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Osteopathy

Osteopathy is a philosophy and form of alternative healthcare that emphasizes the interrelationship between structure and function of the body, as well as the body’s ability to heal itself.

Osteopathy is a form of drug-free non-invasive manual medicine that focuses on total body health by treating and strengthening the musculoskeletal framework, which includes the joints, muscles and spine. Its aim is to positively affect the body’s nervous, circulatory and lymphatic systems.

This therapy is a unique holistic (whole body) approach to health care. Osteopaths do not simply concentrate on treating the problem area, but use manual techniques to balance all the systems of the body, to provide overall good health and wellbeing.

What is it used for?

Want to learn more about osteopathy? We look in more detail below at:

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YES,  it is safe.

Osteopaths are expert primary healthcare practitioners and your safety is our primary concern. In common with medical practitioners and dentists, all osteopaths are registered by law under the Osteopathic Act 1993 and the title ‘osteopath’ is protected by legislation.  The profession is also statutorily regulated through the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC).

As part of their training, osteopaths gain primary care skills including triaging for pathology, and will refer back to GPs if further investigations are indicated.

After listening to you and taking a detailed medical history, we will discuss the risks in context with your beliefs, values and knowledge about your conditions and symptoms. We will also discuss with you the risk of doing nothing.

We will offer you treatment options which we have used with patients who have similar problems to you and that we have found to be effective. 

The GOsC has funded four interlinked research projects to gain a better understanding of any potential risk that may be associated with osteopathic care.  This systematic investigation of adverse events associated with osteopathic care aims to inform and guide osteopaths’ practice and enhance patient safety.

If you are interested in these research projects then please follow the link below:

https://www.osteopathy.org.uk/news-and-resources/research-surveys/gosc-research/adverse-events/

What the NHS has to say:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/osteopathy/safety/

Osteopathy is a very safe option for people of all ages from babies to the elderly. Osteopaths have extensive training and knowledge of a wide range of health concerns. If you are booking an appointment with an osteopath you are in safe hands, and we look forward to helping you.

It is not unusual to experience some temporary soreness afterwards; half of my patients experience none at all and half describe some soreness that resolves within about 24 hours.

They then often go on to make significant improvements following treatment. In our experience, the treatment we recommend leads to faster improvements and if necessary we will advise if you need to be aware of some additional risks with it. In a very tiny proportion of patients there have been reports of more serious side effects – and by serious we mean requiring medical treatment. The proportion is estimated to be 1 in about 36,000 osteopathic consultations, so 35,998 will not experience any serious side effect; Karen has never actually seen any in her clinical practice, nor does she know of any colleagues who have seen these side effects.

In summary the side effects for osteopathic treatment are:

50% none
49% mild
1% moderate
0.003% severe

In others words:

The risk of mild side effects is 1 in 2, or the same as tossing heads on a coin.

The risk of moderate side effects is 1 in 100, like picking a grey ball out of a bag counting 99 green balls and 1 grey ball, or the risk of falling on your stairs and being injured

The risk of serious side effects is 1 in 36079, about the same as 1 person in a capacity crowd at Tottenham Hot Spurs Stadium or dying in an accident at home in one year or in a road accident.

The most common side effect is a short-term increase in pain or stiffness lasting a few days. A bit like how you feel if you have done some activity or exercise that you have not done before – a bit sore for 24-48 hours.

We know that you may be nervous about what may happen to you during your treatment, so we have put together a guide to what happens before, during and after an appointment to help put you at your ease.  Click here for our Guide to What to Expect.

It is a common false impression that osteopathy is a 10 minute “crunch and click” session – in fact you are quite likely to get no crunch or click at all.

Osteopaths spend 4-5 years of training, learning how the body works and then various techniques which we can use to get the body working better.  Manipulation, the name for the crunch and click (which, incidentally, is only the release of a slight vacuum that has built up between two surfaces of a joint), is taught to us in our first year and we spend hours perfecting our technique, so out of all the professions, we are the best trained to complete this technique safely and competently.

So why do we want to manipulate the spine?

The spine is the organizing point of health because all the nerves supplying control and feedback pathways from the brain out to the major organs and peripheral limbs of the body emanate from the spine.  Therefore, any entrapment of nerves due to pressure from misaligned vertebral bones on the spine could affect the person’s health due to misfiring nerve signals (or be contributing to musculoskeletal issue).

We also look at all the joints and junctions to align the physical structure of a person for optimal health.

You will find that most of your treatment will actually consist of various soft tissue and articulation techniques, and the manipulation will be minimal if at all.  We will work to realign the joints of your body by addressing the muscles, ligaments and tendons which attach to the joints and make them move.

We will work with the soft tissues of the body in whatever way is appropriate, this could be light massage to encourage circulation, precision deep massage, fascia release work, trigger point work, facilitated stretching etc.  The approach is to release the tension in the soft tissues which in return could cause a release of a stuck junction between bone joints if appropriate.

Emotional or physical trauma as well as unremitting stress is often imprinted in the cellular memory of soft tissue structures experiencing dysfunction and unease.  Soft tissue work encourages not only a physical release or unwinding of ravelled tension to happen under the guidance of your body’s innate intelligence system ( the same intelligence that causes a cut or wound to heal), but also can spontaneously cause the previously locked in emotion or trauma to safely release.

I would be lying if I said no – but it doesn’t hurt as much as you expect it will.  If you don’t like what we are doing, or it is painful you can always ask us to stop and we will.

For the majority of people the reason that you are seeking treatment is that you are in pain – the possibility that treatment will hurt even more is a real fear.

Patients are often surprised and relieved to find out that this is not the case, in fact amazed that we can gently move you around without you suffering any pain – some discomfort maybe.

So why doesn’t it hurt?

There are several reasons why:

  • Your practitioner will be watching how you move from the moment you meet; they will already be assessing what you can and cannot do.  The taking of the medical case history will give you a chance to explain all about your condition and concerns, and this further informs the practitioner what you can and cannot do.
  • We then start to examine you and always start with asking you to perform the movements, asking you to tell us when it hurts and not to perform the movements if they cause pain.
  • When we then start to gently move you around – assessing the muscle quality, the range of movement of the joints, all helping us to work out what is happening in your body and then moving into your treatment– you will be asked to let us know if any of the movements we do cause you pain or discomfort.
  • Your osteopath is skilled at assessing what your body needs and applying the correct techniques. Some patients have heard that you will be “clicked” or manipulated which may cause some trepidation.  You will only have this done if it is needed and your practitioner will explain what is going to happen before they do it, so if you really do not want to have it done, you can decline.  This may, however, slow your progress down and you may need more treatments to resolve your condition.

At any time you can let your practitioner know that you do not like the particular technique they are using and they will change it to something more suitable.

If you are in pain, then you are likely to experience some soreness and discomfort during treatment, but it should never hurt.  Even if you are not in pain, if we are working on some particularly tight muscles then it will be uncomfortable.  Patients actually find this reassuring, because we have identified the area causing their symptoms and even though there is discomfort they feel that we are doing some good.

You may feel some soreness and pain for 24-48 hours after treatment.  We liken this to the aches and pains you get when you do an activity you have not done before and use muscles you never knew existed.  We are effectively getting your body working as it should, so some muscles are going to ache.

You will most probably have to undress, but how much will depend on where your problem is.

You need to undress because your practitioner has to be able to see the area of your body which is causing the problem and also other areas which may be related to your condition.  We have also found it helpful as we can notice any marks on your skin – it is amazing how many people forget to mention surgery that they have had in the past when we take the case history, only to be reminded when we comment on an a scar.

If you have a problem with your hands, wrist, ankle or feet, then you may not need undress as rolling up your shirt or trousers may be enough.

For elbows and knees you might like to wear a t-shirt or shorts.

For hips, pelvis and low back then shorts or comfortable track suits bottoms.  Please do not wear jeans as these are extremely inflexible and very difficult for us to work through.

For middle and upper back conditions, then we really would like to see your spine.  Ladies will keep their bra on and can wear a camisole/vest top, for gentleman we would prefer it if you would remove your shirt.

For shoulder and neck conditions we would ideally like ladies to wear a camisole/vest and for gentlemen to remove their shirt.

If the problem is coming from elsewhere in your body we will then need to examine more of you so it may be best that you wear appropriate underwear so that you will feel comfortable during the examination and any subsequent treatment.

We appreciate that undressing can be concerning and something that you may be embarrassed about – please do not be.  If you are concerned about undressing, please discuss this with your practitioner and we will work with you to ensure that we are able to examine and treat you sufficiently whilst respecting your wishes.

Don’t forget, you can always bring a friend or relation into the treatment room.

We have both male and female osteopaths, so if you would prefer to be treated by an osteopath of the same gender as yourself, this isn’t a problem.  Just tell our friendly receptionist when you book your appointment.

If you are in a lot of pain, then you will probably have someone drive you to the Clinic. If you are physically able to drive to the Clinic, then there is no reason why you should not be able to drive home afterward.  Similarly if your daily drive is from Shefford to Bedford or Letchworth to Hitchin or similar distances then you should be fine.

We recommend that you do not drive a long journey, but take time to rest and allow the treatment to work.

It is possible that you may, but if this is a concern of yours, please discuss with your practitioner as we will be able to give lots of advice as to how to avoid it.

We have both male and female osteopaths and a female Sports Therapist here at the Clinic, so if you would prefer to be treated by a practitioner of the same gender as yourself, this isn’t a problem.  Just tell our friendly receptionist when you book your appointment

Some treatment techniques will require your participation. Many patients ask if there is anything that they can do at home/work that will get them better quicker and we will advise on specific and/or general exercises that are suitable for you.

Not unless you want to use your private medical insurance.

Osteopaths are primary healthcare professionals so you do not need a GP referral to have treatment.

Osteopaths are skilled in diagnostic techniques and trained to identify if you are not suitable for osteopathic treatment and need to be referred to your GP or on to another healthcare professional.

Most patients refer themselves directly to an osteopath.

We have a good working relationship with the local GPs so you may find that they may recommend some osteopathic treatment, but they are unable to provide it on the NHS.

You may need a GP referral if you are wishing to have your treatment paid by a private medical insurance – you will need to check you policy.  In this case, most GPs are happy to refer you on for treatment, so you should have no problem in getting a referral.

Yes you can get osteopathy on the NHS – but availability varies greatly through the country.

Osteopathy came to our shores in the early 1900s and as such predates the NHS by some 3 decades. For nearly a century, osteopaths have been alleviating pain and suffering, caused predominantly by musculoskeletal ailments, with great success. The Osteopaths Act 1993 facilitated the increased recognition of osteopathy by the orthodox medical fraternity and, as a result, patients have been able to access osteopathy through the NHS, to a greater or lesser extent, for the last 20 years

In May 2009, the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) published its guidelines for the early management of persistent non-specific low back pain. This publication provides recommendations about the treatment of people with specific diseases in the NHS. It is designed as a quick reference guide for health care practitioners. Providers of services and commissioners are expected to take the guidelines fully into account when exercising their clinical judgment and commissioning new services. These guidelines, for the first time in the history of the NHS, advocate manipulative therapy as a cost effective and worthwhile intervention for non-specific lower back pain and actually mention osteopathy as an approach that should be considered. This was updated in November 2016 and manual therapy is still advocated. You can read the NICE Report here.

Unfortunately you can’t get osteopathy on the NHS in the Shefford area as of yet.  The provision for musculoskeletal care in this area is now provided for by Circle Health where you will be referred to by your GP. You can read more about Muscoloskeletal care in Bedfordshire here.

Having said this, we have very good links with the local GPs and we work well with them.  They may not be able to refer directly to us, but if you asked about seeing us they would actively encourage doing so.

With our lives becoming increasingly busy, yet more sedentary, osteopaths can offer prevention advice such as stretching exercises, lifting techniques, posture, breathing and stress reduction which is a great way for individuals to maintain their own health. In addition some lifestyle changes including diet or workplace ergonomics can dramatically improve one’s health and reduce on-going health costs.

Early intervention by an osteopath means you can be aware of potential sources of referred pain, and how you can make changes to your lifestyle now, so you won’t have to deal with the pain later on.

Preventing injuries means less time off work and therefore more time keeping active and enjoying the benefits of general good health. It is vitally important for all people to be aware of how injuries can occur and what we can all do to avoid them.

Aches and pains, joint and muscle stiffness, reduced flexibility, fatigue, headaches as well as acute pain are all signs that the body is no longer working well, effectively or efficiently so it is definitely worth you having a treatment.

In many cases you will have been suffering odd niggles and pains on and off for months, taking over the counter painkillers, or even stronger ones prescribed by your GP.

During an osteopathic treatment we will discuss any concerns you have, assess you and hopefully give you some treatment.  Patients are always amazed that we find muscles that are tight and/or joints that have stiffened up – you assume that this is normal and how the body should be.

The human, you and I, is an amazingly complex organism.  If we think about a car it is full of integrated components that all have an individual function, but work together to make sure that the car is efficient and harmonious in what it has to do, ie get us from A to B.

The body is your vehicle that gets you about on a daily basis and is made in a similar way with individual components all working together.

You are breathing regularly without you having to think about it, blood is pumped around your body, food is digested and the nervous system is carrying millions of messages coordinating how you move, where your body is in space and time, and so on.

The beauty of your body is you don’t have to worry about any of this as it does it automatically.  You don’t have to turn a key to start an engine, it is always running and working for you – though it may not feel like that some days! Your body is a self-managing eco-system trying to maintain balance.

Your body should be able to fix itself so as you sit here now, today, this is your body’s best attempt at being well.  All the time there are thousands of processes going on in the body that we are unaware of.  Our cells that make up the body from the organs to the skin are constantly being broken down and remade – for example  you have a new skeleton roughly every 7 years and most of you have had a cut or injury that has healed.  With broken bones, cuts and bruises you can see these and see your body fixing them – but what about the things you can’t see?  What may be creeping up on you, what is your body struggling to fix and are you doing anything to hamper this process with your lifestyle?

To be honest we treat a lot of backs, but it’s not the only part of the body that we treat, take a look at the list above – select a condition with a green link to find more about causes, symptoms, treatment, etc.

We are trained to look at the body as a whole and how everything fits in and works together.

For example, you may have the beginnings of osteoarthritis in the hip which causes you to lose your range of movement in that joint due to the muscles shortening.  If the hip tightens up, then the next joint which will try and do the movement is the knee – so you may well have knee pain.  We will treat both the hip and the knee, encouraging increased movement of the hip and working on the muscle and soft tissues which have become tight or inflamed.

Another example would be headaches arising from neck and upper back tension.  We are becoming more and more sedentary and using portable devices in increasing number and for increasing amounts of time.  Many of you will be slouching over your device for hours at a time for days in a row.  Bodies are designed to move, so asking them to hold the same position for long periods of time means the muscles have to change their structure to hold you in one position; the muscles will then find it difficult to stretch and relax.

Any ache, pain or stiffness is your body’s way of telling you that it is not working correctly and that something needs to be done.  Yes, the aches and pains may be intermittent or resolve with the taking of painkillers of anti-inflammatory drugs, but the underlying mechanical imbalance will remain and could progressively get worse.  As a consultant once said in a presentation – pain doesn’t happen overnight.

In order to answer this question, it is useful to refer to the definitions and general information published by the professional bodies for these therapies.

Physiotherapy

  • Physiotherapy is a primary healthcare profession, aiming to restore movement and function to the fullest potential when someone is affected by injury, illness or disability.  The profession helps to encourage development and facilitate recovery, enabling people to stay active while helping them to remain independent for as long as possible.
  • Physiotherapists achieve this through movement and exercise, manual therapy, education and advice.  They maintain health for people of all ages, helping patients to manage pain and prevent disease.
  • Physiotherapists work in a range of healthcare settings, such as intensive care, mental health, neurology, chronic conditions, occupational health and care of the elderly.  They help to treat physical problems associated with a number of the body’s systems, including the musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Osteopathy

  • Osteopathy is a method of assessing, treating and preventing a wide range of health problems. Osteopaths use a combination of movement, stretching, targeted deep tissue massage and manipulation of a person’s muscles and joints to improve function, relieve pain and aid recovery.
  • The body has the natural ability to maintain itself and, by helping this process, an osteopath can promote restoration of normal function. The principle of osteopathy is that the wellbeing of an individual relies on the way that bones, muscles, ligaments, connective tissue and internal structures work with each other.
  • An osteopath will take the time to understand their patient, and their unique combination of symptoms, medical history and lifestyle. This helps to make an accurate diagnosis of the causes of the pain or lack of function (rather than just addressing the site of the condition), and from that, to formulate a treatment plan that will achieve the best outcome.
  • Osteopaths frequently work alongside other health professionals, such as GPs, nurses and midwives as well as alternative medical practitioners. Osteopathy works well to complement other medical interventions including surgery and prescribed medication. The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises that GPs can safely refer patients to an osteopath for treatment. Osteopathy is available on the NHS in some areas of the UK.

Though there are now many similarities between osteopathy & physiotherapy, the two professions originated from quite different roots, therefore the greatest difference today is found in the ideology and training.

Osteopaths view the body as a unique, interconnected, self-healing system. Osteopathic treatment focuses on correcting disturbances with this system, whether caused (by among many things) muscle weakness/imbalance and/or tension, restricted joint movements, poor posture or working practices. Given that each body is viewed as being unique, treatment is tailored to the individual not the symptom(s).

Osteopathic diagnosis and treatment is around 90% “hands-on”. The techniques employed by our osteopaths can vary from cranial osteopathic (gentle touch and pressure – see the page on cranial osteopathy for more information), soft tissue techniques such as massage and passive joint movements (where the osteopath initiates and controls the movement) and thrust techniques (such as manipulation – often referred to by patients as ‘cracking’ – which, incidentally, is only the release of a slight vacuum that has built up between two surfaces of a joint). They may also use ultrasound, modern acupuncture, and in many cases lifestyle/postural advices, exercises and/or stretches may be given.

Physiotherapists concentrate on restoring optimum function and performance to the problem area. As physiotherapy has been an intrinsic part of the NHS for many years, the availability of funding has driven research and enabled studies leading to the development of “treatment protocols” for the treatment of specific problems.

Physiotherapy diagnosis and treatment is less “hands-on” as more focus is given to observing movement and correcting technique. The techniques employed by  physiotherapists vary from soft tissue techniques, such as massage and passive joint movements (movements initiated and controlled by the physiotherapist), to more extensive rehabilitation exercise programs.

Treatment by an Osteopath compared to treatment by a Physiotherapist

Physiotherapy treatment would be more area specific than osteopathic treatment. For example if you were having physiotherapy treatment on your knee, they would mostly work in the area around the knee joint as well as giving you some knee exercises to carry out at home. However an osteopath would treat your body as a whole and would want to include treatments that would improve your posture as a whole (so they might want to massage around your knee, hip and back and give you advice on how to improve your posture to reduce the strain on your knee).

From what I am told, physiotherapy locally seems to concentrate on giving exercises and may not include any hands-on treatment.  You will usually be referred to a physiotherapist by your GP and it will usually be for a specific area – i.e. knee.  You also tend to be able to have a maximum number of treatments, which is typically 6.

In order to answer this question, it is useful to refer to the definitions and general information published by the professional bodies for each of the therapies:

Chiropractic

  • Chiropractic is a regulated primary healthcare profession. Chiropractors are trained to diagnose, treat, manage and prevent disorders of the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, and muscles), as well as the effects these disorders can have on the nervous system and general health. They have a specialist interest in neck and back pain, but when they assess patients, they take their entire physical, emotional and social wellbeing into account.
  • Chiropractors use a range of techniques to reduce pain, improve function and increase mobility, including hands-on manipulation of the spine. As well as manual treatment, chiropractors are able to offer a package of care which includes advice on self-help, therapeutic exercises and lifestyle changes.
  • Chiropractic treatment mainly involves safe, often gentle, specific spinal manipulation to free joints in the spine or other areas of the body that are not moving properly. Apart from manipulation, chiropractors may use a variety of techniques including ice, heat, ultrasound, exercise and acupuncture as well as advice about posture and lifestyle.

Although chiropractors are best known for treating back and neck pain, which they do very well, patients also consult chiropractors regarding a range of other, related conditions.

Osteopathy

  • Osteopathy is a method of assessing, treating and preventing a wide range of health problems. Osteopaths use a combination of movement, stretching, targeted deep tissue massage and manipulation of a person’s muscles and joints to improve function, relieve pain and aid recovery.
  • The body has the natural ability to maintain itself and, by helping this process, an osteopath can promote restoration of normal function. The principle of osteopathy is that the wellbeing of an individual relies on the way that bones, muscles, ligaments, connective tissue and internal structures work with each other.
  • An osteopath will take the time to understand their patient, and their unique combination of symptoms, medical history and lifestyle. This helps to make an accurate diagnosis of the causes of the pain or lack of function (rather than just addressing the site of the condition), and from that, to formulate a treatment plan that will achieve the best outcome.
  • Osteopaths frequently work alongside other health professionals, such as GPs, nurses and midwives as well as alternative medical practitioners. Osteopathy works well to complement other medical interventions including surgery and prescribed medication. The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises that GPs can safely refer patients to an osteopath for treatment. Osteopathy is available on the NHS in some areas of the UK.

Chiropractic therapy has close origins to osteopathy. Osteopathy was founded by Dr Andrew Taylor Still in 1872 and chiropractic care was founded by Daniel David Palmer, a student of Dr. Still in 1895.  Having said that, the treatment between osteopaths and chiropractors has a lot of similarities, but also has a tonne of differences.

Both chiropractors and osteopaths generally qualify with a 4 year BSc (Hons) or 5 year MSc (Chiro) / MSc (Ost) Masters degree. Both are recognised primary healthcare professionals, which mean they are qualified to diagnose in a similar way to a GP, and then treat or refer based upon that diagnosis. You don’t need a referral to see one. Chiropractors are qualified to take x-rays, and both osteopaths and chiropractors are qualified to read them, along with MRI scans and CT scans.

Both are qualified to manipulate joints, and spend at least 4 years of their full time education practicing and learning this skill. Sometimes physiotherapists and GPs attend courses in manipulation which obviously do not generally produce the same levels of manual skill that you would expect to find in either a chiropractor or an osteopath.

Both professions are fully qualified in soft tissue therapies, and injury rehabilitation, and are correspondingly best placed to diagnose and treat most neuromusculoskeletal (nerve, muscle, and joint) problems. More so than between any of the other professions, it is far more about the individual, their skill and the way they practice, than which professional title they hold.

Osteopaths and chiropractors both use joint manipulation (the techniques where you hear a “click”) on joints all over the body and many of these are the same with slight variations.

We’ve put together some information about the history of osteopathy, osteopathic training, etc on our What You Ask page

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What to do now ……

If you’ve come to this website looking for help, then don’t in silence suffer any longer.

Contact us immediately on 01462 811006 for a consultation and let’s assess your condition.

At the assessment, we’ll take some details from you and build your case history. We’ll discuss why you’ve come to see us and where you have any aches and pains. Then we’ll examine you with the aim of giving you the appropriate treatment.

This will take a little while to complete, but it’s a necessary part of the ethical guidelines we work to. The guidelines are there to make sure everything is done professionally and to a high standard of patient care. I’m sure you agree that’s a good thing!

If you have any questions about what we do and how we do it, call us on 01462 811006 or use the contact form below – and we’ll be happy to help.