WHAT IS OSTEOPATHY?
“The fundamental principles of Osteopathy are different from those of any other system and the cause of disease is considered strictly from one standpoint: disease is the result of anatomical abnormalities followed by physiological discord.”
Andrew Taylor Still M.D., D.O.
Despite originating over 140 years ago, little is known about osteopathy by the general public. It was developed in 1874 by Andrew Taylor Still, a Missouri physician, who had become frustrated with what he viewed to be the ineffective and hazardous nature of remedies of that time. He believed that the doctor’s role in treating disease was to restore proper musculoskeletal function to the body through correcting structural problems arising within joints, muscles and connective tissues. Osteopathic treatment would return proper function to the nerves supplying every structure in the body and allow the blood to flow freely throughout the circulatory system.
Muscles, joints, internal organs, connective tissues, nerves and blood vessels function together in an integrated manner. If one part of the body is restricted, then the rest of the body must adapt and compensate for this, eventually leading to inflammation, pain, stiffness and other health conditions.
The role of the osteopath is to find the source of the problems (not to focus on symptoms), and through precise manual diagnosis and treatment, allow the body an opportunity to heal itself.
WHAT ARE THE TOOLS OF MANUAL OSTEOPATHIC PRACTICE?
The Manual Osteopath uses sense of touch called palpation to assess areas of weakness, tenderness, restrictions or strain within the human body. This palpatory ability is not a gift but rather a trained skill that takes years to develop. This allows an osteopathic practitioner to also detect almost imperceptible motion present in all living tissues called Primary Respiratory Motility (PRM). This ability is what distinguishes osteopaths from other manual practitioners allowing them to precisely locate the source of the dysfunction.
This assessment is combined with checking of position and mobility of the specific structures through orthopedic testing. There are many manual treatment techniques that may be used to treat the dysfunction. Some of them are: joint mobilization, osteoarticular (joint) adjustments, muscle energy techniques, visceral (internal organs) manipulation, myofascial release techniques, cranio-sacral therapy, osteopathic (neuromuscular) massage, and many others. This variety is part of the strength of manual osteopathy. When mastered and applied appropriately, they can be very powerful and effective. Depending on specific findings during evaluation of the patient one or more of these techniques can be used during one treatment session to address the problem. Osteopathic adjustments are very precise and gentle which eliminates the danger of injury during the treatment.
WHAT AN OSTEOPATHIC MANUAL PRACTITIONER DOES?
The typical osteopathic visit consists of a full-body evaluation. During the assessment osteopaths will look at your posture and alignment of your body, check all of your joints including the spine, pelvis, ankles, knees, hips and shoulders, evaluate the condition of your muscles, tendons and ligaments and also may use their hands to palpate position and motility of your internal organs and cranial (scull) bones.
In order to treat specific dysfunction the osteopath may use two types of manipulative therapy: direct and indirect. In direct approach the affected tissues are moved away from the area of tightness or restricted movement (eg. spinal adjustment). In indirect techniques the osteopath moves the tight tissue toward areas of restricted movement waiting for the body’s inner ability to correct this dysfunction through function of the Central Nervous System (eg. cranial adjustment).
The osteopath focuses on tracing the changes in function that have occurred over a period of time.
A typical example might be a person who, while skiing, falls very hard on his bottom. The person develops low back pain, headache and digestive dysfunctions some time after the fall. The osteopath may detect misalignment of the pelvis, sacrum or spinal joint, his liver may shift downward (ptosis), muscles go into protective spasm and cranio-sacral system develops restrictions affecting functioning of the Central Nervous System (eg. tightness of Dura Mater). In order to remove discomfort, all of these dysfunctions have to be dealt with within few treatments to successfully treat the person.
WHY DID I CHOOSE TO BECOME A MANUAL OSTEOPATH?
“An osteopath is only a human engineer, who should understand all the laws governing his engine and thereby master disease.”
Andrew Taylor Still M.D., D.O.
When I came to Canada in 1989 I did not know what type of career I should choose. After a few years of working as a structural engineer in Poland I was not sure, if I want to pursue the same profession here. I liked studying civil engineering but after all I was always fascinated more by the structure of the body and function of the human mind. For the first 5 years of living in Canada I worked different jobs, mainly general labour. Eventually, after learning English and saving some money, I decided to follow my true passion and start studies about human anatomy and physiology at the Kikkawa College - Massage Therapy School. After 1 year into the program I understood that Massage Therapy is not enough to help many complicated musculoskeletal dysfunctions. A therapy concentrated around only one system of the body, either muscular or articular (joints), does not trigger desired healing response. I started to do research about other modalities used in pain management and rehabilitation. That is how I learnt about techniques such as Strain-Counterstrain, Muscle Energy, Cranio-Sacral, Visceral Manipulation, Lymphatic Drainage and Neuromuscular Massage Therapy. During my second year of studies I took courses in each of these modalities. One of my teachers at the Massage Therapy College, John D’Aguanno R.M. T., after noticing my interest, told me about the field in the Alternative Medicine called Osteopathy that integrates all of these techniques into one therapeutic method. It addresses dysfunctions, leading to pain, at multiple levels- muscular, joint, connective tissue, fascia, vascular, lymphatic, visceral and cranial level. He told me that, instead of just treating symptoms, Manual Osteopathy aims to treat the root of the problem, addressing the body as a whole. This is how I was imagining effective treatment approach. Immediately, I decided to attend the lecture given by Philippe Druelle D.O. on the history of Osteopathy, osteopathic modalities and the academic program at the Canadian College of Osteopathy (CCO) in Toronto. During the practical presentation when Phillippe Druelle treated one of the participants suffering from lower back pain, he said that “Osteopaths are the Structural Engineers of the human body”. At that time I knew that this was the profession I wanted to learn. I was already a Structural Engineer, one thing I had to change was the structure I would work on. After graduating from Massage Therapy College, I enrolled in 5 year long program at CCO. I was trained by many well-known osteopaths: Philippe Druelle D.O., the founder of the first osteopathic college in Canada and several other schools of osteopathy worldwide, Dr. Fred L. Mitchell Jr. D.O. (together with his father Fred Mitchell Sr. D.O. created Muscle Energy Techniques), Dr. Viola M. Frymann D.O. (declared a “Living Treasure of Osteopathy”, founder of The Osteopathic Center for Children in San Diego, a student of Dr. W.G.Sutherland D.O.- creator of Cranial Osteopathic Techniques ), Guy Voyer D.O. (the creator of the ELDOA exercises and Myofascial Stretches), and many other known osteopaths. Eventually, after establishing a successful practice and founding an integrative therapy clinic, OsteoKlinika Pain Management and Rehabilitation, I decided to continue my studies at the National Academy of Osteopathy and National University of Medical Sciences (Doctor of Osteopathy program), both founded by Dr. Shahin Pourgol, MBA, DC, DO, PhD – an Osteopath with the mission to teach Manual Osteopathy in every country of the world. What I like about these programs is that Dr. Pourgol puts emphasis not only on teaching science based osteopathic techniques, but also on business and clinical management, so crucial in achieving success as a Manual Osteopath.
Osteopathy became my passion and it gives me an enormous satisfaction to be able to treat many musculoskeletal conditions for people suffering from pain and restricted range of motion.