What is Osteopathy?
Osteopathy is a treatment of medical disorders through the manipulation and massage of the bones, joints, and muscles. The principles of osteopathic medicine are core to the practice of osteopathy in the cranial field.
- The body is a unit; the person is a unit of body, mind, and spirit. This unity encompasses the complex interrelationships of all physiologic function. The fundamental difference between osteopathic and conventional training is this focus on unity of the organism, as opposed to breaking the body down into separate parts. Unity also provides a definition of health, in which all functions of the body are synchronized, coherent, and fully expressed.
- The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health maintenance. The emphasis on self-regulation and healing is essential to the manual practice of osteopathic medicine, because medical treatment can then be oriented toward utilizing, supporting and helping to restore the mechanisms of self-regulation.
- Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated. Osteopathy is based upon a thorough knowledge of anatomy (structure) and physiology (function). This understanding of the relationship between structure and function applies to molecular, cellular, tissue and gross anatomy. Osteopathic medicine applies this knowledge of structure and function in both the evaluation of tissue function and the practice of osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM).
- Rational treatment is based upon an understanding of above three principles. Whenever and however treatment facilitates the patient’s inherent vitality and health, this is, by definition, the practice of osteopathic medicine. Osteopathic principles are universal and provide a framework for the practice of all of medicine. The practice of hands-on treatment applies osteopathic principles in a direct, specific and unique way to relieve suffering and enhance healthy function.
Osteopathy in the Cranial Field
Just as the lungs breathe and the heart beats, the central nervous system also has its own involuntary rhythmic motion. There is also movement of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) around the brain, within the meninges. Because of the “blood brain barrier”, brain cells require circulation of the CSF so that all cells can receive nourishment and oxygen.
Osteopaths with specialty training in this area (the “cranial field”) work with the bones of the cranium, the fascial coverings (meninges), the fluids, and especially the central nervous system (the brain) to access the whole person, for both treatment of dysfunction and improvement of health. Sometimes called cranial osteopathy, it is an additional set of skills gained by osteopaths to better address the whole body.
Common Treated Conditions
Most people first seek osteopathic care for pain-related complaints. These problems can be recent or long-term. They may be related to sports injuries, car accidents, falls, surgeries, birth or other traumas. Others seek osteopathic care as an alternative to surgery or medication. Common conditions treated include:
- Head disorders, including migraines, TMJ dysfunction, trigeminal neuralgia, vertigo and tinnitus
- Traumatic brain injury and post-concussion syndrome
- Neck and back pain, including scoliosis, pinched nerves and sciatica
- Joint pain, including tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff strains/partial tears, rib strains, and hip pain
- Chronic issues such as fatigue, and rheumatological conditions including fibromyalgia
Many patients find osteopathic treatment improves function, making it helpful for pregnant women, lactating mothers, and children. Osteopathy is particularly useful for babies with:
- Latching/sucking problems
- Torticollis and plagiocephaly
- Reflux and colic
- Ear infections
- Difficult or traumatic births
Osteopathic care can also improve the function of many autonomic core body functions, alleviating symptoms that come from impediments to optimal physiology.
- Breathing (including asthma)
- Digestive disorders (including reflux and irritable bowel syndrome)
- Poor sleep
As osteopathy involves a truly holistic approach, it supports the body’s ability to self-regulate by restoring its normal structure and function. Therefore, osteopathic manipulation can be beneficial in helping to restore health in many situations, regardless of the underlying complaint.