Osteopathy could be described in simple, lay terms as “holistic manual medicine”. Osteopathy is a system of health care that focuses on diagnosis and treatment of the physical body’s structure in order to optimise physiological functioning. Manual palpation and Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy (OMT) are used in conjunction with biomechanical, orthopaedic and neurological clinical assessment.
Osteopathy is best know for treatment of musculo-skeletal disorders such as back and neck pain, sciatica, sporting injuries and postural strain, however it can also assist in the treatment of breathing disorders, otitis media, digestive problems and menstrual problems. Put simply, optimising structural balance allows the physiology to perform optimally.
The practice of osteopathy combines current medical knowledge with the osteopathic philosophy. Scientific plausibility and evidence-based outcomes have a high priority in patient treatment and case management. Osteopathy is a patient centred approach to health care rather than disease centred.
Osteopaths asses and treat the whole person, not just the symptomatic region. So for example if a patient presents with headache they will be structurally assessed from head to toe. This is because the primary cause may be remote from the symptoms. For example; Unilateral pes plannus > functional leg length discrepancy>pelvic torsion>scoliosis>cervicogenic tension headache. This cause would only be detected with an holistic assessment.
The philosophy of osteopathy is based on four key principles:
- The body is a functional unit composed of interrelating parts or systems.
- The body has a tendency to homeostasis. The body’s natural tendency is to self regulate.
- Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated. Changes to structure influence function and conversely changes to function influence structure.
- Rational treatment is based on the above three principles.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised the Osteopathic concept of somatic dysfunction as being scientifically proven, and the British Medical Association also recognised Osteopathy as a discrete medicinal discipline.