is a gentle form of hands on manual medicine that primarily treats the neuro- musculoskeletal (neurological, muscular and skeletal) systems of the body. Osteopaths are trained to assess and treat the body's natural movement and functioning as a whole and integrated unit.
We recognize that there is an inherent connection between how the state of the body’s structure, and its functioning, influences the entire body. Due to this, Osteopaths seek to improve the entire body system and it's functioning, to enhance, improve and maintain optimal health and well being. We do this by assessing and treating all aspects of the body, not just the areas that present with pain. Why? Because the cause of symptoms, such as pain, don't always arise from the area that is painful. To be effective, we look at how all body systems, including the visceral, circulatory, nervous and lymphatic systems, relate and can influence the functioning of the nervous, muscle and joint systems.
Osteopathy, Arthritis & Chronic Pain
Osteopaths treat a wide variety of injuries and conditions in both adults and children, including arthritis.
Arthritis, and it's many forms, Osteoarthritis (generally from injury, surgery, wear and tear), and other forms such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Psoriatic Arthritis and other Auto-Immune and Inflammatory Diseases, can be addressed with osteopathy.
How Osteopathy Helps
Osteopathic treatment helps play an important role in managing and controlling the painful inflammatory arthritis response and symptoms, which typically include:
Muscle spasming, tightness & stiffness
Restriction of joint movement & mobility
Local and systemic inflammation
Osteopaths are trained to assess and treat based on specific protocols, but we are also trained to "treat what we find". This means that an osteopathic treatment is unique to each patient, even though they may have the same "condition or diagnosis".
Many of the techniques we use to help patients with chronic pain, be it from arthritis or another cause, include:
Soft Tissue Therapy
Mobilization of joints (rhythmic movements at joints to improve mobility)
Muscle Energy Release Techniques (resistance followed by stretching)
Myofascial (connective tissue) release
Visceral (Organ) Therapy
The Nervous System & Pain
Chronic pain often has another and very unwanted effect on the nervous system: The nervous system can become "facilitated", or over-sensitized and hypersensitive. This causes us to feel pain more easily, more frequently, and with greater intensity. The primary reason for this is because of the basic neuro-physiology of the pain response - the hows and whys of the pain process. When in chronic pain, we can remain in a state of Fight or Flight, which keeps our Sympathetic Nervous System engaged and active.
Both external and/or internal stress, cause the Sympathetic (‘fight or flight’) branch of our Autonomic Nervous System to be triggered. This then creates a chain of physical reactions throughout the body – right down to the level of the genes. Our bodies start to produce cytokines – a type of protein known to cause cellular level inflammation. If this inflammation persists, it can lead to, and worsen, many chronic mental, emotional and physical diseases. It also contributes to premature aging. Inflammation may very well be the single most important cause of this degeneration.
Osteopathic treatments have been shown to have a positive effect on regulating the Central Nervous System, and helping it shift from the Sympathetic "Fight or Flight" Response, and remain in the Parasympathetic System, or Rest & Digest mode. By reducing this hypersensitivity of the nerves, spinal cord and brain, the chronic pain response is interrupted, and the body and mind relax. This allows the body to reach a state of restoration, unlike pharmaceuticals which simply mask the sympathetic response and don't address the underlying issue along with adding and extra burden of toxicity to the body. Many pain medications, even those over the counter "staples", are associated with addiction, liver toxicity, kidney dysfunction, heart attack and even Dementia. Osteopathy is a "clean" treatment modality that not only helps address the cause and effect of pain, it also helps to bolster the immune, digestive, lymphatic, and circulatory systems which is detoxing to the entire system. It's a win-win situation!
This is why "homework" after treatment will often include methods of stress reduction; it has been shown repeatedly that particular emotions, such as anger, anxiety, and worry, and stress, can effect the way that our brains not only respond to pain, but how it actually creates it. Interupting this neurological feedback loop is key to managing pain and maintaining a healthy physical, mental and emotional balance. In fact, a recently released study has shown just how effective and powerful mind-body interventions (MBI) are: “The results of 18 studies that used gene expression analysis in research on meditation and related MBIs have overall found downregulation of NF-κB-targeted genes, which can be understood as the reversal of the molecular signature of the effects of chronic stress; this is the opposite of the effects of chronic stress on gene expression and suggests that MBI practices may lead to a reduced risk of inflammation-related diseases.”(1)
This is one reason why Osteopathy is so much more of a "pain resolution" treatment method, instead of simply a means of "pain management".
When in pain, it is a natural reaction to want to protect and minimize movement. In many cases of chronic pain, however, this has an opposite and undesired effect: More pain, less flexibility and strength, and more frustration.
Osteopaths frequently recommend appropriate physical exercise to ensure that you are moving in a safe manner for your body.
Part of Your Wellness Team
Finally, Osteopaths are happy to work with your existing team of medical practitioners in order to best provide a comprehensive and balanced approach to your healing. The freedom to move without pain is one of the most fundamental joys in life, and osteopathy is a key cog in that Health & Wellness Wheel.
Contact Healing Hands Osteopathy to see how we can best help you on your healing journey.