History of Osteopathy

Osteopathy is a relatively young profession and was created in 1874 in Missouri, USA when Andrew Still started to teach the distinctive skills and approach to healthcare which is recognised today as osteopathy. Still was an army doctor who had become disillusioned with the orthodox medical approach to illness at these times. There was little knowledge of the subjects which make up modern medicine. Biochemistry, pharmacology and immunology were not yet developed and the medicines of the time were ineffective and frequently harmful. Most of the drugs in use then, including crude opium derivatives and arsenical compounds, would not be given permits for use today.

Still lost several of his own children to meningitis, as well as his wife, within a few weeks in 1850. This tradgedy spurred him into exploring other ways to improving health which were not reliant on drugs. He pioneered the study of human health with an emphasis on biomechanics and natural immunity and self-repair.

Osteopathy has subsequently developed as a distinct form of physical medicine, with a different philosophical basis to either orthopaedics or physiotherapy. Much of what osteopathy offers is in acting towards
preventative healthcare. Patients are required to become actively involved in their health, and help take responsibility for the choices they make regarding diet, exercise and other aspects of their daily life.

Training In Osteopathy

Currently in the United Kingdom there are several Universities and four Colleges offering degrees in Osteopathic Medicine (B.Sc) at undergraduate level. Osteopaths train as primary healthcare practitioners and prespective patients who want to consult can self-refer or ask their General Practitioner for referral.

After completing training some osteopaths go on to further specialist training in a specific area such as paediatrics or sports medicine. All practitioners are required to continue their education throughout their professional life and are provide an annual review of their ongoing work in
continual professional development. This ensures that patients can expect osteopaths to provide a high level of skill and experience in their healthcare, and that their advise and treatment will be of a very high standard.

Treatment Cost

At present, within the United Kingdom, the majority of osteopaths work as private practitioners. There is limited provision for referral within the NHS as some Healthcare Trusts provide osteopathic treatment though this tends to be limited due to fiscal policy. Many patients obtain financial assistance through their private health insurance, and this practice is recognised by all major Health Insurers, including Bupa, HSA and PPP.

The Osteopathic Consultation

The consultation gives an opportunity to examine various aspects of health. In assessing posture there is not only the consideration of the way the spinal column is functioning, but also that of the whole muskuloskeletal system. Osteopathic examination helps to diagnose structural or mechanical weakness within the the body. Imbalances are felt as symptoms such as pain and stiffness. The interrelationships and the way the various parts of the body function with each other is important to osteopathic diagnosis. Osteopathic philosophy understands that every part of the human body has evolved in such a way that each part can effect other areas. Adaptation is the ongoing result of this process. The way body mechanics functions is and that you need to consider individual symptoms as part of the whole problem and not necessarily as separate issues.

Common Causes of Back Pain

  • Poor lumbar function: due to tight or weak structural muscles. This is often brought about by poor general posture, bad manual handling activity at work or during other physical activities.
  • Pelvic asymmetry where there is excessive tightening or shortening of one muscle group to produce a difference in leg length, and a mild curvature of the spine or scoliosis. This association with asymmetric muscle function is likely to involve the muscles central to the lower limbs including quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles. There may also be poor diaphramatic function and neck weakness with hypertonic (tense and tight) support muscles which bring about chronic pattern recurrent back pain.
  • Weak plantar arches with foot and knee disorders can be a contributory factor in mechanical back pain. Weak arches reduce loading strain capacity on the lower limb and lumbar spine, and their ability to carry the spine is compromised. The tarsal and metatarsal bones from a platform to help propel and balance gait.
  • Abnormal muscle patterns are always seen in patients suffering from acute or chronic back pain. Acute spasm is present as a protective reflex witht receptor cells embedded in muscle recognizing a problem and acting to prevent further damage. Chronic shortening of the muscle can result when the acute phase is over, and this compensation pattern requires treatment to ensure it doesn't become a permanent part of the posture.
  • Poor muscle tone with shortening of the spinal muscles, in particular latissimus dorsi, quadratus lumborum and trapezius is often a problem in chronic back pain. Also involved frequently are the abdominal muscles, hamstrings and calf muscles. Recent research also suggests that the diaphragm may also be involved in chronic pain problems, and with this the possibility of breathing pattern disorder.
Other factors involved in back pain

Psychological and emotional factors are a recognized to be a contributory aspects of chronic pain and need to be addressed. Stress and anxiety affect the nervous system and when in excess can seriously affect us physically, by producing hormones which trigger muscle pain and other effects such as high blood pressure, digestive, sleep and energy problems.
Nutrition provides the building blocks for the body with every one of the millions of cells being replaced over time.

What makes Osteopathic Medicine Different

The osteopathic profession makes a unique contribution to healthcare in the UK. Osteopaths are trained as primary healthcare providers. We take on full responsibility of treating patients from the initial consultation, establishing an osteopathic diagnosis and providing appropriate treatment.

Our profession, along with GP's, physiotherapists and surgeons, has established an evidence based medicinal (EBM) model. Our approach is quite different to, although complementary with, the conventional medical approach.

Osteopathy places the patient central to our practice. We often use the phrase, "we treat the patient, not the disease", as a means of explaining our philosophy. This means that we look at each patient as an individual with their own unique needs. We encourage our patients to appreciate that their body has evolved the capacity for self-repair which is often overlooked.

We try to provide an element of teaching and self-awareness in our approach. Much of the advice given requires our patients to make specific lifestyle changes, realizing that there are often several reasons for illness or health issues developing.

Many patients attend for pain relief for specific complaints. Both acute and chronic pain problems affecting the spine, limbs and central nervous system, are often part of a developing condition which requires immediate treatment. It frequently also requires longer term management to reduce the risk of recurrence.

Prevention is always better than cure, and less expensive!

Osteopathy and the Green Ecology

Osteopaths support the need to change our views on the relationship between health and lifestyle. The last four generations have experienced an ever increasing healthcare cost. Current medicinal care is based on technological innovation and reliance on pharmacology to treat disease.

Although osteopaths accept fully the need for surgery and medication in quite specific conditions, we promote the need to return to a more patient centered and human approach to medicine.

The UK budget for healthcare provision in the NHS has risen during the current governments time in office.

Many healthcare providers, as well as the general patient population, do not believe that this expenditure has increased the health of the nation, to justify the huge cost of the NHS budget.

The UK cannot afford to continue to provide the existing type of healthcare. The patient population in Great Britain is increasing every decade, the demands on the NHS budget is rising, and our ability to fund the huge cost is diminishing at an alarming rate.

The link between lifestyle and both physical and mental illness is compelling. An ever increasing number of conditions are linked at least partly with diet, physical activity, and our attitude to change in our lives.

Osteopaths do not want the legacy of an enormous national debt to be placed on our children and their own children's offspring without evidence of benefit.

We need to change the present mindset, and the osteopathic profession wishes to help contribute to this objective.