Osteopathy could be the cure

“An osteo what?” – The answer nine of my 10 friends gave me when I told them I was seeing an osteopath for a muscle injury. They’re not alone – most South Africans fall into this category.Fact is osteopathy, a “hands-on” manual therapy, has been around since the 1870s (before chiropractic and physiotherapy), but in South Africa it’s still relatively unknown.

According to Dr Guy Ashburner (on behalf of the osteopathic profession), there are only 50 registered osteopaths in South Africa compared with more than 5 000 in the United Kingdom.

Guy runs an osteopathic clinic in Constantia and patients come from all over the Peninsula to get treatment for a wide range of problems which include back pain, disc injuries, pain in the neck, sciatica, trapped nerves, headaches, joint and muscle pain, symptoms of arthritis, sport related injuries, fibromyalgia, pain during pregnancy, infantile colic, irritable babies as well as latching and suckling difficulties.

According to Guy, osteopathy is not the same as chiropractic or physiotherapy. “Osteopaths take into account not only physical symptoms, but also the patient’s lifestyle and attitudes, as well as his or her overall health, effectively treating the patient as a whole. The osteopath considers physical, environmental and stress factors simultaneously, whereas the general medical practitioner would usually treat these factors individually and in isolation from each other.”

Osteopaths, chiropractors and physiotherapists treat the same conditions with different approaches.

“If you’re thinking you may need to see a chiropractor or physiotherapist, then seeing an osteopath is suitable. Many of our patients have seen many therapists and prefer our holistic osteopathic approach.”

While chiropractors tend to be very focused on a range of techniques for manipulation of the spine, osteopaths do not manipulate (click) a joint the way chiropractors do.

“We make use of a wider range of techniques for the whole body. Apart from manipulation, osteopaths use other techniques such as stretches, massage and gentle release techniques (cranial osteopathy) without any ‘clicking’ of the joints.”

Guy believes this “hands-on” therapy can help restore the normal mobility of the musculoskeletal system which in turn improves the function of the nervous, circulatory and immune systems and allows faster healing, reducing pain, congestion and restriction within the body.

“By paying attention to the significance of any alteration in structure or function (the joints, muscles, ligaments, bones and connective tissue), an osteopath is able to interpret whole patterns of aches, pains and general health problems.”

If you suffer from headaches, for example, it could be the final symptom of lower-back or foot-related problems.

“If you have a knee injury, an osteopath will also assess whether there may be any involvement of other areas with a mechanical relationship to the knee, such as the foot, hip, lower back and pelvis, and the associated soft tissues,” explains Guy.

It’s all about treating the underlying causes.

Guy studied at the British School of Osteopathy in the United Kingdom and also has a post-graduate diploma in paediatric osteopathy. He emigrated to South Africa in 2006, after which he opened his clinic Osteopathy Cape Town.

He is passionate about correct posture and appropriate exercise and goes as far as saying that if no one had bad posture, most medical practitioners would be without a job. “Good posture is the cornerstone of good health,” says Guy.

“It’s so basic – if it’s moving, it’s working. A lack of mobility to a greater of lesser degree will contribute to many medical conditions. The more movement, the better your body works, that’s nature. It’s all about keeping it simple.”

The first consultation with an osteopath will include a detailed case history leading to a patient’s present symptoms. A physical examination is then conducted to evaluate the body’s biomechanics (structure, posture and physical movements).

“Subsequent manual therapy will range from very subtle techniques used for babies, through to more robust methods for athletes. Some of these include gentle releasing, joint articulation and manipulation, muscle stretching, rhythmic joint movements, soft tissue massage, trigger point therapy and lymphatic drainage,” explains Guy.

The number of visits will depend on the severity and duration of the illness or injury and can range from between two to six consultations. Consultation time ranges from 45 to 60 minutes.

View a list of common complains that Osteopathy can assist with

Discovery the benefits of Osteopathy