While both Chiropractic and Osteopathy include techniques for correcting abnormal spinal conditions through manipulating the joints, Osteopathy goes a step further. In addition to treatment of the joints, it includes the adjacent muscles, fascia and ligaments making up each spinal vertebra. Osteopaths claim that their practice is more concerned with the pelvic rather than the neck region. Traditionally, the Osteopath relies more on the sense of touch than x-ray evidence for diagnosing spinal derangement. Finally, Osteopathic treatment is more rhythmical and gentle than Chiropractic.
More unique features
Only Osteopathy specializes in the manipulation of the fascia. The fascia sheath, a thin fibrous sleeve, permeates, divides and subdivides all parts of the body surrounding muscles, arteries, veins and lymphatics, and supports a network of nerves around those body tissues. Pain and other symptoms will arise in the organ or part of the body next to the affected fascia, whenever fascia become trapped, bruised, overstretched or lack nutrition,. Manipulation of the fascia can often bring about great cures.
What health problems are amenable to Osteopathic treatment? The complaints most commonly helped by Osteopathic treatment are low back pain and sciatica. The treatment is to improve blood flow, relax muscles, free any joints that are not moving properly, thereby restoring normal nerve activity. Osteopathic treatment has been particularly effective for so-called "slipped discs," arthritis in the low back or hip, and pain down the leg, commonly known as sciatica.
Many conditions respond favorably to Osteopathic treatment, such as neck, upper back pain, pain in the upper limbs (including shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand), migraine and headaches. Osteopathic treatment can help patients in the early stages of osteoarthritis of the hip, and can often restore movement or at least, in the case of the more advanced stages of osteoarthritis, reduce pain and swelling in arthritic patients awaiting surgery.
There are several medical conditions where Osteopathic treatment should not be used, or should be used in limited circumstances, or in conjunction with other treatments, such as active infections, fractures, bone disease, cancer, gross structural deformities, and severe general medical conditions such as gross high blood pressure or heart attack, vascular disease like thrombosis, neurological conditions with nerve damage, spinal cord damage, and severe prolapse of an intervertebral disc.
Osteopathy and exercise
Osteopaths are taught to recognize the importance of exercise and posture for health. Exercise needs to be relevant to the patient's age, state of health and aims in life. As we age, body tissues are less flexible. It is best to begin exercising gradually, increasing to a level that does not overstrain the heart and lungs. It is wise for middle-aged or older persons to see your GP or Osteopath before starting an exercise program.
The role of posture in health
Poor posture can result in poor circulation and weak muscles, backache, headache and many other distressful symptoms. Good posture includes knowing the best way to stand, walk, sit and rise from a chair, how to lift heavy objects, the best work positions for different jobs, and how to relax. For instance, the most relaxed and least pressured position for the spine, known is the semi-Fowler position, that is, lying down on your back with feet raised on a cushion or stool with the knees at 90 degrees. Do this for ten minutes every day or after strenuous activity or when you feel stiff and sore.
One of the best posture training programs is the Alexander Technique. Many actors, actresses, dancers and musicians take this training to enable them to maintain more relaxed control of their bodies while performing what is very demanding work. Learning the Alexander techniques involves one-to-one teaching. Courses are available in most large cities. Posture training is also available as part of Yoga training, Tai Chi, and Feldenkrais.