What is Osteopathy?
It's not surprising I get this question a lot, often followed by: ‘Something to do with bones?’
And I usually respond in my cheeky way: ‘Well, yes, is it something to do with bones, hehe’, before clarifying that is it significantly more than that.
Osteopathy, undoubtedly one of the most misleading terms of the century, is a way of thinking and treating people who have dysfunction and pain.
There are those who may argue with that wording, but that's fine. I sincerely believe you can hold an Osteopathic practice without being an Osteopath. And frankly, these practices are usually quite successful with their patients. Why, you ask?
Well, the Osteopathic way of thinking teaches you to view the body as a whole unit of networking tissues, rather than individualizing tissues into single systems—such as muscles or joints on their own. It’s not just about the muscle, or the joint, or the organ, or the referring nerve root—it’s about how all of these tissues are articulating, moving and communicating together.
As Osteopaths, or Manual Osteopaths in Canada and the US, we are trained to approach the body this way from the beginning, rather than learning through frustration and experience. We learn the systems in the traditional way—muscles, bones, joints, organs, cranium, spinal canal and nerve segments—and then bridge the functional relationships of these tissues. What organ refers, connects, articulates with what muscle or slab of fascia that pulls or stabilizes what joint with what action? [Insider note: There is often a lot of kicking and screaming by the student as you unlearn the segmentation taught to you for years, before you find the ‘awe’ of the body in all of it’s overwhelming immensity. It's usually about here you start getting excited.]
So, while ‘Osteopath’ does translate to ’bone-disease’, we actually work in the manual rehabilitation realm, manipulating all of these involved tissues to increase mobility, motility and function, correcting pain and sources of problem in the body in a holistic way.
Okay, muscles and joints, sure. But organs? Cranium? Spinal canal? Really?
Absolutely! Everything in the body is living tissue and moves. If it’s not moving, you’ve got a serious problem. Even your bones are living, moving tissues—expanding, lengthening, shortening at any given moment in time, full of blood and moving cells. Of course, there is a reason we don’t see or feel these micro movements—our brains have tuned them out as noise! If it didn’t, we’d be so caught up in the rolling of our liver, or the squishing of our stomach, or the peristalsis of our intestines that we’d have a difficult time interacting and computing the sensations of the world around us.
But when someone presents with ongoing pain or dysfunction, working through these places are incredibly important! By lifting, gliding, stretching and moving these visceral tissues, we are not only affecting their own articulations, but also the connective tissues around them and the structures they’re then connected to. All of these tissues are integrated to move together, and dysfunction in one part will affect other parts. [For example, did you know your small intestine is rooted to your back wall directly in front of the spine at lower-mid level? If you've got a nagging spot that won't go away, maybe it's time to branch out and visit your Manual Osteopath!]
So when someone asks 'what is Osteopathy', my eyes gleam with delight.
Osteopathy is this. All of it. It is a way of thinking, understanding, and treating the body. It’s about relationships. It’s about seeing the whole picture; Balancing tensions and frictions; The collaboration of life events leading your body to feel this way.
That's what Osteopathy is.
Waygood Manual Osteopathy
780.455.6123 for appointments.
A balanced body does not hurt!