Osteopathy is an established system of complete medical practice, diagnosis and treatment, as recognised by the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa.
Dr Andrew Taylor Still, an American medical doctor and surgeon, founded osteopathy in 1874. In the western world, Dr Still is widely considered as the first physician to treat each patient as a whole, while searching for the cause of dysfunction rather than treating the symptoms.
Osteopathy is not the same as chiropractic or physiotherapy. Osteopaths take into account not only physical symptoms, but also the patient’s lifestyle and attitudes, as well as his or her overall health, effectively treating the patient as a whole.
The osteopath considers physical, environmental and stress factors simultaneously, whereas the general medical practitioner would usually treat these factors individually and in isolation from each other.
'Hands-on' manual therapy
Osteopathy is a 'hands-on' manual therapy that doesn't simply look at symptoms that present themselves. Osteopaths believe that symptoms often hide the underlying cause of disease.
By paying attention to the significance of any alteration in structure or function (the joints, muscles, ligaments, bones and connective tissue), an osteopath is able to interpret whole patterns of aches, pains and general health problems.
Alteration in the structure of the body leads to reduced or impaired function in its organs and tissues. Compensation gradually builds up until the body is unable to accommodate more change, at which time it may break down at the weakest part – even as a result of something quite trivial.
Headaches, for example, could be the final symptom of lower-back or foot-related problems of which the patient may not even be aware. Osteopathic patients benefit because the underlying cause of the problem is treated.
Osteopathic treatment can improve many parts of the body by restoring normal movement in areas that have become dysfunctional. This allows for the restoration of normal function and enables the tissues to repair themselves more naturally.
While immediate pain relief is an important consideration, the aim of osteopathy is to get patients well and to keep them well. Therefore, depending on the needs of the patient, treatment may be used in conjunction with other treatment methods such as medication, surgery and X-rays.
(Dr Guy Ashburner, July 2007)
About the author: Dr Guy Ashburner is a graduate of the British School of Osteopathy in the United Kingdom. He has worked as an osteopath at the Osteopathic Centre for Children in London and also holds a post-graduate diploma in paediatric osteopathy. Dr Ashburner also has experience working at a specialist sports injury clinic. He recently emigrated from the United Kingdom to Cape Town, South Africa.
Dr Guy Ashburner BSc(Hons) Ost(U.K), D.P.O.
To find out more, visit www.osteogoodhealth.com