Osteopathy offers a gentle approach to manual therapy, aiming to restore mobility, circulation, and vitality to the body and its composite structures (e.g. joints, muscles, organs, skull, etc.).
Osteopathy helps to restore the body’s innate balance and reduces the need for it to compensate in some areas as a result of injuries to other areas. For example, if a person moves suddenly and pinches their D6 vertebrae (between shoulder blades), they will feel a sharp pain, as though they ‘’are stabbed’’. The body will then enter a protective mode, whereby inflammation and pain may occur to hinder movement and allow recovery. The body must compensate for this hindered movement by changing its posture, decreasing function, and energy, etc. and this can create additional problems down the road.
In addition to causing pain, an irritated nerve can bring a functional decrease of the organs it innervates. For example, the stomach is innervated by the nerves from vertebras D5 to D9 and the vagus nerve in the skull. Based on our previous example then, the blocked D6 vertebra can be a result of digestive problems, such as gastric reflux or bloating.
Osteopaths approach the body with a holistic view taking into account all the physical and emotional factors that can disrupt the patient’s homeostasis (the body’s ability to stay in equilibrium).
Osteopathy draws on several manual techniques to release tension within the body:
- Myofascial release techniques
- ‘Muscle energy’ which combines muscle contractions and stretching;
- Cranial and craniosacral techniques to revitalize the body, promote hormonal balance, and reduce inflammation and pain;
- Mobilizations, to regain range of motion;
- Musculoskeletal techniques (which are similar to chiropractic manipulation, but gentler) to correct a displaced vertebra or joint;
- Emotional release techniques, to stop the tissue memory of trauma and finally,
- Visceral techniques to release any tension placed on the organs and to improve hormonal, digestive, respiratory, and gynecological function
All with the goal of permitting the movement of fluid around the body, which is important in reducing harmful fluid retention and allows the immune system to work more effectively. Osteopathic practitioners are trained to identify restriction within these fascial structures and often use soft tissue techniques to address these restrictive barriers via lengthening the fascia and balancing tension overall. These techniques reduce the muscles need to recoil to its original state over time.
Osteopathy works to restore balance in the body, getting to the root of the problem instead of only addressing acute and chronic symptoms. It is preferable for clients to commit to three sessions initially and treatment may then be offered for four to six weeks, as needed.
Due to its gentle approach, osteopathy is an ideal technique for all ages; including newborns.