When should I use Osteopathy?

Part 1: The mechanical Issue

Bones are the gears, muscles are the pulleys. If the gears are out of place, strains, sprains and irritations are the result.

The wide world of alternative medicine can be a cloudy place. There are many options out there to discover, all with their own unique style in helping restore you to better health. However, for us providing the services, the question of when is much more important than what you choose to do or who you go see. In this series, I hope to shine a light on what osteopathy is and can do for you, and what to expect from treatment. In this post I will explore the mechanical problem.

Body mechanics, it’s what separates osteopathy from everyone else. Everyone is unique in how they have used their bodies and it shows from the moment you walk in. I see a shoulder dipped to the right, your center of gravity moving closer over that right hip. You might not be anywhere close to needing a joint replacement but add 5, 10, 20, 30 years and the repetitive strain of just moving around, and things begin to add up. Or your head might be a little too far forward, straining your neck or in between your shoulders. This puts all the vessels coming up from your heart, to your head and arms, and back under an increased pressure. It may start with neck pain, pain in the mid back, but eventually it can affect your sight, hearing, balance, taste or smell, or any other function of the brain and central nervous system. The cause can be found in the anatomy, it’s the branch in the bike tire or the bump in the road that causes you to fly over the handlebars. What happens next? The effects can be endless. But what determines when you should come into the office?

Image taken from ‘Osteopathic Principles:Applied in Mechanics and Treatment’ by Robert Johnston

Any large fall, accident or injury is best addressed almost immediately. As soon as the hospital has ruled out any broken bones or other serious medical issues. A shock to the system; physical, neurological, vascular; all inclusive. Certain falls don’t just affect where it happen but can cause a shock all the way up the spine, often hitting points of mechanical weakness. Once a joint is moved beyond its range of motion it can often become stuck. Now every other joint in the body has to make up for this lost motion. This forces other joints, that are not created to do that motion, to now take this on, forcing compensation and creating another area of weakness. It’s here where we see how an old ankle injury can work it’s way to your hips, throwing the spine up and potentially causing problems all the way up to the neck.

Classical Osteopathic care ensures that all of this is taken into account through each and every treatment. The initial cause of the mechanics must be found and treated for treatment to be successful, or your problems will only return later.

But what if I don’t remember any physical injury?

Not just our old accidents, but our posture and lifestyle can also come into play. It’s the too-much-TV slouched backs, the text(or reading)-necks, the baseball pitchers strong arm. These effects happen over time. The simple truth is that if we develop strength in one area, it weakens others. The goal of osteopathy is to make sure these imbalances don’t lead to the inability of your joints to move. It’s problem prevention. If I never participate in an activity where I use the full range of my shoulders or hips, if I never breathe deeply through my ribs, why should I expect my body to keep full motion here? If you’ve repetitively done one thing over and over, keeping the same work or fitness routine, it would be a great idea to visit an osteopath to free up your joints and improve any restrict areas where circulation can be affected. Just like you need to bring your car to the garage a few times a year, it’s always great to make sure with an osteopath that everything’s running smooth. In the best of cases, 2-3 times a year for a tune-up is a good start.

How can I help improve my mechanics?

Motion, motion, motion. Try to get outside of your routine. Walking, biking and swimming are best if you have joint problems, as they minimize the impact while getting your body moving. I would also recommend yoga, tai chi or stretching, in order to open up circulation throughout the muscles and body. Rock climbing, gymnastics and other sports also help keep our joints moving through many ranges of motion, although too much done with poor body mechanics can be an issue.

Outside of osteopathic care there are certainly many other disciplines you may visit to help remove restrictions. Muscle activation therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic and massage therapy can provide many benefits that you should try out, should you find osteopathy not right for you. The important thing is to start taking care of yourself now. An ounce of effort to change habits or a bit of money spent on improving your health can make all of the difference later.

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