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What is Osteopathy?

Osteopaths focus on the structure of the human body and are not just limited to bones and joints as some people think. Every tissue of the body is considered from bone to tendons, muscles and ligaments. The osteopath is also very interested in the fluids of the body such as the arterial and venous system as well the lymphatic system which helps drain the body of its toxins. Any hindrance to these structures can prevent the body from functioning at its full potential.

Osteopaths offer a safe and natural approach to pain and dysfunction by employing manual techniques. Gentle manipulative techniques are used to increase the range of motion in restricted joints and a selection of soft tissue techniques are used to soften and release tense muscle imbalances.

The maintenance of effective mechanical function is often the key to better health. The human body is very good at compensating and adapting to problems both physically and mentally but there comes a point when these compensations can no longer take the strain. It is on these occasions when the body can seize up in a protective spasm leading to acute pain with just one simple movement (i.e. picking up a pencil).

The osteopath’s skill lies in their intimate and detailed knowledge of anatomy combined with a highly trained sense of touch which enables them to diagnose and treat the underlying causes of pain. An osteopath in most cases will be able to trace back through these compensations by palpating different areas of the body, thus finding in many cases the primary or root cause. This may be related to a fall or an accident that happened some twenty years ago or purely structural imbalances due to poor posture which have grown with the body since childhood. One must remember that osteopathy looks to promote long term health by treating the individual and not just the site of pain.
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Osteopathy was founded in America in 1874 by Dr Andrew Taylor Still of Kirksville, Missouri. Dr Still was a doctor in a small frontier town in the mid-west. At that time there were no pain killing drugs, x-rays or other hospital tests to aid diagnosis. The local apothecary or chemist sold little more than remedies based on herbs and folklore for pharmacology was much in its infancy as medicine. At that time there were also ‘bonesetters’ who manipulated the body, healers, and of course the orthodox medical surgeons. A.T Still therefore was exposed to all of these approaches.

As the son of a doctor, Still went to medical school and received a formal training. After this, he worked with his father. Doing the rounds of his rural practice he particularly noticed how patients’ health was affected by the way they used their bodies. This observation lead him to seek new methods of treatment based on the structure and function of the body. The outcome of his research was a physically applied treatment which he eventually coined ‘Osteopathy’. Still became even more determined to get to the root of the disease process following the death of three of his children to meningitis. He believed that the answer laid in the structure of the body. Any disturbances in structure would undoubtedly lead to disturbances in function which he believed over time could result in pathological change.

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