The Institute of Osteopathy describes it as follows:
Osteopathy is a therapeutic discipline and science that is used for identifying, preventing and helping with a multitude of health ailments.
It's a physical approach emphasising the relationship between body structure and function and the body's own self-healing and regulatory mechanisms. An osteopath combines the knowledge of anatomy, physiology, pathology and clinical examination skils to diagnsose conditions and restore the functional relationship between bones, muscles, joints, connective tissues, internal organs and the nervous system.
In the treatment room:
The Osteopath will take a detailed case history to obtain all the relevant information pertaining to the present complaint, the general health and medical history of each unique person. It is essential to gain an understanding of the condition and the strains that each individual has gone through. Additionally, an underlying condition might need to be taken into consideration with regards to the course of treatment or further referral.
Then an examination will be carried out with the aim of narrowing down the possible causes of the complaint. The testing includes orthopaedic, neurological and functional/osteopathic tests as well as evaluation of the state of the tissues with osteopathic palpation.
Then, the desired time has come... Treatment! The treatment can be comprised of directed Deep Tissue Massage and stretching, joint manipulations (clicking/popping), joint mobilisation, work on the internal organs (visceral osteopathy) and/or cranial osteopathy. In addition Dry Needling can be used to either alleviate pain generally or to target specific muscles that have been overworking. This can be very helpful with acute pain as manual treatment might prove difficult due to the inability to move.
The treatment doesn't end in the treatment room though. Advice and/or exercises will be recommended to the patient to enhance the effects of the treatment or to prevent the same problem from recurring.
Cranial Osteopathy is a gentle and yet very effective way of providing treatment to the body. It's the palpation of very precise and subtle oscillations of our tissues. These oscillations are evident in the whole body but are more readily palpated around the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and that's where it takes its name from. Being very gentle in its application, Cranial Osteopathy is applicable to all age groups. Cranial Osteopathy is not to be separated from Osteopathy and thus, even when only Cranial Osteopathy might be used, a thorough case history and examination will always take place to ensure that the patient is not in need of any other medical attention.
During treatment, Cranial Osteopathy might go unnoticed by the patient or they might feel more relaxed to the extent that they might fall asleep. In other cases the patient may feel minor tension, slight aches arising and fading away, as well as emotions coming to the surface. In most cases though, the patient feels different after getting up.
Visceral refers to the internal organs. Our viscera are not solidly fixed inside us but they have a small amount of 'play'. This allows them to move during breathing and to deal with the forces of movement. Additionally, the internal organs require movement freedom to function properly, just think about our heart or intestines. When the viscera don't move freely they will restrict the bones they suspend from and send 'distress signals' to the nervous system. The former leads to malpositioneing of the bones and the later overactivity of the nerves and postural muscles. So a joint issue can be maintained by a visceral issue.
In the treatment we work with the connective tissue around the organs to free their movement either with direct structural techniques or indirectly with the cranial approach.