OSTEOPATHY AND POSTURE
Osteopathic treatment concentrates on the relationship between the structure of the body - the skeleton, muscles, ligaments and connective tissue - and the way in which the body moves and functions. The literal meaning of the word osteopathy is 'bone disease' - a rather unfortunate term that does nothing to evoke the great benefits of this safe, natural system of diagnosis and treatment. To an osteopath, the body functions as a complete, working system, so any problems affecting its structure, upset the balance of our general health. For this reason, an osteopath will not simply want to ease the pain and stiffness in your neck, but also want to know what is causing that pain, which could be anything from physical injury to mental anxiety.
The therapy was devised in the 19th century by an American doctor, Andrew Taylor Still. He became disillusioned with medicine when three of his children died of viral meningitis. Still sought an alternative in the philosophy of Hippocrates, who claimed that the 'cure of disease lies within the body'. An interest in osteopathy developed through his belief that tension in muscles and misaligned bones places unnecessary strain on the body. This strain can be caused by any number of things, such as physical injury, bad posture, or by emotions such as anger and fear.
Whatever the cause, Still believed it could be eased by adjusting the framework of the body, so that all the systems within it would run smoothly and the body could heal itself. Of all the bone structures in the body, Still considered the vertebrae of the spine to be the most important. Still's reasoning was simple: the spine protects the spinal cord, a major part of the nervous system, and the nervous system penetrates every area of the body, controlling voluntary and involuntary movement and registering every sensation, from the most delicate smell, to tortuous pain. Still believed that anything interfering with the nervous system could resonate in every area of the body.
Osteopathy is not just about bones - easing muscular tension also plays a considerable part. This belief that a relaxed muscle will feel comfortable, is based on the physiological fact that muscles use up energy when they contract, wastes energy and makes muscles less elastic, and therefore more prone to becoming damaged. Tense muscles slow down the circulation and lymphatic systems, so that your body's growth and elimination processes are restricted. They inhibit heart function and can worsen the effects of common respiratory conditions, such as asthma.
Osteopathy is a hands-on therapy. Through touch, massage, manipulation and stretching techniques, an osteopath can diagnose and treat people with physical and emotional problems. Since osteopaths are concerned with the structural integrity of the whole person, there are no formally recognized specialities. However, some practitioners develop their expertise in specific fields, such as the treatment of children, elderly, sports injuries or pregnancy-related problems. Similarly, some osteopaths choose to concentrate on certain methods, such as cranial technique, which focuses on the patient's breathing and the nervous system, concentrating on diagnosing and correcting imbalances through gentle manipulation of the skull.
Other practitioners specialize in visceral techniques, in which the internal organs are manipulated by massaging the abdomen or working on the nerve centers along the spine. This form of osteopathy can improve the position of an organ, break down adhesions, ease congested tissue and improve muscle function. Osteopaths often liken their therapy to a three-legged stool; one leg represents the chemistry of the body, which relies on a healthy diet for strength; the second represents the physical structure of the body; and the third symbolizes emotion, mental and spiritual health. The seat is the influence of the heredity over the whole person. Just as the stool can't balance if one leg is broken, a person can't be healthy if one aspect of their health is affected. This is why an osteopath will treat every aspect when relieving a disease which appears to affect only one.
Muscular and joint pain, backache, sciatica, headaches, sports injuries, arthritis and rheumatism can all benefit from osteopathy. It can ease the discomfort of pregnancy and PMS and the gentle touch of pediatric and cranial osteopathy can benefit children, from easing colic to calming hyperactivity. (This description was excerpted from "Osteopathic Medicine")
Osteopathic Internet Resources
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