An Introduction to Osteopathy

Osteopathy is a wholistic treatment focussing on the bones, muscles and joints as a starting point to improve wellbeing. First developed in 1874 by American physician and surgeon Andrew Taylor Still, it follows the philosophy that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Emotional health, nutrition, stress release and exercise form an integral part of the treatment.

The Human Spine

The human spine comprises twelve thoracic or dorsal, seven cervical and five lumbar vertebrates, the sacrum and the coccyx. Osteopaths believe the body is able to recover from injury or disease when the skeletal and muscular systems function correctly. If a vertebrate is out of alignment, this alters the natural curvature of the spine and inhibits the flow of blood and nerve supply to organs and muscle tissues. As a result, our health is adversely affected. A common example of this is upper back and neck tension restricting blood flow to the head causing headaches, vagueness, and lack of concentration and insomnia.

Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy

The corrective technique used is known as osteopathic manipulative therapy and includes muscle resistance, soft tissue massage, muscle stretching and gentle manipulation of joints.
It is best to visit an osteopath before you conceive, as most osteopaths are reluctant to manipulate or carry out corrective treatment once you are pregnant. Always inform a practitioner of your pregnancy when booking an appointment. An experienced osteopath will begin an initial consultation by taking a case history. This will include questions on past pregnancies, miscarriage, caesarean section, difficult labour, use of epidural, other forms of pain control and any side effects as well as life style. An examination of posture and flexibility will follow. You may be required to remove outer clothing for this procedure.

Centre of Gravity

A history of lower back pain or poor posture is compounded during pregnancy because of the changing centre of gravity and weight distribution. In the latter stages, a high level of the hormone relaxin softens ligaments, the tough fibrous structures holding bones together. This encourages a natural separation of the normally fixed pelvic bones and is essential in preparation for birth when the baby’s head passes through the birth canal.

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