What exactly is osteopathy?

Osteopaths use a broad range of gentle, hands-on techniques including soft-tissue stretching, deep tactile pressure and joint manipulation. Samantha Wong consults three local practitioners to find out how everyone can benefit.

The uninitiated think of osteopathy as a treatment for musculoskeletal problems but those in the know employ it to treat a wide range of health issues, including digestive and respiratory problems, migraines, insomnia, colic and reflux in babies, and even fertility issues in women.

The philosophy of osteopathy is simple and holistic. The body is viewed as one unit – everything is connected. From the smallest cell to the largest bone, all of the anatomy is alive and in constant, rhythmic motion. The movement of body fluids – blood, lymph and cerebrospinal – is critical to health. The human body works continuously to maintain a state of balanced function. When blood and lymph flow freely, the tissues can perform their physiologic functions without impedance. When tissues get twisted and compressed, the normal function gets obstructed.

Through soft-tissue manipulation and gentle mobilisation, osteopathy aims to restore function in the body by treating the root causes of pain and imbalance. Osteopaths focus on how the skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves, circulation, connective tissue and internal organs function together in an integrated manner.

“Because all systems of the body interrelate, sometimes symptoms (pain) can be manifested far away from the cause of the actual problem,” explains osteopath Dr Aaron Anderson of Integrated Medicine Institute (IMI) in Discovery Bay. “A sore knee can be the result of a hip injury; a painful lower back can be the result of collapsed feet.”

An osteopath can identify the root of the problem, minimise pain, reduce tension, restore mobility and normalise fluid flow, thus
allowing the inherent physiologic function to resume. In turn, this provides the body with the opportunity to heal.

Injuries, aches and jet lag

The majority of people who consult an osteopath do so because of sports injury or muscle overuse but bad posture or a sedentary lifestyle can also put stress on our bodies, leading to tension and pain. People who spend long hours sitting in the same position – from office workers to airline pilots – can therefore benefit.

Speaking of pilots, osteopathic treatment can help people recover faster after long-haul travel across time zones. “Sitting in a fatigued state for long periods, and especially in an environment like the airplane cabin that experiences pressure changes, can affect the gastro-intestinal system,” explains IMI osteopath Jodi Waugh. “The small intestines can drop putting undue pressure on the bladder, and constipation can result from this prolonged downward pressure on the organs. The effects may present as groin pain or outer hip pain. A simple treatment can restore balance and provide relieve.”

Long-haul travel can also disrupt our body’s production of serotonin, an important brain chemical that regulates the sleep/ wake cycle. “About 80% of serotonin is produced in the small intestines and then conveyed to the pineal gland, where melatonin is derived from serotonin. An osteopath can evaluate and release visceral tension in the small intestines that could be affecting serotonin productions,” explains IMI osteopath Jonathan Vallade. “Treating the high cervical spine and head venous sinus can also help with circulation to the pineal gland.”

Fertility and pregnancy

Structural problems can have a huge impact on fertility. The female pelvic area is highly sensitive and even minor tension can disturb its function. An alignment problem in the iliac can create a slight pull or twist on the uterus, which can make conceiving difficult. Osteopathic treatments can help remove stress on the uterus by making sure the pelvis is aligned properly, that the muscles are balanced and strong, and all unwanted tensions are released. By restoring freedom in the tissues and normalising fluid flow, the inherent physiological function resumes and the chance of pregnancy improves.

During pregnancy, the many changes a woman’s body undergoes can cause musculoskeletal discomfort. If there are pre-existing restrictions from stress, previous accidents, illnesses or trauma, these changes are magnified. It therefore follows that many pregnant mums find osteopathic treatments helpful in relieving discomfort and maintaining circulation. An osteopath can also prepare women for childbirth by paying particular attention to the mobility of all the structures around the uterus, as well as the mobility of the baby within the uterus.

Growing pains

In many cases, the course of a pregnancy as well as the powerful process of birth, difficult or not, is at the origin of tensions or restrictions experienced by newborns. Thus, issues like excessive crying, wind, colic and feeding problems can be indications of retained stress. Head banging or pulling hair is often an indicator of stresses within the head, and not simply a sign of frustration. For this reason, an osteopathic check up is recommended soon after birth.

As children get older and become more active, muscular and joint strains become more common. Children have an amazing ability to bounce back from strains and injuries, though some trauma can be retained in the tissues and joints. The effect may not be immediately apparent but can cause problems later in life.

Signs that indicate postural problems in children include unbalanced shoulders, excessive slouching and turning in or out of the feet. “These are not uncommon amongst young children,” says Aaron. “They can be caused by a combination of reasons such as bad posture from too much screen time, specialising too early in a sport, or falls and injuries. Osteopaths can help young bodies to adjust, heal and realise their growth potential.”

Dr Aaron Anderson, Jonathan Vallade and Jodi Waugh provide osteopathic treatments at IMI in DB North Plaza, Discovery Bay. For more information, you can contact them at 2537 1087.


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