Last week was Osteopathy awareness week. It provided much needed exposure for a profession with a relatively short history in Australia, one who’s popularity continues to grow in an increasingly health conscious market.
‘Isn’t it something to do with the bones?’.
Osteopathy was initially developed as an alternate to medicine itself. Now we are talking late 1800’s where the common practise of the time was blood letting and heroic dosage. Never the less, Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, a medical doctor, became frustrated with the ineffectiveness of treatment and the often fatal side-effects that accompanied them. The son of a reverend and an avid observer of nature, he began to ponder how he could harness the natural restorative capacity of the body and let it do it’s own healing. Inspired by Rudolf Virchow’s discoveries on cellular biology, he questioned what a cell required to carry out it’s tasks effectively? Firstly it needed nutrient rich blood in order to produce energy, secondly to remove waste produced from energy production. Simple.
Dr. Still obsessed over anatomy, years of dissection, tracing blood vessels, nerves and lymphatics. He looked at points where these structures could become obstructed, where the normal tissue circulation may become disrupted from a tight muscle, abnormal ligament tension or connective tissue congestion. He found that where these hinderances existed, he was able to make mild adjustments to the musculoskeletal system thereby removing them, normalising the structure and enabling efficient function. He found that patients he treated in this way began to get better, whilst those treated with more conventional methods did not.
Fast forward 140 years, the profession itself was perhaps poorly named, ‘Osteo’ meaning ‘bone’ and ‘Pathos’ meaning ‘sufferer’. It has moved away from it’s original roots somewhat, focusing on musculoskeletal ailments. Where before a patient would present to an osteopath because they were sick, now those with headaches, low back and neck pain tend to make up a large proportion of an osteopath’s patient list. This transition is in part due to treatment being directed towards musculoskeletal structures, but mostly as a result of advancements in technology and medicine.
We are now in an era of evidence based practice. Whilst there are many papers which show the benefits of osteopathic treatment, few, if any, would fit the gold standard criteria. Funding is hard to obtain and manual therapy’s poor congruency with the current research model makes study design difficult.
The landscape of healthcare is changing. More than ever people are seeking alternate and more proactive ways to manage their health. “Around 60,000 Australians visit an Osteopath each year” (1) and as the profession continues to grow and people become aware of it’s benefits, there is greater potential for it to be used to assist the patient on their journey to wellness. My hope is a more cohesive approach that allows health practitioners to work together to manage a patient’s health. Perhaps using osteopathic treatment to improve functionality may allow a patient’s body to more effectively process their current medical treatment.
Osteopaths treat more then the bones, why not see how they can help you
- “2017 Osteopathy Awareness Week · About Osteopathy · Osteopathy Australia”. Osteopathy.org.au. N.p., 2017. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
- Still, A. T. The Philosophy And Mechanical Principles Of Osteopathy. Kirksville, Mo.: Osteopathic Enterprise, 1986. Print.
- Lewis, John Robert. ‘From the Dry Bone to the Living Man’ A.T. Still. Print.