How does Osteopathy work? 11 May 2016
How does Osteopathy work?
Osteopathy is an effective way to relieve aches and pains without the need for medication or surgery but so is physiotherapy and chiropractic. So how does osteopathy work and why should you see an osteopath for your complaint?
Osteopathy is a patient centred approach, the same is true in principle for physiotherapy and chiropractic so how does it differ? In general physiotherapists use more home exercises in their management plan, chiropractors use shorter lasting treatments and often more overall. The osteopathy practised at Bannerdale Osteopaths uses a mixture of ‘hands on’ manual therapy and exercise guidance using our great tool where we can send your exercises as videos you can watch and rewatch when you want. No stick diagrams or photocopied bits of paper. A patient centred approach starts by understanding you so we can build your management plan firmly around what works for you. During the consultation your osteopath will strive to understand you and the pain you are suffering. This allows the osteopath to design a management plan with you at the centre of it. The condition will be diagnosed but this is only the start; far more important than what has caused the pain is why it has happened. By spending time understanding how you use your body our aim is not just to reduce the pain but stop it from reoccurring by giving you some insight into what in your life is responsible for it in the first place and advice about exercises you can do once discharged from our care. What follows is an insight into the thought process behind how we conduct a consultation so you understand what to expect when you come to see us.
How does osteopathy work? – The Consultation
The benefit of seeing an osteopath is that we have time to make sure we understand what has and is happening to you. The consultation usually lasts around 45 minutes the first time and is formed of four parts: case history, physical examination, treatment and exercises/advice.
How does osteopathy work? – Case history
To begin with we want to hear all about how your problem affects you. This will include where the pain is and if it travels or refers anywhere such as into the leg from the back like the symptom sciatica. We want to know how long you have been suffering from the problem for; there is a big difference in how we will manage you according to how long you’ve had the pain for. Persistent (over 6 weeks) pain responds a lot better to exercise than an acute injury only a few days old might. We may ask you to talk us through your usual day so we get a feel for what your body does. Any past accidents, broken bones, serious illness and operations may form part of the background to how the current complaint developed so it is important to understand you and ask lots of questions.
Osteopaths practice as primary health care practitioners which means you don’t need a referral from a GP or anyone else to come and see us, it also means that when you come to see us we assume responsibility for making a diagnosis which requires us to know about your medical history and occasionally recommending tests or imaging.
How does osteopathy work? – Physical examination
Osteopaths are primarily interested in how your body is functioning so we will usually start by having a look at you standing and ask you to perform some simple movements so we can see what effect this has on you. So we can do this accurately seeing as much of the area and adjacent areas helps so we may ask you to dress down to some extent. Modesty, of course, will be considered and if you are uncomfortable removing anything we can usually find a way to work around it, most people wear shorts or leggings and a strap top or shirt off for men if the location of the complaint requires access to these areas. We might perform tests such as reflexes, strength testing and even blood pressure or listen to the lungs if we or you have any concerns. During the case history we will have developed some ideas about what might be the cause and reason for your complaint and the examination is where we test these different ideas to see which is the most likely. Some of the tests and movements we ask you to perform are called provocative tests which mean they are attempting to recreate the symptoms these can be a little uncomfortable but most of the examination won’t usually cause much pain. Once we have worked out what is happening we will explain this to you; having a clear understanding of the cause and reason for your complaint is of great importance especially with persistent pain (over 6 weeks).
How does osteopathy work? – Treatment
The aim of treatment is to put the body in the best environment to heal. This will often involve working close to the site of the pain using techniques such as massage and stretching to help release tight muscles, mobilisations and manipulations may be used to release specific joints. We might work on muscles and joints away from the site of pain because as mentioned earlier we are not only trying to resolve the pain but also address the cause of the problem and prevent it from reoccurring. Most treatments aren’t painful but can sometimes feel a little uncomfortable as areas close to the pain are worked on, we always encourage you to tell us how it is feeling as it helps us treat you effectively. If something is too uncomfortable to work on just let us know and we can find another way to get the result we are looking for. Manipulations are what can sometimes make a ‘cracking’ sound as a joint is released. It’s the same noise as someone ‘cracking’ their knuckles and isn’t damaging. The sound is believed to be due to a rapid reduction in intracapsular pressure due to the joint surfaces being separated and this causes (a) small gas bubble(s); the noise is either these being created or collapsed.
How does osteopathy work? – Exercises / advice
Most complaints benefit from you doing a bit of homework in the form of exercises. These are usually quite simple exercises which start off by helping release the tight muscles and joints we have identified then often progress to strengthening exercises as improving strength is very good for injury prevention and we don’t want the injury to come back. These exercises will be developed to fit in with you, your goals and lifestyle; not all injuries require ongoing exercises and once the symptoms have reduced normal life can be resumed. In addition to any exercises we might give you, we may talk about aspects of your life that we think could be affecting you such as your desk setup or other actions you do fairly regularly in your life.