OSTEO-WHAT?! This is the question that I am often met with after I introduce myself as a student of osteopathy. Although the profession of osteopathy has been around for centuries, it is still often perceived as a mystical form of alternative medicine. I’ve set out to enlighten and hopefully put to rest some of those doe-eyed reactions surrounding the practice!
Osteopathy is a natural form of medicine that views the body as one interdependent, continuous system. The practice aims to restore normality and function throughout the entire body by determining the cause of imbalance and discomfort. Treatment involves a subtle, intuitive manual manipulation of bone and soft tissue within the body’s limitations. Osteopathy was founded in 1874 by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, a medical doctor with a mechanical background. After the loss of his three sons to meningitis, Still sought out alternative interventions to enhance the inert healing capacity of the body. He focused on removing mechanical “blockages” and emphasized free circulation and mobility within the body.
In 1882 Still founded the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri. Several of Still’s original students enhanced the profession by developing new manual techniques such as cranial-sacral therapy and myofascial release. Osteopathic manual therapy is often recommended for the relief of musculoskeletal dysfunctions and pain management. However, the scope of practice extends to the treatment of respiratory and digestive issues, menstrual irregularities, migraines, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, depression and peripheral or local pain management.
Currently trending among midwives and numerous health practitioners is cranial-sacral osteopathy for newborns and babies. It is now commonly recommended that new mothers make an important visit to their friendly osteopathic practitioner to assess, correct and relieve trauma which may have occurred during birth. As babies make their journey through the cervix, their heads must rotate, compress and narrow. In some cases the re-inflation or un-moulding process can be incomplete. A difficult birth, such as one that required forceps, a long labour, or a caesarean most commonly contribute to cranial compression and incomplete re-inflation.
Symptoms associated with unresolved cranial compression are: latching or feeding difficulties, discomfort during tummy time and plagiocephaly which is the appearance of a flat or odd shaped head. Unresolved, these issues can also present as colic or excessive crying and restlessness. However, there is hope and relief for everyone! Studies show that osteopathic intervention immediately following birth has been extremely successful in restoring symmetry of the cranium and in significantly relieving colic.
Finally, let’s remember that the theory of osteopathy suggests that the body tends towards normality – it wants to heal itself. Naturally these resilient little bodes can resolve many of the issues on their own. However, osteopathic treatment can help speed up this potentially long and uncomfortable process; enabling more space for a happy and healthy development!