If you are new to osteopathic treatment and are unsure about booking an appointment here is a list of F.A.Q.s to help you decide.
WHAT CAN BE TREATED?
Structural osteopathy can help most mechanical joint and muscle problems and is not just limited to back and neck pain – working from the upper body down, practitioners will treat jaws, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, the coccyx, knees, ankles and feet. It can also relieve the effects of stress such as tension headaches and upper back discomfort, and help – not cure - the debilitating symptoms of conditions such as whiplash, arthritis, or similar inflammatory conditions of the soft tissues. Some practitioners (including myself) will work on the gut viscera if the problem is temporary and non- pathological e.g. constipation, cramps and stomach bloating associated with IBS.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT AT MY INITIAL CONSULTATION AND TREATMENT?
I will take a detailed medical history and ask you questions about your job and life if this is considered relevant to your complaint. (If you are on prescription medication it is helpful to bring a list with you.) You will be asked to perform certain movements or undergo tests to help me reach a diagnosis, then the problem will be explained to you before your first ‘hands-on’ treatment. Sometimes, with acute presentations, treatment and examination is not possible at the first session, but you will be given a precise plan to manage your symptoms until your pain levels are under control and treatment will be more effective.
DO I NEED TO REMOVE MY CLOTHES?
It is helpful to see the affected joint/s without clothing (i.e. in your underwear for a back problem) during your initial examination, but after that you may be more comfortable wearing loose clothing for follow-up treatments. Stripping to your underwear is certainly not mandatory and wearing clothes won’t affect your treatment.
DOES OSTEOPATHIC TREATMENT HURT?
With the exception of cranial osteopathy which works on complicated internal fluid mechanics from the brain all the way down the spinal cord to the sacrum, structural osteopaths such as myself have a selection of different mechanical techniques they can use to sort your problem out. These include manipulation (“clicking”), articulation (passive movement of a joint), soft-tissue techniques (stretching, massage and muscle-energy recruitment) and appropriate exercise advice. None of these techniques should be painful or used without your permission – the idea is to help you and give you relief. However, patients may experience some discomfort for a couple of days after a treatment because the body needs to adjust to the tiny changes that have been made – and usually the benefits are felt within a week.
HOW MANY TREATMENTS ARE NEEDED?
The minimum number to get you better! Chronic problems take longer, obviously, and patients who have experienced the inconvenience of these long-term issues may elect to come regularly for treatment as a preventative measure, but that is entirely the decision of the individual.
CAN YOU TREAT BABIES AND CHILDREN?
Babies are physiologically very malleable in the first years of life – their bony and organ systems are unformed and simple compared to the adult form, and therefore quite easy to influence mechanically. Most babies suffer from digestive-tract or sleeping issues (flatulence, tummy discomfort, reflux etc.) and respond quite quickly to gentle treatments, plus the practical advice given to parents to help the situation.
As far as all children are concerned, now that sport plays such a large part in the school curriculum it is not uncommon for sports-related injuries to occur, especially in early adolescence when each child matures physically at a different rate and is equipped individually for whatever sport he/she embraces. In this case, I tend to form a long-term management strategy which involves stretching and strengthening muscle imbalances for that particular sport. Young
children with foot-and-gait problems, or recurrent sinus infections due to genetic physiology can also be helped with manual treatment and exercise advice. It is always worth checking a childhood issue as until late adolescence, a lot of bones in the body are not 100% ossified so structural changes are still possible.
CAN YOU TREAT PREGNANT WOMEN?
Pre-and-post-natal women suffer from similar issues. Commonly these are:
a) low back pain
b) upper back pain and shoulder pain
c) sacro-iliac pain
d) pubis symphysis dysfunction
g) pelvic floor weakness/pain
These symptoms are often connected to the effects of the hormone ‘relaxin’ which affects ligaments (predominantly those of the low-back and pelvis), making them loose enough to allow the rotational changes that facilitate the growing foetus in preparation for childbirth. Just as a baby is fluid enough to respond passively to osteopathic therapy, pre-and-post natal women are also equally receptive (though for a different reason) to minor mechanical adjustments. Every women is unique so there are no guarantees, but over the years I have found that osteopathy has helped many mums and mums-to-be find relief from temporary discomfort
ARE OSTEOPATHS “VALID”?
Doctors all have to be registered with the General Medical Council to practice. Osteopaths all have to be registered with the General Osteopathic Council to practice. All legal practitioners of osteopathy in the UK have undergone a standard training at one of the recognised schools and must abide by stringent codes of practice to be on the register. Like GPs, after qualifying, may diversify and specialise in chosen areas, and like GPs, we all tend to differ in our approach due to our own personalities so you won’t find any two osteopaths alike.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OSTEOPATHS, PHYSIOTHERAPISTS AND CHIROPRACTORS?
It is not possible to do justice to this question and all therapists concerned without writing several chapters! We are all manual therapists and we all have your best interests at heart. On the whole, most physios are employed by the NHS and have access to NHS funds which provide gym facilities and orthopaedic braces, crutches etc. as well as providing manual treatment and prescriptive exercises. Chiropractors and osteopaths historically have a common origin, so demonstrate quite similar manual approaches to a structural problem – we have diversified mainly in our choice of diagnostics and aids. (In the UK osteopaths still work with old-fashioned palpation and observation rather than use technology.) Osteopaths and chiropractors are mainly private practitioners and therefore charge per treatment, though some parts of the UK do offer these services on the NHS.
CAN I BRING SOMEONE IN WITH ME?
Of course! If you need some moral support you may bring your partner, mother, friend etc to your treatment as many times as you like. People with language or hearing difficulties may need someone to “translate”, under-16yr olds must be accompanied by an adult, and I always find it helpful to have both parents present when a baby first comes in to be assessed.