Osteopathy - restorative therapy for mind and body
Osteopathy concentrates as much on why there is a problem in the muscles and joints as on the problem itself explains Anne Woodham
Osteopathy - from the Greek osteon ('bone') and pathos ('suffering') - was developed in the late 19th century by an American army doctor, Dr Andrew Taylor Still, after his wife and three children died from meningitis. He believed that when the body was correctly adjusted, there would be less strain on the muscles and joints, all the systems would function smoothly and the body could heal itself naturally.
Still founded the American School of Osteopathy in 1892, and in 1917 his pupil, Dr John Martin Littlejohn, founded the British School of Osteopathy. Despite early opposition from the medical establishment, osteopathy remained popular and is now accepted in orthodox medicine. Osteopaths were licensed to practise as conventional doctors in the US in 1972 and the first British state register of osteopaths opened in 1999.
How does it work?
Osteopaths use touch and manipulation to diagnose and treat problems caused by misalignments of the muscles, bones, joints, ligaments and connective tissue that make up the musculo-skeletal system. In a healthy body, this framework supports and protects the organs, helping all body systems - nerves, circulation, digestion and hormones - to function at their best.
Physical and emotional stress, injury and poor posture can have a negative effect on the musculo-skeletal system. Pain creates muscle tension, which in turn creates more pain. Osteopathic techniques that range from soothing massage to high velocity mobilisation of joints help ease muscle tension, improve mobility and promote self-healing processes.
Osteopathy is a holistic approach, regarding your way of life and your mental and emotional state as important influences on total well-being. An osteopath will be as concerned about why a problem has arisen as with the problem itself. For example, is your back pain due to a lifetime of lifting heavy loads the wrong way?