Osteopathy: the benefits and an introduction into how it works

Osteopathy: the benefits and an introduction into how it works

If you’ve ever wondered how osteopathy works and what the benefits are of seeing an osteopath to keep your own body feeling strong, healthy, and free from aches and pains, then today’s blog is for you.

Osteopathy - The 17 brilliant benefits of osteopathy and an introduction into how it works

How does osteopathy work?

Osteopathy is a holistic (whole body) approach to treating musculoskeletal disorders. We explained more about this and how it compares to other disciplines in our article, What is the difference between physiotherapy and osteopathy?

It recognises that the body is a complicated network of tissues, muscles, and bones. Everything in this network needs to work in harmony to function smoothly together. If, however, something disrupts this sensitive balance, it can lead to a variety of problems.

Osteopathy explores the underlying causes as well as the symptoms of pain, exploring issues such as diet, lifestyle, circulation, posture, and more.

The osteopath then uses physical manipulation, stretching, resistance, and massage, as well as targeted physical exercises to increase the mobility of your joints, relieve muscle tension, boost your circulation, and reduce pain.

The four principles of osteopathy

A man called Dr Andrew Taylor Still is widely viewed as the founding father of osteopathy. A medical practitioner in the 19th century, he was concerned that the orthodox medical practices of his day were sometimes ineffective or even harmful. He devoted his career to studying the structure of the human body and believed that by diagnosing and treating issues within the musculoskeletal system, patients could be spared some of the harsher medical treatments available.

Dr Still based the practice of osteopathy on four core principles:

  1. The body is a unit – This says that each part of the body effects every other part because the tissues, muscles and bones are all interconnected. In this way, the sum of the body is greater than its parts.
  2. Structure governs function – If a part of the body is compromised in some way due to injury, strain, or overuse, it will affect its ability to function, causing pain, stiffness, and instability
  3. The body is its own ‘medicine chest’ – Osteopathy teaches us that the body has its own healing mechanisms,especially when conditions are created to allow it to heal. Still believed that if we can remove the barriers to healing, the body is often able to resolve all but the most serious of conditions.
  4. The ‘rule of the artery’ is supreme – In other words, circulation and blood supply are essential to allow healing to occur. A good blood supply will provide a compromised area of the body with immune cells and nutrients.

Even today, osteopaths look to the four principles when thinking about the best approach to treatment.

What can osteopathy treat?

With its focus on musculoskeletal disorders, osteopathy can help to address issues such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Joint pain
  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Sciatica
  • Hand, shoulder, and elbow pain (often caused by repetitive movements)
  • Headaches
  • Tennis and golfer’s elbow
  • Postural problems due to pregnancy
  • Sports injury
  • Digestive issues
  • Driving or work-related strains and injuries
  • Neuralgia (sharp nerve pains)

Due to how well they know the structure of the human body, osteopaths are often able to help identify and refer other health problems for treatment with a relevant specialist.

What are the benefits of osteopathy?

So, now we’ve covered how osteopathy works in a bit more detail, you may be wondering what the benefits are and whether it would be the right treatment approach for you:

1. A holistic approach

As we’ve touched on above, osteopathy views the body as a single functional unit, where all systems are interconnected. This means that rather than treating symptoms in isolation, osteopaths aim to address underlying imbalances and dysfunctions that may be contributing to any health issues you’re experiencing.

As you probably know from personal experience, a leg injury can affect how you walk, which can put strain on your spine, and then impact your neck, shoulders, and arms. We look at the whole picture to manage any knock-on effects or underlying issues.

2. Patient-centred care

Osteopathic practitioners consider not only your physical symptoms but also your lifestyle, environment, and emotional well-being. They’ll also consider your goals for treatment and how your symptoms are impacting your life.

This patient-centred approach allows for personalised treatment plans tailored to your individual needs and helps to ensure that you receive the most effective and appropriate care for your circumstances.

3. Hands-on therapy

One of the hallmarks of osteopathy is its use of hands-on manual techniques to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal issues. This may include techniques such as joint mobilisation, soft tissue manipulation, and muscle energy techniques. These manual therapies are aimed at improving the body’s structure and function, promoting natural healing processes.

For some patients, the hands-on approach of osteopathy helps them to avoid more invasive interventions such as drugs or surgery or, if these are needed, it can speed up recovery times.

4. Pain relief

By addressing underlying structural imbalances and restrictions, osteopathic treatment can help alleviate pain and improve mobility. It is often sought out for its effectiveness in relieving pain such as back pain, neck pain, and joint pain.

5. Improved function and mobility

In addition to pain relief, osteopathy aims to improve overall function and mobility. By restoring proper alignment and movement patterns within your body, osteopathic treatment can help to optimise joint function and enhance your ability to carry out daily activities and sports.

6. Preventive care

Osteopathy emphasises preventive care, focusing on maintaining your optimal health and preventing future injuries or illnesses. Osteopathic treatment can help to identify and address potential issues before they develop into more serious problems, promoting your long-term health and well-being.

7. Complementary to conventional medicine

Sometimes, a two-pronged approach is needed. Osteopathy can be used alongside conventional medical treatments to address a wide range of issues, such as back pain, arthritis, or sports injuries.

Osteopathic practitioners often collaborate with other healthcare professionals to ensure a comprehensive and integrated care for their patients.

8. Stress reduction

Another benefit of osteopathic treatment is that it not only targets physical ailments but also aims to reduce stress and promote relaxation. By releasing tension in the muscles and promoting better circulation, it can reduce stress-related symptoms and give your overall sense of well-being a much-needed lift.

9. Improved posture

Osteopathy can help to address any postural imbalances and alignment issues that you’re experiencing. As well as improving your posture, this can reduce strain on your muscles and joints, alleviating pain and enhancing your overall ability to move freely without it hurting.

10. Better circulation

Osteopathic techniques such as soft tissue manipulation and joint mobilisation can improve blood flow and lymphatic drainage. This helps to ensure that your tissues and organs receive the oxygen and nutrients they need to function at full capacity.

Improved circulation can also aid in the removal of metabolic waste and toxins from the body, which is great for your health.

11. Enhanced respiratory function

Osteopathic treatment may benefit respiratory function by addressing issues in the rib cage, spine, and diaphragm. By improving thoracic (chest) mobility and your lung capacity, osteopathy can help to enhance how efficiently you breathe and even treat respiratory conditions such as asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).

12. Strengthened immune system

If you find that you catch every cold or virus that you come into contact with, osteopathic treatment can help to boost your immune system. It does this by reducing stress, improving your circulation, addressing underlying imbalances, and promoting optimal function of the body’s systems, thereby strengthening your body’s natural defences against illness and infection.

13. Improved digestive health

We mentioned above that osteopathy can help to relieve ongoing digestive problems, but you may be wondering how. The practice uses techniques aimed at addressing abdominal and pelvic imbalances. These techniques reduce tension in the abdominal muscles and promote better alignment of the spine and pelvis. People say this offers direct relief from issues such as bloating, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

14. Enhanced neurological function

By improving the alignment of your spine and reducing pressure on specific nerves, osteopathy can help to alleviate symptoms associated with nerve compression, such as numbness, tingling, and radiating pain.

15. Support for pregnancy and postnatal care

If you’re pregnant or have recently had a baby, then you may choose to have osteopathic treatment to address issues such as back pain, pelvic pain, and postural changes associated with pregnancy. There are even osteopathic techniques that can help to prepare the body for labour and delivery, as well as support postnatal recovery and healing.

16. Management of chronic conditions

Osteopathy can be helpful in managing chronic conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome. This works by addressing underlying imbalances and reducing pain and inflammation, improving overall quality of life. Some people with chronic conditions have regular osteopathic sessions in addition to other treatments.

17. Evidence-based practice

While osteopathy is rooted in principles of holistic healing, it is also based on scientific evidence and research. As osteopathic practitioners, we continually evaluate and update our techniques based on the latest research findings to ensure that you receive the highest quality of care.

In the UK, all osteopaths must be registered with the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC) to practice. They must also complete a four- to five-year honours degree programme with at least 1,000 hours of clinical experience to qualify.

Find out how osteopathy could benefit you

Hopefully, this article has given you an overview of how osteopathy works and its many benefits. Of course, this is a broad picture. Our experienced team would be happy to discuss how it could help you personally and arrange a consultation.

Contact Physio Box today