“What’s the difference between Osteopathy and <insert other profession – physiotherapy, chiropractic, myotherapy etc>”
This is a question that most Osteopaths get asked daily. To be honest, as yet I haven’t heard an answer that completely satisfies me. So, rather than making sweeping generalisations about other professions and our own (that tend to have ill-defined borders and significant overlap anyway), this blog post will go into how our Osteopaths at Absolute Health & Performance approach the human body.
Can you define Osteopathy?
This is actually quite difficult, but we’ll have a go.
Warning: brief history lesson coming up.
Osteopathy was started by A.T. Still, a medical doctor in the USA in the late 1800s. He was disgruntled with what was ‘best practice’ at the time, with treatments commonly using arsenic, whiskey and opium. Still turned to anatomy and structure, using manual ‘corrections’ to influence health. Rather than a method of treatment techniques, Osteopathy is more broadly defined by the application of three principles:
- The person is a unit of mind, body and spirit (the modern day term might be biopsychosocial model of medicine)
- The body is capable of self-regulation and self-healing (today’s definition is homeostasis)
- Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated
Osteopaths in most parts of the world are qualified as manual therapists – complementary practitioners to primary health physicians. However, in the USA Osteopathy is somewhat different. Students undergo extensive medical training and practice as GPs and medical specialists.
This is where the difficulty lies in comparing Osteopaths to themselves and to other practitioners of other professions – there is a very broad range of application of Osteopathic principles, from gentle hands-on techniques, to spinal manipulation, to exercise therapy, as there is in other therapies.
What is Osteopathy in Australia?
Qualified Osteopaths in Australia must undergo both Bachelor and Masters degrees, a total of five years studying anatomy, physiology, and pathology amongst other medical based subjects. Clinical subjects are also integrated with this such as examination, manual techniques and exercise prescription as well as a research project.
They are also legally required to be registered with AHPRA, the same agency that registers nurses, physiotherapists, optometrists, dentists and other allied healthcare practitioners in Australia.
Osteopathy in Australia has evolved to become a way to manage musculoskeletal complaints with manual techniques, though as stated above, the techniques are not a defining feature.
What is Applied Functional Science?
Aside from university qualifications, Absolute’s Osteopaths have trained extensively with the Gray Institute in the USA. The Gray Institute is an internationally recognised educational organisation challenging the conventional assessment of movement.
AFS appreciates that the body moves as a chain reaction in three planes of motion. Creating specific movement environments relevant to the patient is most likely to transfer to day-to-day tasks.
If you run, we want to see how you run, how your hips, knees and feet move standing on one leg. Not how they move lying on a table.
Essentially it is a system of analysing and altering movement habits with the goal of not only reducing pain, but helping you move and perform with more ease.
Although the AFS community and influence in Australia is in its infancy, its presence across the globe is growing. In the USA it is implemented in many elite sporting organisations.
So how do the Osteopaths at Absolute Health & Performance work?
The above information is all well and good, but doesn’t really tell you much about what happens when you come and see one of us at Absolute.
Essentially we seek to blend Osteopathy with AFS.
We take a thorough history of your current and past complaints, including questions about other aspects of your life such as sleep quality, stress levels, diet and exercise. These are all factors that have been shown to influence pain and injury.
Examination is based around analysis of functions meaningful or problematic to you, be it running, bending forward or simply sitting at a desk. It is based around what you do in real life, not artificial testing environments like a sit and reach.
Treatment typically involves some traditional hands-on Osteopathic techniques, such as massage, manipulation and mobilisation. However, there are portions of the session spent in upright positions where we attempt to change movement habits which have become problematic. This enables treatment to directly translate back to improving your movement in everyday life. It is tailored to the individual. There is no gold standard of teaching you how to move.
Educating you about your problem and giving strategies to manage is paramount. Exercises to perform at home are provided to solidify movement patterns gained during treatment. These may involve general movement, strengthening, coordination and stability.
Our treatment style is always evolving, and the environment at Absolute encouraging all our staff to stay up-to-date with the latest research is the cornerstone of this.
If you have musculoskeletal pain or injury and need a comprehensive functional evaluation, come and see our Osteopaths Matt and Ashley at Absolute Health & Performance
Written by Absolutes Osteopath Matt Wallace-Smith