Recently, it has become more apparent to me that lots of you really have no idea what an osteopath is, does or how we can help you with your pain. I have been answering the question, “what is an osteopath?” so much, that I thought I may as well put my words into text for your enjoyment and reference.
On that note…….
What is an Osteopath?
An osteopath is a primary health care practitioner who is trained to examine, diagnose and treat disorders of the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, fascia etc etc). Osteopaths undergo 4-5 years of intense medical training, sharing a very similar syllabus, at times, to our medical doctor counterparts. The main difference however is the application of the knowledge gained and clinical focus.
Both doctors and osteopaths experience vast training in anatomy (the layout of the body), physiology (how the body works), pathophysiology (how things can go wrong), neurology (the control of the body via brain and spinal cord) and some other core medical subjects.
An osteopaths clinical focus is on the application of manual techniques, exercise therapy, and lifestyle adjustments in order to positively influence a patients pain state and biomechanics. For this reason, osteopaths spend a large amount of time in their training specialising in the treatment and diagnosis of musculoskeletal pain and movement issues.
Doctors however spend extensive periods of time in their training focusing on pharmacology (drugs, medicines etc) and its uses to treat various conditions.
Most osteopaths will have good knowledge of pharmacology too, however this is not their area of expertise. Most doctors will also have a good working knowledge of the musculoskeletal system, although once again this is not their area of expertise.
Lesson of the day : If you have back pain, see an osteopath. If you have a cough, see your GP.
Like medical doctors who register with the General Medical Council (GMC), osteopaths are also highly regulated and must register with the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC). Both these professional bodies ensure that the health practitioners have the appropriate qualification, are up to date with their practice and are fully insured. Okay, I think you get the point so lets get to the more interesting stuff……
What does an osteopath do?
What an osteopath does is pretty simple if you break it down. Osteopaths help people who are in pain to get rid of that pain and prevent it from returning. Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? Let me explain more….
Osteopaths work from a patient focused perspective. Our goal is to understand the full nature of your pain and structure our treatment specifically to your needs. For this reason, osteopaths take a full case history on your first visit. This will incorporate your current presenting problem as well as diving into your medical history and past issues. The aim is to have a full understanding of you as the patient and the sum of events which has led to you presenting to us as osteopaths.
We try to leave no stone unturned and by being so thorough we are able to develop treatment plans and strategies to help you to get rid of your pain for good.
To do this, osteopaths may focus their treatment not only on the area of pain but also surrounding areas which are influencing the pain.
Our aim is to not only treat the symptoms but also the underlying cause of your pain. By treating both aspects the goal is to keep your pain at bay for longer periods or ultimately to get rid of it for good.
There are one or two caveats…..
Osteopaths are not Jesus and do not have magical powers or healing hands!
Our role is to understand your pain in as much detail as possible and work out strategies to decrease the pain and stop it from coming back. Yes, we as osteopaths do have amazing results with our patients and I’m sure you will be pleasantly surprised by how much we can help you with your pain.
If however, you have been suffering with pain for a long time do not expect a miracle cure over night. That being said, with your cooperation we will be able to help you with your pain and change your life. I have highlighted “with your cooperation” for a very important reason. Depending on what symptoms you present to us, will alter the type of treatment and management approach we need for you.
What do I mean by this?
Basically, there are going to be times where some of you will have to do a little bit of work for yourself away from the treatment room. Not a drastic amount but a little. We may give you some exercises which are focused and specific to your presenting symptoms, which if done regularly, will really help speed up your recovery.
We understand that compliance with exercises is poor so we try our best to get as much done in the treatment room as possible to help you with your pain. Sometimes however, this simply won’t be enough. We as osteopaths are here to help you get back to full function and enjoying your body and the things you want to do with it ASAP.
It is however, YOUR body and we need YOU to take responsibility for it.
If that means doing an exercise or two to help you with your pain, then so be it. You are the one in pain and with our treatment and advice we can dramatically decrease your symptoms, as long as you are willing to help yourself!
What type of things can osteopaths help with?
Lots of stuff……
I have listed a few below;
- Back Pain (sciatica, discs, muscles etc)
- Neck Pain (headaches, “crick”, posture)
- Knee pain, sports injuries, foot and ankle pain etc etc
More on what we can treat is contained here.
The point is that it is you that’s in pain and if that pain is related to the musculoskeletal system, osteopaths can more than likely help. That’s what osteopaths do. We help people who are in pain. So what’s stopping you from getting help? I will leave that one for another day………
Until next time!