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  • Writer's pictureIan Thornley

What is Osteopathy anyway?



Answering the question, what is osteopathy? We delve into the definitions and my take on what all that means in practice to you and your wellbeing.
What is osteopathy anyway?

This is probably the most frequent question I get asked and it is a perfectly reasonable question to ask me.  I am an osteopath after all.


The answer though isn’t necessarily straight forward.   


The General Osteopathic Council, the governing body for Osteopaths in the UK (like the GMC for doctors) states “Osteopathy is a system of diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of medical conditions. It works with the structure and function of the body and is based on the principle that the well-being of an individual depends on the skeleton, muscles, ligaments and connective tissues functioning smoothly together.” 


The NHS website defines Osteopathy as “Osteopathy is a way of detecting, treating and preventing health problems by moving, stretching and massaging a person's muscles and joints.”


Others have been known to describe Osteopathy, inclusively but rather unhelpfully, as “What an osteopath does” in an attempt to not put boundaries on a profession which has wide reaching variations in terms of the mechanisms used for treatment.


For what it's worth, this is my take on it.


Osteopathy is a framework for helping people find and maintain health.  It is based on the fundamental principles

·       that the body is a single unit which is more than just the sum of the parts, for me this includes my belief that the mind and body are very much one entity as well.

·       the function of the body is influenced by the structure of the body, and vice versa

·       the body has inbuilt healing mechanisms which can resolve all but the most serious issues, given the right conditions

·       an optimum blood supply to all cells is important to maintain the best conditions for homeostasis, that is the balance we need in the body.   


Homeostasis is actually the key word here – it is the balance in the body, the load we place on muscles(not too much or too little), the nutrients we put in vs what the body needs, on a micro level the nutrients and chemicals supplied to and removed from each and every cell to maintain the delicate balance and keep us, the human, working and functioning well. 


So, what does all that mean in the grand scheme of things? 


It means that you are at the centre.  When you come to see me, I want to hear and listen to your story.  You are not a just a disease, you are not just a pulled muscle or a painful joint.  I want you to reflect on the impact the issue is having in your life.  What can’t you do?  What can you do but the joy isn’t there?  What would you like to be doing but are being held back from by the symptoms you are feeling?  I want to understand what is important to you and then work with you and the amazing ‘medicine chest’ that you are to help you get to where you want to be. 


What about treatment then?


Treatment is aimed at restoring that balance and giving you the tools to achieve your goals.  How we do this will vary from person to person and there are many ‘tools’ in the locker to move you towards the goal of homeostasis.  We may decide that working on muscles and joints could help, maybe exercises to strengthen muscles or activities to help with stress and anxiety which may be influencing the body unit.


And in answer to another frequently asked question – “Ian, can you fix me?”.  The answer is I can help you access the healing power that your body possesses to return you the fulfilling and healthy life that is a symptom of well-being and that homeostasis and balance down to a cellular level. Ultimately, you fix you!

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