While modern technology enables doctors to enhance parts of the conception process, the price tag is high and investigations do not always find the reason for infertility. However, in recent years, health care consciousness is shifting from medical procedures and pharmaceutical-driven methods to healthy natural approaches for the treatment of infertility.
Osteopathic treatment combines an extensive knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics to restore structural freedom in the tissues, enhance fluid flow throughout the body, and create the optimal environment for nature to take its natural course.
How can your structure affect your physiology for reproductive health and fertility?
Your structure is your anatomy – bones, muscles, fascia, ligaments, tendons, organs and different systems down to your cells. The position and mobility of your musculoskeletal framework and internal organs may influence the normal functioning of other body’s systems – neurological, circulatory, lymphatic and hormonal.
Structures of the body
An osteopath will consider all the structures of the body and how their ability to move effectively and efficiently affects reproductive health.
The uterus is a mobile organ which is bent and tilted forward, its position depends on whether the bladder and intestines are empty or full as it sits between the two. The uterus can become compressed by buildup of waste matter (constipation) in the colon which has the potential to effect venous drainage leading to pelvic congestion. Ligaments attach the uterus to the pelvic bones and maintain its position. If your pelvis is out of alignment or if there is abnormal tension in the pelvic floor muscles this may impact on your uterus. If it is inhibited in its motion, this will affect fluid flow and tissue health,causing difficulties with implantation and possibly placental problems.
The fallopian tubes extend from the uterus to the ovaries and are movable structures, contacting with the small intestines, bladder and the colon. After the egg leaves the ovary, it travels down the fallopian tubes to the uterus for implantation. If the fallopian tubes don’t move normally, then fertilisation can occur, but implantation cannot. The fertilised egg does not complete its voyage.
The ovaries are important in hormone balance and must be movable, and have adequate blood supply and drainage. The ovaries are supported by ligaments attaching them to the uterus, fallopian tubes, pelvic wall and lumbar fascia. If the ovaries are not moving well, they have altered hormone output, and, they can make having a baby challenging. Dysfunction of the small intestines (bloating, reflux, IBS ) may cause congestion of the ovaries, compromising blood flow and lymphatic drainage.
The nervous system
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is a part of the nervous system. Within the ANS are two branches that govern bodily functions -the parasympathetic and the sympathetic.
The sympathetic nerves exit from the spine and should they become irritated or the corresponding joints lose mobility, they can change the neurological state and create a stress response. A stress response alters the flow of both blood and lymphatic fluid resulting in congestion and stagnation. The sympathetic nerves exit the spine at the mid and lower back regions. Misalignment of the spine, sacrum or lower ribs may impact autonomic function. Low back and hip pain is indicative of altered alignment and mechanics, often a result of postural habits or earlier trauma.
The parasympathetic nerves to the pelvic organs exit the sacrum, at the base of the spine and can become irritated with dysfunction, poor mobility or trauma to the pelvis, sacrum or coccyx (from falling on your bottom for example). This may cause poor drainage of the pelvic area, impeding delivery of essential reproductive hormones and removal of waste products.
The brain (hypothalamus and pituitary glands) influences hormone balance. Muscle and fascial tension and restricted joint mobility in the neck, chest and upper back and within the skull itself may restrict blood supply and drainage altering hormonal communication with the rest of the body.
Forward head posture, whiplash injuries, altered breathing patterns, head trauma (causing strain patterns in the skull), headaches, foggy brain, neck and shoulder pain may predispose to dysfunction at this level.
Scar tissue may contribute to altered reproductive function. Fascial adhesions and scar tissue may impact on mobility of internal structures causing them to stick together and even alter organ position. Adhesion formation can be created by trauma, surgical procedures, infections, endometriosis. Signs and symptoms of adhesions include chronic abdominal or pelvic conditions and difficulty with bowel movements. Alterations in structure anywhere in the body can affect the function elsewhere. Even knee or ankle problems may affect reproductive health via the effect on other structures from altered gait mechanics and alignment.
Osteopathic treatment for infertility
Osteopathic treatment for infertility seeks to improve function of the musculoskeletal, circulatory, nervous and hormonal systems, as well as the release of emotional stress. Osteopathy may aid fertility by releasing tensions in and around the pelvic anatomy and the spine by use a variety of osteopathic techniques to increase joint mobility, improve spinal and soft tissue health, visceral motility and improve circulation. Osteopathy techniques can be applied to an area that has influence over other areas of the body thus achieving the desired outcome.
Infertility causes include problems connected to the pelvic region, hormonal imbalances, emotional stress and other associated ailments. Faulty body mechanics, incorrect body posture or misalignment of the organs will lead to abnormal blood flow and nerve function, which are vital for optimal reproductive system function.
For couples wanting to become parents, osteopathy is a viable, natural choice. It may allow you to conceive naturally, or to get better results out of fertility treatment. In fact, the conclusion of a report entitled, Combined Manual Therapy Techniques for the Treatment of Women With Infertility; A Case Series, published in the Journal of The American Osteopathic Association (October 2012, Volume 112, No 10) states that there’s a significant probability of increasing fertility through osteopathy. ‘For six of the 10 women in the present case series report, fertility rates improved after manual therapy was applied to the pelvic area. Furthermore research is needed to assess the efficacy of manual therapy as a treatment option for infertile women.’
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