Osteopathy is an established system of diagnosis and treatment that recognises the role of the musculoskeletal system in the healthy functioning of the body. The musculoskeletal system is a key element in maintaining health. This system makes up two-thirds of the body's mass. It impacts and reflects the condition of all other systems in the body. Osteopathic theory involves the concept that structure (anatomy) and function (physiology) are inter-related. If the structure of a joint is distorted in any way, this will affect the normal mechanics of the joint resulting in dysfunction, which patients often feel as pain and stiffness.
The body has a natural ability to self-regulate and self-repair. Osteopaths rely on this innate healing ability to return their patients to good health. Osteopaths also promote nutrition and fitness to sustain healthy body systems. It uses no drugs. Instead, osteopaths work with their hands using a wide range of treatment techniques, such as soft tissue and neuromuscular massage, joint mobilising techniques and manipulations designed to improve the mobility and range of movement of a joint.
With their highly trained sense of touch, osteopaths use these manual techniques both diagnose and treat underlying causes of pain and to carry out treatment. Osteopathy's strength lies in the unique way the patient is assessed from a mechanical, functional and postural standpoint and the way that treatment is planned to suit the needs of the individual patient.
Osteopaths treat the structural and functional component of disease. Backache affects 4 out of 5 people at some time in their lives and is the most common complaint treated by osteopaths. Many other conditions can also be treated, including headaches, neck problems and pain in the hips, knees, ankles, feet, shoulders, elbows, wrists and ribs.
Other conditions which fall within the scope of osteopathic treatment are osteoarthritic (degenerative) joint conditions, various spinal intervertebral disc conditions such as 'slipped' or herniated intervertebral discs and other associated joint capsular and ligamentous problems in sports injuries, including cartilage injuries, tennis elbow, shoulder rotator cuff injuries and shin splints.
During pregnancy, when the change in posture can give rise to back pain and discomfort, many 'mothers to be' find relief from osteopathic treatment.
Patients often report immediate and significant pain relief following joint manipulation. As well as relieving mechanical irritation at the joint these techniques stimulate nerve endings in the spinal joint capsule, ligaments and surrounding musculature causing a barrage of sensory input to the spinal cord, which results in inhibition of pain transmission.