What is Osteopathy?

What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is a form of holistic medicine that focuses on restoring and maintaining physical well being. Through the use of non-invasive, manual techniques that manipulate the body’s musculoskeletal framework, osteopathic treatments aim to support the nervous, circulatory and lymphatic systems in order to correct imbalances that are believed to diminish the body’s ability to heal itself are at the root cause of discomfort, disease and illness.

Despite its name, which essentially means sick bones, osteopathy doesn’t focus solely on bone health. Based on the belief that a healthy body is capable of healing and defending itself against infections and toxins, osteopathy seeks to correct any misalignment of bones, muscles, ligaments or tissues that compromise this self-healing ability.

The theory is simple: in order for the body to remain in good health, all parts of your body must function together properly and harmoniously. If one part of your body is restricted, the remainder of body compensates for that restriction and that compensation may lead to stiffness, inflammation, discomfort, headaches or infection. Doctors of osteopathy (DOs) focus their attention on the musculoskeletal system and its influence on how other bodily systems function.

How It Differs from Chiropractic Care

Osteopathy and chiropractic care are similar in that both forms of holistic medicine focus on the role of the spine and musculoskeletal imbalances play in the body. How they differ mostly comes down to the actual treatment method.

Chiropractors tend to rely primarily on high velocity thrust, which is a short, sharp motion that releases areas of the body with limited range of motion. It’s this technique that results in the popping or cracking noise. Osteopaths may use high velocity thrust as well, but instead of applying the motion directly to the spine as in chiropractic, the DO may rely on the patient’s limbs to achieve the same effect.

More often, osteopathic doctors manipulate your body’s tissues using less force, employing techniques like stretching, massage and applied pressure in addition to occasional use of high velocity thrust. The gentler techniques deliver the added benefit of improved circulation in the area being treated.

Principles of Osteopathy

The principles of osteopathy are similar to the principles of naturopathy, where first and foremost, one should do no harm. This means relying on non-invasive healing methods first, to aid the body in healing itself versus surgery, which seeks to eliminate the symptom without addressing the underlying cause. However, some osteopaths are also medical doctors and can prescribe and/or perform surgery as a last line of defense.

Secondly, osteopathy looks beyond the disease or illness for the root cause and seeks to treat that cause rather than the symptoms alone. For that reason, it may seem like a DO isn’t addressing your complaint when they begin to work with you. Their assessment of your body may lead them to a block elsewhere in the body that’s causing your symptoms.

Lastly, DOs base their assessments and treatments according to the idea that nothing is more effective in healing the body than the body’s fully functioning nervous, circulatory, lymphatic and immune systems. DOs often work to educate patients on how to maintain their wellbeing through changes in diet and exercise, lifestyle and stress management.

Why Visit an Osteopath?

You might consider visiting a DO if you suffer from lower back pain, chronic headaches, TMJ, sciatica, arthritis, repetitive strain injury or other chronic conditions like asthma, respiratory and/or ear infections. You may also choose to seek osteopathic treatments if you’ve been injured or are dealing with long-term repercussions from old injuries.

What to Expect from an Osteopathic Treatment

When you first visit an osteopath, expect to spend an hour or more with the DO. Be prepared to discuss your symptoms and complaints and answer questions about your overall lifestyle. Depending upon your specific complaint, you may be asked to remove one or more items of clothing and perform a series of prescribed movements for the DO to determine the best course of treatment.

Osteopathic treatments are usually done with the clothes on and you can expect a range of hands-on techniques, like gentle, soft tissue stretching, deep tactile pressure, and manipulation of your joints using hand-on pressure or pressure applied to your limbs. After your treatment, you may experience immediate relief of your symptoms and increased mobility in your body. Some conditions may take longer to respond to treatment.

By: Susan Ware


Harmony Osteopathy
At The Foundation for Integrated Health

200 – 123 Carrie Cates Court
North Vancouver, BC
V7M 3K7

tel: (604) 988-7080

Article of the Month

Towards Wellness

Invigorate Your Exercise Routine

Feeling restless? That’s normal this time of year.

Instead of letting that agitation irritate you, harness it and take yourself to the next level.

Walk a little faster, bike uphill instead of flat stretches, go to a dance class, join a softball league, or try a yoga class.

Of course you should still listen to your body and rest when you need to, but don’t use that as an excuse to be lazy
Conquer your fear and step up to the plate first. You might be surprised at what you can accomplish, and how great you feel, when you do.

Stretch of the Month

This exercise stretches the lower back.

1. Get onto all fours. Your arms should be in line with your shoulders and your legs should be in line with your hips. Arch your back and hold this position for a count of 30. Then flatten your back for the count of 30.

2. Your eyes should be looking at the floor and your arms should be kept straight.

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