OSTEOPATHY: What Is Osteopathy?

The Body has self-healing and self-regulating mechanisms:

In the absence of disease the body is self-regulating and maintains health. There is no self healing because everything is already healthy. With the onset of dysfunction the body will go into self-healing, regenerating and repair mode. It will send its healing energies/forces to the area in trouble and attempt to restore the balance in the shortest possible time frame. If it is unable to do this for whatever reason (i.e. mental, emotional and/or physical issues interfering with the inflow of health) the rest of the body will compensate in order to maintain overall, relative, equilibrium. Health is redistributed to areas that need it most in order to maintain the compensation pattern and to minimise stresses on any one area.

An imbalance in one area will therefore have far reaching effects on other areas of the body. Each tissue/area will respond to varying degrees depending on how each individual compensates. The body can cope with this adaptation without symptoms up to a point, beyond which the stressed tissues/areas get overloaded and function begins to break down and become dys-function. A person may accumulate many such dysfunctions over the course of a lifetime before his/her body gets to the point of “not coping”. The body then begins to manifest symptoms in overstressed areas. Thus, it is easy to see that symptoms are merely the end effect of a long chain of compensations and adaptations in response (or reaction) to varying stresses over the course of a patient’s life-time. Dealing with symptoms alone will not address these predisposing patterns, if present, and “at best” helps to restore a person to a point of balanced compensation in response to all the preceding imbalances. In other words, it takes the symptomatic tissue (or tissues) off overload and allows it (them) to “cope” once again.

This is especially the case in those with chronic health problems. A person walks into see a physician in an optimal state of balance for them, in that moment. An Osteopath, aware of this, takes an individualised approach to assessment and treatment. He, or she, tries to help the body reach an improved level of health by releasing any patterns contributing to and placing stress on the symptomatic area. By taking away the stresses, the area of symptoms get some relative rest. With the load off the tissues can do more than just “cope”; they can begin to self-heal (i.e. healthy nutrients, energies and forces can once again flow to and from the damaged area).

Because the self healing mechanisms within the body want to self heal but aren’t allowed, because of the issues present impeding the natural healing process, a good physician will try to recognise and release these limiting factors and support the self healing mechanisms reconnect with and heal the damaged areas. Because the body does have self healing mechanisms (as discussed above), a good physician will also try to uncover where the body is also concentrating its healing forces in order to support the body to re-establish a balanced relationship of these areas with the damaged area/s and thus promote self-healing. By uncovering the pattern of im-balance (dis-ease or dys-function) and balance (ease or function – i.e. health), he/she then helps re-establish communication (as would a good lawyer of counsellor between two or more disputing parties) in the relationship between unhealthy and healthy areas thus provides the awareness and treatment (to the best of his/her ability) necessary to resolve the difficulty.

The symptoms will disappear on their own (within a more natural time frame) providing there are no contributing factors interfering with the natural healing process.

Example: A pelvic imbalance together with gravity and running may predispose a person to a knee, ankle or foot problem by placing extra weight bearing and load through the involved region. It all depends on where the imbalanced weight bearing forces are passing through in the individual concerned. This pelvic imbalance can even set up an acute sprain by contributing to the patient being in the wrong position prior to any activity. Furthermore, in the case of an acute ankle sprain; a pelvic or diaphragmatic dysfunction may obstruct fluid flow to and drainage from the lower extremity and thus slow recovery. It is easy to see how treating the pelvic imbalance in this case could help remove impediments to the healing process and thus promote recovery.

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