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!
Until relatively recently, fascia has been poorly researched, documented and prioritized in the western medical field. Thanks to a few key researchers, the magnitude and significance of its functional role in our body has sent this ‘underdog’ tissue into recent stardom.
The question that still resides in many patients I see is: What is it? And what role is it playing in my pain?
To some practitioners, fascia is essentially everything, only to be differentiated by the ratio of excess other stuff that composes the tissues. Throw in some extra minerals, you get bone; Increase the collagen, you get tendinous or ligamental tissues; Add a little more elastin, you’re looking at veins and arteries, organs, muscle.
However, to most individuals not involved in that depth of study, fascia, is a web--yes, a web like what a spider builds--of connective tissue running throughout your entire body, connecting all parts of your body together. It supports organs, nerves, and blood vessels; allows for muscles to slide and glide for movement and strength; comprises the tendons and ligaments; transmits the contraction of muscle fibres to the bones they move.
So what role is it playing in your pain?
Potentially a big one!
Fascia holds a history. Chronic or repetitive stress, injuries, surgeries, or other traumas, create adhesions, thickening, changes in density and elasticity, and the infamous ‘scar tissue’.
When this involved tissue undergoes these types of changes, you can experience a wide variety of sensations from lack of mobility to hyper-sensitivity to touch and temperature. It can create aching or burning or a continual tightness that you just can’t put a finger on.
When restriction occurs, it can change movement patterns, creating barriers in the train tracks and friction between muscles, joints or organs irritating the system, nerves and other structures.
And thanks to the integration of the fascial matrix which allows us to function so magnificently, upwards of 70% of pain receptors can be found directly in or involved with fascial tissues.
Pretty cool, eh?
Now, there are lots of methods to treating fascial restrictions. Cupping, Rolfing, Stretching, Melting—the list is vast, and most will provide similar results over different timelines and intensities.
Some techniques involve ‘breaking’ the fibres, which produces similar short term results, but long term produces reoccurring scar tissue as the body heals the ‘tears’. It is also generally more uncomfortable.
In Osteopathy, we look to change the fascial restriction without breaking the functional collagen fibres—there is a reason they’re there to begin with after all! We do this by engaging, and tensioning or lifting the fascia gently, allowing it to stretch and separate naturally. While initially this might take more time, it gives patients long term results without creating reoccurring buildup as the body continues to heal.
Think you’ve got fascial involvement with your pain? Book an appointment to get yourself back to fluid movement without restriction! Remember, a balanced body does not hurt!
Waygood Manual Osteopathy
A balanced Body does NOT hurt!
PSSST--click here to check out a super cool video to see an up close and personal look at fascia, and then try this experiment below at home!
Anatomy Experiment with Fascia:
Want to get a little more hands-on with fascia? Next time you’re preparing chicken or red meat for dinner, look for the silvery, stretchy tissue that separates the skin from the meat, or the thick chunks of meat and fat!
It doesn’t count as playing if it’s educational, right?
The Holiday Season is quickly approaching, whether we are ready or not. People have already begun to bake and decorate, and the arrival of the first proper snow fall has come…and with it the cold.
While it’s supposed to be the most loving, cheerful and giving season of the year, we can not ignore the stress, cold weather, and recurrent aches and pains that accompany it, although we will try--desperately.
However, as the day light hours shorten, it seems to be an ongoing battle. When once upon an October we could have be found outside kicking leaves while enjoying the crisp fresh air in the river valley, now we tend to find ourselves inside, huddled under warm blankets, consuming tasty but rich foods and drink with our loved ones, and watching Netflix for episodes longer than we mean to.
So, with that in mind, here are a few friendly hints and reminders to keep you in the tides of health during this busy season so that you can enjoy it as much as possible—after all, winter is here, and it’s here to stay!
Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful, cheerful, and pain-free holiday season!
Waygood Manual Osteopathy
780.455.6123 for appointments.
Give yourself the gift of living pain-free!