"I went here for Osteopathy with Joel after having an incredible experience in Edmonton with an Osteopath. It was a similarly incredible experience with instant as well as prolonged benefit and relief. Joel has an extensive understanding of the body structure and mechanics. I’ll definitely be back!"
What is Osteopathy?
The Canadian College of Osteopathy describes traditional osteopathy as “A natural medicine which aims to restore function in the body by treating the causes of pain and imbalance. To achieve this goal the Osteopathic Manual Practitioner relies on the quality and finesse of his/her palpation and works with the position, mobility and quality of the tissues.”
The term “natural medicine” is often used as a sort of umbrella term to characterize osteopathic treatment, since this branch of medicine neither adds anything to the body (medications) nor removes anything from it (surgery). The central idea behind osteopathy is that, with a little expert help, the body is capable of healing itself.
It is the role of the Osteopath to encourage their patient’s innate healing ability.
Andrew Taylor Still and the History of Osteopathy
The modern profession of Osteopathy was founded by an American named Andrew Taylor Still in 1874. Still was a physician, a state and territorial legislator, and a Civil War surgeon who apprenticed under his father—a pioneer doctor—between 1828 and 1917.
After his time serving during the Civil War, Still embarked on a study of the human body so that he could have a greater understanding of his Creator. He had little respect for what were the common practices of the physicians of his time (such as sedation by narcotics), believing instead that the human body already had exactly what it needed to sustain life and heal itself. Thus, he looked for ways to encourage the body’s innate ability to heal that focused on natural mechanics instead of medicinal and surgical intervention.
Still felt that the most important factor in the body’s ability to regulate and heal itself was the unimpeded flow of the body’s natural fluids, and that illness and dysfunction occurred when this flow was impeded. This was the basic tenant of his healing philosophy, and the practical application of that philosophy proved successful in treating the major diseases of his time (tuberculosis, typhoid, pneumonia, dysentery, etc.) as well as musculoskeletal complaints.
In several of his writings, Still described two main techniques stemming from his healing philosophy. The first of these techniques focused on the position of the bones in the human skeleton, while the second focused on the placement of the organs in relation to the blood vessels and nerve centres in the body.
These days, these two approaches are known as “osteoarticular adjustment” and “visceral normalization.”
Still opened the very first school of osteopathy in 1892, in Kirksville, Missouri. Some of his students further added to the profession through the introduction of different mechanical techniques like cranial-sacral therapy and fascial release. The medical field of Osteopathy spread to Europe in 1917 courtesy of Martin Littlejohn, a student of Still’s. Littlejohn founded the British School of Osteopathy, which is still in existence today.
Over the years new techniques have been introduced to the field of Osteopathy, but Still’s central idea that the body could heal itself with proper help remains the same.
The Techniques of Osteopathy
As laymen, we tend to think of the body’s “fluids” as referring to blood, but that is only part of what is meant by that term. Rather, the term includes blood, lymph, axoplasm, synovial fluid, cerebrospinal fluid and digestive juices, among others. These fluids carry the human body’s most important compounds, such as hormones, oxygen and nutritional elements.
Osteopathy focuses on removing impediments, which can be structural or non-structural. Some examples of structural impediments include muscular pulls or misaligned joints. Some examples of non-structural impediments include stress responses that result in physical adaptations (breath holding or tensing muscles, for example). Most people who seek an osteopath have some combination of these two types of impediments. Because of this, the Osteopath generally seeks to treat the whole body through the application of different techniques.
Some of these techniques include:
- Muscle Energy. This type of technique addresses mechanical dysfunctions through stretching and contracting the affected muscles. The practitioner does this by first asking the patient to extend the affected area to the limit of its range of motion, and then by applying resistance to encourage isometric contraction in the muscle. When the patient relaxes the muscle after resistance is applied, they will find that their range of motion increases a bit, and that repetition of this technique will eventually improve their range of motion substantially.
- Counterstrain. Counterstrain is a diagnostic technique that determines the physical impairment to be a reflex stemming from continual strain or physical stress. During treatment, a small amount of strain is applied to the affected area that counters the reflex.
- High Velocity, Low Amplitude (HVLA). This technique uses rapid force applied over a brief time period. This force travels a short distance within the natural range of motion in a patient’s joints and is intended to confront the impediment to motion and release it.
- Myofascial Release. This is a type of soft-tissue therapy that addresses the pain and restriction of motion that can result from mechanical dysfunction. With this type of therapy, the contracted muscles in the affected area are relaxed, which results in lymphatic drainage and increased circulation.
What to Expect from the Osteopath
Before even considering booking an appointment, its important that you do your due diligence. The practice of Osteopathy is not a regulated health profession in B.C, so it’s important that you make sure the Osteopathic Practitioner you choose is a member of an organization that holds to high standards of practice, such as Osteopathy B.C, or any of the organizations in the Canadian Federation of Osteopaths.
By using a thorough methodology, an Osteopathic Practitioner can determine the source of the problem (which may relate to aging, physical/emotional trauma or any number of other stimuli), assess how it is affecting you, and determine an appropriate treatment plan. This process will often follow a pattern like this:
- Patient interview
- Complete osteopathic assessment
- Assessment of the position and mobility of particular tissues and fluids in the body, relative to the issue.
- Determining a treatment plan
Once the practitioner has an idea of the patient’s issue, they will draw up a treatment plan that is aimed at encouraging the patient’s body to regain proper circulation of its fluids and thus enable healing to occur.
If you’re thinking about Osteopathy, give us a call or book online with our Osteopathic Manual Practitioner (DOMP) and Certified Rolfer, Joel Cosman
Manual Osteopathy is a hands-on method of treatment whose purpose is to restore function in the body by finding and addressing the primary causes of pain and imbalance. There is an inextricable relationship between the structure and function of the body. The goal is to restore the position, mobility, and vitality to the structures of the body and allow it to return to a more natural, healthy state. At the heart of this work is the philosophy that the body has the innate ability to regulate and heal itself. The key to this process is the unimpeded circulation of the body’s fluids. These vital liquids carry many of the body’s life-sustaining compounds, such as hormones, enzymes and their secretions, immune and anti-inflammatory factors, neural impulses, nutritional elements, and dissolved gases such as oxygen. They also serve as the medium for removing and excreting the bi-products of digestion and cellular respiration. When these processes are happening optimally the body has a much greater capacity for health and wellness. Patients are asked to wear attire that allows access to the back, and lower legs, therefore, running shorts and a sports bra are appropriate for women, and running shorts and shirtless for men.
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