Definition of Manual Osteopathy
Manual Osteopathy is a holistic, or, “whole body” therapy which uses a wide range of techniques to treat musculoskeletal problems and other neurological complaints. Osteopathic techniques are usually gentle and especially beneficial for chronic pain conditions. It is considered by many to be the most comprehensive treatment choice for the nervous and musculoskeletal system.
Osteopathic manual therapy focuses on the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the body’s structure. These disorders may be found in the joints, muscles, organs, nervous system or spine. Osteopathic manual therapists use movements of the joints or organs to correct mechanical dysfunctions that are related to neuromusculoskeletal complaints. By restoring proper mechanics to an area the body allows the normal flow of fluids, hormones and other biochemicals that result in an improvement of function. This helps to reduce pain and restore quality of life for that patient.
The History of Osteopathy & Manual Osteopathy
Osteopathy was founded by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still. The word, osteopathy, is derived from the greek words for bone and dysfunction. Dr. Still believed that the structure of the skeleton is directly related to the proper function or dysfunction of the body systems. Dr. Still founded the first Osteopathic College in 1892. After his death, osteopathy split into two distinctive branches. One of them merged with mainstream medicine that diagnoses diseases and performs surgery, and the other branch, manual osteopathy, maintains the holistic model of healing in which the body, in proper structural alignment, will promote healing, improve circulation and reduce or eliminate chronic pain. This whole body approach is called Osteopathic Manual Therapy (OMT) or Manual Osteopathy.
Benefits Of Osteopathy
- Increases Joint Mobility
- Immobile joints can cause pain and lead to injury. Gentle mobilization of joints and the tissues surrounding them serves to increase mobility, blood circulation and lymphatic drainage. Osteopathic manual therapy has been proven to be especially beneficial for chronic low back pain.
- Decreases Pressure on Spinal Nerve Roots
- Compression of nerve roots near the spine is a common cause of severe back and neck pain. It can also cause edema and hemorrhage in the dorsal nerve root. Osteopathic manual therapy mechanically opens the intervertebral foramina, the tunnel, in which the nerve roots are housed. This decreases the pressure that is placed on the nerve roots alleviating pain.
- Reduces Pain Sensitivity
- When a person sustains an injury, the spinal nerves become hypersensitive to pain impulses. Scientific studies have shown that osteopathic manual therapies can reduce a patient’s sensitivity to pain. This involves a mechanism in which activation of specific fibres can reduce chronic pain and increase pain threshold levels.
- Increases Endorphins
- Studies have shown an increase in endorphins with manual osteopathy. Endorphins are neurotransmitters found in the brain that help a person feel pleasure and reduce anxiety. The body uses endorphins as a natural pain killer.
- Activates Para-spinal Reflexes
- In many cases a person will have a task or job in which they are sitting a lot or performing tasks that require them to flex (bend) their back for a length of time. The mechanism of recovery for the tightened muscles is called the paraspinal reflex. In these cases the paraspinal muscles are unable to recover fully because there is a reduction of the reflex mechanism. This raises that risk for back instability and low back pain.
- Early studies indicate that OMT is beneficial in acting on these paraspinal reflexes to improve recovery, movement and function.
- Inhibition of Somatosomatic Reflexes
- As a result of injury, the nerves in the spinal cord may receive an abnormal input of muscle fiber activation causing excessive pain. This can result in the nearby muscle fibres also becoming hyper-activated causing pain in the adjacent structures. This is called somatosomatic reflex. OMT inhibits somatosomatic reflexes and normalizes the muscle spindle activation.
- Decreases Heart Rate and Blood Pressure.
- By measuring heart rate variability, scientists have studied a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure due to osteopathic manual therapy in humans.
- Decreases Anxiety and Depression
- Adrenal overstimulation and overwhelm is a chronic condition today. Soft Tissue therapy can positively impact the stress response system resulting in less anxiety and depression and a better adaptation to the stressor.