How Osteopathy Works

Osteopathy regards the human body as an entirety so it is known as a holistic treatment. Osteopaths can look at how your physiological processes are affected by any structural faults in your body (as occurs when your back becomes misaligned). Any symptoms that you describe will be treated with a view to re-stabilise all the bodies’ functions so that you are treated as a whole. For example, by treating your knee, hip and back at the same time, your body remains in balance (instead of treating your knee only to find that your hip starts hurting). This means that your muscles are all working at the same rate throughout your treatment (instead of first treating your knee muscles, then your hip muscles, then your back etc).

By treating your body in a holistic way, the osteopath will allow you to immediately take up a new posture (and possibly some exercises) that will allow you to continue to treat your symptoms between visits.

Soft Tissue Massage

Your osteopath will often use touch or gentle massage to loosen and move your soft tissue (muscle, ligaments and tendons). They do this to re-structure your body structure in a way that increases the ability of your body to function as a whole system. Your osteopath will usually follow up this type of treatment with suggestions on ways that you can improve your posture (or lifestyle) in order to maintain the new body structure. 

Use of Electrotherapy Treatment (such as Laser and Ultrasound) During Your Osteopathic Visit

Some osteopaths may specialise in using specific types of equipment such as laser therapy or ultrasound. Laser and ultrasound treatment works in a similar way to massage (some say it is more effective although this seems to be highly contested). The area being treated by a laser will gradually heat up until it feels quite warm, but it will not hurt. You should tell your osteopath if it becomes too hot. Similar to laser treatment, the area treated with ultrasound could feel warm, but otherwise the only sensation that you will feel will be the gentle touch of the machine on your skin.

The Effect of Osteopathy on the Blood Stream, Lymphatic and Nervous System

By moving your soft tissue into a different structure, your osteopath will improve the efficiency of a number of your bodies systems. Your blood vessels will become less crowded which will allow your blood to flow around your body more efficiently. This blood flow delivers vital nutrients (as well as food and oxygen) to cells in your body. Without a supply of sugar and oxygen your body’s cells would not be able to function. If your blood supply was reduced to your legs you would feel really week and lose the ability to use your leg muscles (as they would have limited food and oxygen to work with). If your blood supply was reduced to your heart, your heart would struggle to beat in a normal way and you could risk having a heart attack. This illustrates the importance of this increase in blood flow as part of the osteopathic treatment. It will increase your natural ability to heal (by increasing the flow of nutrients to the parts of your body that require it). Osteopathy can also act to increase the efficiency of the lymphatic system in a similar way. The lymphatic system controls your main immune response, so an increase in the flow of this system will also act to increase your healing speed and quality.

Your nervous system will also gain from the re-structuring of the soft tissue and you may find that trapped nerve cells (that may have been the root of your pain if you had pain as one of your symptoms) could become released. If osteopathic treatment causes your trapped nerve cells to be released you will probably feel an immediate feeling of relief and your pain may even dissipate. However, you will need to follow the guidance given to you by your osteopath to ensure that you do not allow the nerve to be trapped again.

Even if the effect on your nervous system is less obvious, it will still be there! By decreasing soft tissue crowding around nerve cells, the cells will be able to function more efficiently and this could reduce your risk of headaches, increase your response time and generally increase your feeling of “wellness”.  

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