part of the body functions independently of the other. Because each component is interconnected with all the others, alterations to any one part of the system (including modifications to one’s mental and physical health) will alter the function of the body as a whole.  
The body is a unit capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health maintenance.

Osteopathic medicine centers on the concept that health is the natural state of being for the human body. It is believed that the body possesses complex self-regulatory mechanisms that allow it to heal itself from injury and illness. In times of disease, if a particular body part is functioning, at a reduced capacity, other parts of the body attempt to compensate for the dysfunction, which could lead to further or worsening concerns. Osteopathic physicians work to adjust the body to realign the parts to normal so that all parts function at their optimum capacity.

Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated.

This Osteopathic principle states that the structure of a particular body part governs how it functions. Therefore, abnormal structure leads to dysfunction of that body part or body system. Because function and structure are intertwined, if the body’s overall structure or overall functioning is weakened, the body’s capacity for self-healing will also be limited.

Rational treatment is based upon an understanding of the basic principles of body unity, self-regulation, and the interrelationship of structure and function.

The fourth principle effectively summarizes and encompasses the previous three. The principle states that the basic Osteopathic principles above permeate throughout all aspects of health, including maintenance, disease prevention, and treatment of illness. An Osteopathic physician diagnoses, examines, and treats their patients by calling upon each of these three principles as part of their patient care.

 

Can an Osteopath Do More Damage?

Osteopathic treatments are generally safe. In fact, Osteopathic medicine is, by its very nature, gentle, and therefore it is difficult to find patients who report suffering severe side effects or risks from it. However, like any form of medical treatment or intervention, Osteopathy does have risks and side effects. There have been rare cases where Osteopathic treatments have worsened patient symptoms or failed to improve their pain. The most common side effects of Osteopathic treatments include headache, tenderness in the treatment area, bruising, and minor pain or discomfort also in the treatment area. Remember to discuss any concerns with your Osteopath. It is also crucial to discuss your medical history and health conditions with your Osteopathic physician before deciding if Osteopathic medicine is the right choice for you. There are certain underlying medical conditions for which Osteopathic medicine is contraindicated. These include poor blood circulation, aneurysms, severe cardiovascular disease, bone tumors, bone infections, instability of the bones and joints (such as that resulting from fractures, osteoporosis, or trauma), and severe neurological damage. In these instances, the manual techniques used as part of Osteopathic medicine could cause more harm than benefit, depending on the individual and their current medical condition. Your Osteopath will help you evaluate if the treatment is right for you. Your Osteopath can also personalize the treatment to best support you.

How Many Osteopathy Sessions Do I Need?

As each patient is unique, so too are their symptoms and signs, and and the speed of recovery. At your first consultation appointment, your Osteopathic doctor will offer additional insight into your specific treatment needs. The Osteopath will help you better evaluate the root causes of your concerns and how to improve your condition. At this time, the Osteopath will also provide you with guidance as to how many sessions you may need to achieve your treatment goals. A key factor in determining treatment duration is the type of condition you are seeking help to address. For example, a recent or acute injury may require one to three sessions to successfully treat. Conversely, older problems or chronic pain conditions may take longer to improve. It is also common for patients who see improvement from Osteopathic treatments to schedule maintenance treatments after their conditions are resolved to help keep pain and discomfort at bay long term. Osteopathic physicians will also recommend various strengthening and stretching exercises to use outside of treatment sessions to help improve core muscles and encourage lasting recovery.

What Kind of Training Do Osteopaths Have?

Osteopaths are trained medical doctors. They are board-certified physicians who are fully licensed to practice in every state and many countries around the world. As licensed providers, Osteopaths diagnose and treat various medical conditions. Osteopathic doctors have earned bachelor’s and medical degrees, plus three to nine years of additional medical training in the form of internships and residencies in their chosen specialties. After passing their educational requirements, Osteopathic physicians must pass state licensing exams (in the states where they wish to practice) and national board examinations.

What is Manual Osteopathy?

Manual Osteopathy is the variety of tools and techniques used by trained Osteopathic physicians to address imbalances in the body. These tools are used to treat pain and other health conditions from a whole-person perspective. Skilled providers can use manual Osteopathy or Osteopathic Manipulation Treatment to correct structural imbalances, improve circulation and relieve pain from both acute and chronic sources.

What are Some Techniques of Osteopathy?

There are more than 40 techniques used by Osteopathic physicians. Depending on your symptoms and diagnosis, your Osteopath may use one or several during a treatment session. A few examples of those techniques include:

How Does Osteopathy Help Posture?

When posture is poor, it can affect your neck, back, hips and knees. Osteopathic physicians use manual (hands-on) techniques to mobilize your joints and stretch your muscles. This helps to correct your posture in the short term, but they also provide posture correcting exercises and advice for maintaining proper posture in the long term. Caring for your posture can help reduce the intensity of certain body aches and pains connected to poor posture.

What Should You Expect at the First Appointment?

It is at your initial appointment or consultation that your Osteopathic physician will discuss your health concerns and learn more about your current health needs. Many first appointments also include a physical exam. The physical exam allows your Osteopathic doctor to further evaluate your health and provide an accurate diagnosis for which they can develop a treatment plan. During a physical exam, you may be asked to demonstrate simple movements and stretches. This will help your provider assess your mobility and posture and the health of your ligaments, tissues, and joints. They will also use a technique called palpation to assess your joints and tissues. Palpation is a hands-on technique that utilizes touch, pressure, and gentle manipulation of a body area to evaluate its condition.

Can Osteopathy Help with Nerve Disorders?

Nerve pain has many potential causes. It is generally described as a burning sensation, and the affected areas are painful to the touch. Other symptoms of neuropathic pain may include pins and needles, difficulty sensing temperature, numbness, and excruciating pain in a specific location. Injury, illness, disease, and other factors can lead to nerve pain and dysfunction. Osteopathic treatment or Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) has been used with success in treating neuropathic pain using non-invasive techniques.

Is An Osteopathic Doctor the Same as a Chiropractor?

Osteopathic physicians, like chiropractors, are “manual doctors.” This means their work involves manually manipulating joints and other body parts to relieve pain and discomfort. However, the approaches Osteopathic doctors and chiropractors use to achieve healing differ significantly.

Chiropractors can indeed treat back, neck, and joint pain; however, their focus is generally on a specific area and the position or alignment of the spine and other joints with the end goal of improving nerve function and healing ability. When you go to a chiropractor, they are more likely to manipulate the joints through adjustments (cracking or popping). While an Osteopathic physician also uses manual techniques, they focus on the entire body or whole person rather than a particular problem area.

Osteopathic medicine offers a drug-free, holistic option for addressing many common pain concerns. This effective, whole-person approach to healing relies on the body’s own regeneration and restorative capabilities. If you would like to learn more about Osteopathic medicine or how this popular, non-invasive treatment tool may be able to help you achieve lasting recovery from pain, search for an osteopathy clinic near you and schedule your consultation in seconds.

If you are interested in osteopathy for a health concern that you have, you can search Medimap for osteopathy services. 

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