Osteopathy is a system of diagnosis and treatment which lays main emphasis on the structural and mechanical problems of the body. The osteopath is most concerned with the body framework or musculo-skeletal system, and how it is functioning.
When the structure is in harmony and balance, just like a well tuned engine, it will function with the minimum of wear, stress and energy, leaving more energy available for living.
Damage is occurring to our body’s framework every minute of the day, but fortunately, it is designed to repair itself. It is only when either the damage is excessive or when the body’s normal defence and repair mechanisms are themselves impaired, that disease (literally, dis-ease) occurs and treatment is necessary.
By taking a case history and examining the body’s structure and function, the osteopath first seeks to establish the source of the symptoms. However, the aim in treatment may not be to treat the disease process or injury itself, but to remove mechanical hindrances to the normal restoration of health. In other words, to help the body to heal itself.
What effect does osteopathic treatment have?
When there is a source of pain (click here for a fuller explanation), a message is sent via nerves to the brain to warn that there is a problem. The unconscious brain reacts to attempt to protect the body and minimise the potential further risk of harm. This often involves increased muscle tension – movement becomes more limited and we may hold ourselves in an abnormal position. In the short term this is a helpful protective response, but may lead to muscle shortening or even more strain on the painful part, and may thus be counter-productive.
Most osteopathic techniques, at least in part, attempt to persuade the unconscious brain to ‘relax’ its protective response, allowing the body to move more freely. This in turn enhance the recovery from injury. More direct stretching also helps the healthy repair of tissues, and reduces the effects of shortening of tissues that have been held in a state of increased tension.