What is osteopathy?
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.
To an osteopath, for your body to work well, its structure must also work well. So osteopaths work to restore your body to a state of balance, where possible without the use of drugs or surgery. Osteopaths use touch, physical manipulation, stretching and massage to increase the mobility of joints, to relieve muscle tension, to enhance the blood and nerve supply to tissues, and to help your body’s own healing mechanisms. They may also provide advice on posture and exercise to aid recovery, promote health and prevent symptoms recurring (General Osteopathic Council 2011).
Although osteopaths treat many conditions, most people think of us as ‘back specialists’. Back pain is what many osteopaths treat a lot of the time. Osteopathic treatment does not target symptoms only but treats the parts of the body that have caused the symptoms. Osteopaths have a holistic approach and believe that your whole body will work well if your body is in good structural balance, Imagine, for example, a car that has one of its front wheels not quite pointing straight. It may run well for a while, but after a few thousand miles, the tyre will wear out. You can apply this example to the human body, which is why it is so important to keep the body in good balance. We use a wide range of techniques, including massage, cranial techniques (sometimes referred to as 'cranial osteopathy') and joint mobilization and this breadth of approach allows us to focus on every patient’s precise needs.
Osteopaths assess and treat people of any age from the elderly to the newborn and from pregnant women to sports people (British Osteopathic Association, 2011).
Does Osteopathy work?
- The UK back pain exercise and manipulation trial (UKBEAM 2004) confirmed that patients receiving manipulation as well as exercise and advice did better, both short and long term, than those who did not.
- The NICE guidelines for osteoarthritis (Feb 2008) recommend the use of manual therapy (manipulation and stretching), and strengthening exercises and advice, as part of the intervention package.
What conditions do osteopaths mostly treat?
Osteopaths’ patients include the young, older people, manual workers, office professionals, pregnant women, children and sports people. Patients seek treatment for a wide variety of conditions, including back pain, repetitive strain injury; changes to posture in pregnancy, postural problems caused by driving or work strain, the pain of arthritis and minor sports injuries.
The most common medical conditions that we treat are:
- Generalised aches and pains,
- Joint pains (hip and knee pain from Osteoarthritis)
- Arthritic pain,
- General, acute and chronic backache,
- Uncomplicated mechanical neck pain,
- Headache arising from the neck,
- Elbow and shoulder pain (including tennis elbow and frozen shoulder),
- Circulatory problems,
- Digestion problems,
- Joint pains,
- Muscle spasms,
- Rheumatic pain,
- Minor sports injuries and tensions.
However, patients have found osteopathy helpful for many other conditions. If you want to find out more, any osteopath will be happy to talk to you.
What can I expect when I visit an osteopath?
This is a teaching clinic for the Masters in Osteopathy programme at Swansea University, and therefore, students will be present in the clinic but under the close supervision of clinical tutors, who are registered osteopaths.
At your first visit your practitioner will take a detailed medical history, including information about your lifestyle and diet.
Osteopaths use a specialized form of gentle touch know as palpation to identify abnormalities and tensions in the structure and function of the body. Furthermore they use their hands to assess areas of weakness, tenderness, restriction or strain. This approach will allow your osteopath to make a full diagnosis and discuss with you the most appropriate treatment plan. They will also advise you on the likely number of sessions needed to treat your condition effectively.
Osteopathic practitioners aim to work with your body’s ability to heal itself. They will usually start any treatment by releasing and relaxing muscles and stretching stiff joints, using gentle massage and rhythmic joint movements. The particular range of techniques your osteopath uses will depend on your individual problem(s).
The first treatment generally lasts about 1 hour and 15 minutes (to allow for case history taking and diagnosis) and subsequent treatments tend to last around 45 minutes. Osteopaths also offer added exercises and health advice, to help reduce the symptoms and improve your health and quality of life.
What should I wear?
As with any medical examination, you will probably be asked to undress to your underwear, so please wear something you are comfortable in.
Can I bring a friend or relative?
Yes – if you wish, you can have someone present throughout your consultation and treatment.
Does it hurt?
Some soft tissue treatment may cause minor discomfort during treatment. Your osteopath will tell you what to expect, and will want you to let them know if you are in pain. You may feel a little stiff or sore after treatment. This is a normal, healthy response to the treatment.
Do I need to see my doctor first?
You do not need to see your doctor first if you are paying for your own treatment. The British Medical Association’s guidance for general practitioners states that doctors can safely refer patients to osteopaths.
How much does treatment cost?
Initial consultations (1hr 15mins) and follow-up treatments (45mins):
Who will treat me?
This is a teaching clinic therefore treatments will be delivered by student osteopaths under close guidance and supervision of registered osteopaths. Additionally students will be present in an observatory capacity when treatments are provided by the registered osteopaths.
How many treatments will I need?
The number of treatments you need depends on the condition and person we are treating. We aim to keep your appointments to a minimum. Your osteopath will be able to tell you within a short period of time whether they can treat you or if they need to refer you to someone else.