What is Osteopathy?

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Manual Osteopathy is a holistic, non-invasive, and drug-free form of hands-on therapy. The primary focus is the musculoskeletal system (muscles, fascia, ligaments and joints), organs, and the central nervous system. Instead of focusing solely on the problem area, Manual Osteopaths treat the root cause of pain. Typical treatments focus on the joints, muscle, and spine with the end goal of treating the body’s nervous, circulatory, and lymphatic systems. Manual Osteopaths return balance to the musculoskeletal, cranial, cardiovascular, visceral and neurological systems of the body.

What does Osteopathy treat?

  • Back pain
  • Sciatica and disc problems
  • Head, neck and shoulder pain
  • Frozen shoulder, rotator cuff problems
  • Pain in joints and limbs
  • Tennis and golfer’s elbow
  • Neuralgia and sinus pain
  • Arthritis and rheumatism
  • Nerve irritation
  • TMJ
  • Spondylosis and tension pain
  • Stress related conditions
  • Digestive and breathing problems
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Sports injuries
  • Repetitive strain injuries
  • Whiplash injuries
  • Pregnancy and associated problems

What are the advantages of Osteopathy?

  • Removes the underlying cause of pain
  • Relieves chronic pain through non-invasive treatment
  • Helps the body to adapt to hormonal and structural changes during pregnancy
  • Encourages the body to heal itself
  • Reduces pain and stiffness in joints
  • Reduces muscle spasms
  • Increases spinal and muscle flexibility
  • Improves blood flow to the muscles and tissues
  • Enhances immune system function
  • Improves digestive tract
  • Enhances athletic performance
  • Reduces risk of injury
  • Increases range of motion
  • Increases energy
  • Treats spinal problems resulting from poor posture or spinal disc injuries
  • Reduces tension in the body
  • Relieves tension headaches and migraine headaches
  • Reduces visible scarring and adhesion on the skin
  • Treats trauma from accidents, sports injuries and motor vehicle injuries
  • Increases circulation and healthy heart rate
  • Reduces blood pressure and associated diseases

What to expect during an Osteopath appointment:

An initial consultation will take place before any active treatment or management begins. During the consultation, the Manual Osteopath will discuss the patient’s health problems, listen and take notes. Next, they will do a physical examination. This includes a postural evaluation with regard to the centre line of gravity done looking at how you move and how you stand still. Range of motion tests will be performed to identify joint restrictions. Palpation is used to assess muscular, fascial and organ mobility and motility. Evaluation and treatment will occur at the same time as the practitioner is always assessing during the actual hands-on treatment. The Manual Osteopath will monitor the response of the body during treatment. Patients usually feel better shortly after a treatment, although it is possible to feel achy and/or sore after the treatment for up to 48 hours.

Please feel free to bring any and all test results, scans, X-rays, MRIs or diagnosis to the consultation or treatment. The patient should wear loose clothing that is non-restricting to simplify ease of movement during the session.

Manual Osteopathy is tailored to meet the requirements of the individual patient and techniques are selected to meet the patient’s needs. It relieves pain, improves mobility and to restore health and vitality. Treatment focuses on getting to the root of the problem, not just addressing and or suppressing the symptoms.

Treatment Methods:

Manual Osteopath practitioners use Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) to treat patients with asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, sinus disorders, and migraines. OMT uses a range of techniques including palpation and manipulation of muscles, bones, and joints, as well as soft tissue stretching, mobilization of joints, and deep tactile pressure. Manual Osteopath practitioners use two main types of treatment techniques: direct and indirect. The first, direct techniques include massage, joint manipulation, joint articulation, and stretching. With indirect techniques, the Manual Osteopath works with patients to help them learn to self heal. This type of treatment is often used on children, the elderly, and for patients with chronic pain.

Soft Tissue Manipulation- The practitioner uses soft tissue manipulation in many different ways. In general, they use it to evaluate the condition of tissues and to help the body’s fluids (such as blood and lymphatic fluid) flow smoothly. Keeping fluids flowing smoothly reduces harmful fluid retention and makes the body’s immune system more effective. Fascia is tissue found in all parts of the body. It connects all of the body’s structures at both superficial and deep levels. Practitioners evaluate the fascia to find areas of restriction, and then use soft tissue manipulation to make sure the length and tension of the fascia are properly balanced. Throughout the treatment, Manual Osteopaths keep checking on the state of the body’s tissues. If one technique isn’t working to correct a restriction, they use another approach instead. Above all, Manual Osteopaths try to restore health without over-treating.

Manual Osteopathic Articular Technique- Manual Osteopaths use this technique to reduce muscle spasms near a joint, ease neurological irritations around a joint, make joints more mobile and to reduce pain and discomfort. The articular technique involves gently moving 2 joint surfaces. Before doing this, Manual Osteopaths carefully prepare the soft tissues around the treatment area. They also move the patient into a position that will minimize, or eliminate the energy and force needed to perform the manoeuvre. Many patients find this technique less forceful than joint manipulations.

Cranial Osteopathy- This is a very gentle technique, as it requires the most experience to use effectively. To learn this technique, Manual Osteopaths undergo intensive training. Through this training, their hands become sensitive to the cranial mobility and develop great precision in utilizing cranial techniques. They use this gentle technique to assess and treat the mobility of the skull and its contents. They may also use it to assess and treat the spine, the sacrum, and other parts of the body. The goal of this technique is to adjust the body’s physiology by restoring balance to the circulation of the blood and other body fluids. Manual Osteopaths do this by treating the body’s inherent biorhythm. They are able to feel this rhythm in the patient’s head, spinal cord, and in the sacrum and the rest of the body. Manual Osteopaths use the biorhythm to assess the patient’s condition, and they may modify it during treatment.

Visceral Manipulation- Manual Osteopaths use visceral manipulation to treat organs and viscera of the body, including the lungs, heart, liver, spleen, kidneys, stomach, pancreas, intestines, bladder and uterus. Patients may feel pain in one or more of these organs, or the viscera may be less pliable than it should be. Manual osteopaths gently move the structures themselves and the fascia (connective tissue) that surrounds them to restore full movement. Most patients treated with visceral manipulation feel only gentle pressure of the Manual Osteopath’s hand, but the corrections are powerful enough to improve the mobility of an organ, improve blood flow, and help the organ function more effectively.

Positional Release Technique- Also known as PRT, is a gentle, indirect technique of moving the body or body part away from the painful point or area of restriction and towards the position of greatest comfort or ease. The position of ease is where the point should no longer be tender. Position is held for 60-90 seconds. Often when the tissue is held in a position of ease, circulation improves (temporarily) in the surrounding tissues and muscle tone is decreased. It can positively affect change in soft tissues as well as joints. In this time, the patient can feel vibration, pulsation, heat, and pain will lessen or go away. There will be a sense of lengthening and relaxation in the tissues. The position of ease should decrease the pain by at least 70% once the release is felt.

The above (and many other) Manual Osteopathic techniques and approaches are used in a coordinated and rational fashion to slowly adjust the patient’s anatomy and physiology towards normal, so that the patient’s body can heal itself.

Philosophy of Osteopathic Treatment

The philosophy of osteopathic treatment is explained in a book written by Dr. Still called Philosophy of Osteopathy. This book from the end of the 1800s explains why techniques are applied and the benefits of osteopathic treatments. The philosophy has three fundamental theories.

  1. The musculoskeletal system is a element in maintaining good health
  2. The body has a natural ability of self heal and self regulate
  3. The parts of the body make up a unified whole

The musculoskeletal system makes up 2/3 of the body’s mass that includes bones, muscles, and cartilage and impacts the rest of the body and its condition. Preventative treatment method including fitness and good nutrition promotes healthy bodily functions that are able to combat diseases and heal injury rather than relying on medications alone. The last fundamental theory promotes whole body mobilization to fight diseases and heal injuries.

History of Osteopathic Medicine

Dr. Andrew Taylor Still founded the practice of osteopathic medicine in 1874. Dr. Still was an American physician and surgeon during the Civil War. He sought further understanding of the medical profession and through research and experience he decided there was a better way to treat patients than the conventional treatments, following the deaths of three of his children to spinal meningitis. Dr. Still believed that illness was related to problems associated with the musculoskeletal system and manipulation could treat the problems. In addition, Dr. Still advocated healthy living and abstinence from alcohol. His treatment regime forbade patients from taking any type of medication.

Dr. Still opened the American School of Osteopathy, the first osteopathic school at Kirksville, Missouri in 1892. Students at the school formed the organization now known as the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) in 1897. The organization implemented standards for osteopathic medicine education. The AOA was accredited by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1952 and received accreditation from the Council for Higher Education in 1967. Standards for curriculum and length of study were formed by the Associated Colleges of Osteopathy in 1898.

Today, people in Canada benefit from both European-trained osteopaths (non-physician manual practitioners) and practitioners trained in Canada.  Both provide individual benefit of skills and knowledge of to develop a distinctly Canadian system of osteopathic care. Many of the training programs in Canada emphasize research delivering high standards of osteopathic education, training, and treatment benefiting practitioners and patients.


Is Osteopathy care covered by OHIP?
Manual Osteopathic Practice is not covered under OHIP. However, many extended health care plans do cover a portion of Manual Osteopathic treatments. As of right now though, we can not direct bill for Manual Osteopathic treatments and the client will need to submit it themselves to their insurance company.

Do I need a referral to see a Manual Osteopath?
No. The rules are the same as Massage Therapy which means that you do not have to be referred to a Manual Osteopath by a family physician or anybody else – you can consult them directly. However, some third-party insurance carriers may require a referral from a family physician for insurance claim re-reimbursements.

Is Manual Osteopathic care safe?
Majority of Manual Osteopathy treatments are pain free, with some exceptions due to the inflammation within the joints and the muscles, on occasion, there may be some temporary discomfort during or after a treatment. However, by continuing the assigned treatment plan, you will feel more relaxed and will eventually be able to move pain free! Visceral Manipulations and Cranio-Sacral Therapy are completely pain free.

Do I need to disrobe or take off any articles of clothing during my appointment?
No, all Manual Osteopathic procedures are completed while the patient is fully clothed. If you need to undress, your Manual Osteopath will then leave the room. Some clients prefer to disrobe, while others prefer to leave on their clothes or partially disrobe. Your Manual Osteopath will knock on the door to be sure you are ready before re-entering. Manual Osteopaths will only uncover the part of the body they are working on to ensure your modesty is respected. Periodically you will be asked if the pressure is okay – please be sure to communicate with your Manual Osteopath about the pressure you prefer.

What is the “cracking” noise I hear during a Manual Osteopathic adjustment?
When a Manual Osteopath performs an adjustment, a pressure difference is created within the synovial joint. Gases are released which cause an audible sound to be heard. The bones themselves are not breaking or cracking. It’s exactly the same as when you “crack” your knuckles!

“Is Manual Osteopathic treatment safe?
Manual Osteopath’s use drug-free, non-invasive techniques to restore motion to all components of the human body including dysfunctional spinal or extremity joints, while treating the involved muscles, nerves and surrounding soft tissues as well as promote proper flow of fluids like blood, lymph and cerebrospinal fluid.

How long will I need Manual Osteopathic care?
The duration of Manual Osteopathic care varies with respect to your symptom(s), age, prior health history, and the severity of your issue. No two patients are alike, as physical, mental and emotional response to treatments differs between individuals. In addition, a Manual Osteopath may recommend acute, preventative, and/or maintenance care, thus making a certain number of visits necessary. A common treatment plan involves roughly 5 treatments of one hour for full recovery.

Ultimate Health Clinic is a proud member of Osteopathy Chronic Pain Clinics of Canada

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