"All Nature’s elements also reside within the human body, as a perfect inter-relationship between form and function."
In 1876 Kirksville Missouri USA, the name "Osteopathy" was chosen to describe a new medical profession which was to have a special aptitude for "bone-feeling" - or using the hands to understand the relationship between all bones of the body, and everything else that is attached to (and influenced by) them. The Greek root word "Osteo" refers to "bone", and "path" refers to either "feeling" (as in em-pathy) or "disease" (as is Allo-pathy, the name given to modern medicine) . Osteopathy has little to do with naming bone diseases, and everything to do with feeling for Nature's inner expression of health.
Today in the US, Osteopathic physicians operate from Osteopathic Hospitals providing all medical specialities, and from private family medical clinics. In Australia, Osteopaths remain drug and surgery free, and consult from private practices. In Australia, the general application of Osteopathy has remained true to it’s originally intended purpose: that is of utilising the body’s own self-healing capacity.
Osteopathic Medicine involves feeling for restrictions within the deeper tissues and organs of a body - and gently moving these structures towards normal function. In returning them to a state of integrated structure and function, an Osteopath reveals the body's natural self-healing and self-regulating capacity. The final health outcome is a restoration of normal osseous (bone), articulatory (joint), ligamentous, muscular, fascial (connective tissue), visceral (organ), neurological, arterial, venous, lymphatic, immunological and cerebrospinal functions - the basic essentials of life.
There are a variety of treatment methods within the profession of Osteopathy - each adhering to the 3 primary Osteopathic principles of Wholeness ('The body is a unit'), Vitality that arises from Intergration ('Structure and function being reciprocally inter-related'), and Natural Self-Healing ('The body has a Self-healing and Self-regulating mechanism'). Osteopathic treatment methods are also described in terms of being either 'Structural' or 'Functional' - the difference between these are explained below.
A STRUCTURAL approach views the human body as a machine, and looks to achieve therapeutic change with gentle mechanical force: using the bones as leverage, to alter or influence all other tissues: muscles, joints, ligaments, fascia, nerves, organs and fluids of the body (hence the name 'Osteo' (bones)-pathy (feeling). Different body parts are created within nature, to resist compression, distraction and to perform a unique function - and this predetermines the nature of their structure. Nothing in the body exist without a reason. Any alteration in body structure away from this originally intended perfect design (generally as a result of trauma) will alter it's mechanical characteristics, and so also the way it functions. The body is an interconnected whole: so any movement lost in one region will either affect, or be accommodated for elsewhere. Treatments therefore aim to decompress any of those physical elements which have become abnormally tight: this in turn reduces the mechanical, circulatory and/or neurological strain placed upon other interrelated regions. The structural method of treatment utilised at our clinic involves, spinal fascial release and proprioceptive activation, mobilisation of the thorax, long axis decompression of the pelvis, lower back and neck, and finally the application of a 24 hour anti-inflammatory poultice. Treatment is not time based, the objective is to utilise anti-gravity methods to efficiently generate more length/space for tissue movement and circulation, and then give the body the time and means by which to resolve pain inducing inflammation.
A FUNCTIONAL approach views the story behind the living human machine - and looks to achieve change through cooperating with the body's own indwelling awareness and self-healing capacity. By way of examples: In the field of Neurology, it is understood that when a person has a limb amputated, awareness of a phantom limb still remains. Further in the field of Prosthetics, it is observed that amputees can effectively walk again, only when their phantom limb (function/body awareness) is still present and becomes integrated with a new artificial limb (structure/anatomy). A person's whole body will then trust that the artificial limb is exactly where they feel it to be . Further, in the field of Functional Neurology, experimental research using virtual reality (to deceive subjects into believing they are moving their painfully restricted necks in rotation far less than they actually are), find that subjects are able to achieve previously unthinkable increases in pain-free range of motion. This research indicates the importance of the phantom/awareness/functional aspect of the body - where distorted body awareness can greatly influence body structure.
Osteopathy is a receptive and holistic manual medical system, which considers that each individual has the structural and functional characteristics of body, soul and spirit. Each of these elements are inter-related and inseparable from one another, and so fall within the scope of Osteopathic practice.
At the very beginning of life, an egg shaped bio-electric field (‘fluid body’) is present to surround and guide the growth and development of the human embryo: this field contains the original blueprint and intended design of the body. This same egg-shaped functional field continues to envelop the physical body structure and maintains it in health throughout adult life - by continually informing the physical form of it’s blueprint origins. Any departure from normal (an alteration in body structure), that continues to be enveloped by an instinctive self awareness (fluid body function) will result in a natural self-healing response. A split in structure and function, and hence a loss of instinctive self-awareness and self-healing, may then form the basis of future disease.
The ‘physical body’ is directly affected by the physical forces of injury: it absorbs the kinetic energy of impact, and retains this energy in the form of tissue memory. The ‘fluid body’ is similarly affected by trauma and can also hold a memory, but this occurs via an entirely different mechanism. The fluid body will change in size, shape, position and composition when there is acute or chronic emotional stress, shock, fatigue or perceived threat, also from nutritional and metabolic strain, and finally a relative absence of positive supportive attributes. This deeply instinctive and aware fluid body (with well-established interconnections to nature and it’s environment, and most often functioning below conscious awareness of the mind), will respond like any other organism: retreating from perceived danger, and expanding when nurtured.