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Will Aiken - Osteopathy - 2 September


What is osteopathy?

Osteopathy is a non-invasive hands-on approach to healthcare that emphasizes the role of the musculoskeletal system in health and disease. It is a manual form of therapy where osteopaths work with the body to stimulate the self regulation and self healing in the body. Osteopaths take a whole-person approach to caring for patients. Instead of treating specific symptoms or illnesses they regard the body as an integrated whole.

An illness is not seen as a problem with a particular organ but part of the illness of the whole body. A patient with angina is not ill because of his angina but has angina because he is ill.

If part of the body is restricted the rest of the body must adapt and compensate eventually leading to inflammation, pain and other health conditions. For example a patient may come in with neck pain and headaches and on examination it was found that the right shoulder was also not moving well and their appendix operation scar was stuck. Once the appendix scar is released the shoulder moves more freely and the neck pain disappears.

How was osteopathy founded?

Osteopathic medicine was developed in 1874 by Dr  Andrew Taylor Still, M.D., D.O. Dissatisfied with 19th century healthcare, he founded a philosophy of medicine based on ideas that date back to Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine  who was around in the 4th century BC which focuses on the unity of the body. Hipppocratres taught that illness was often caused by quite simple things such as eating the wrong food or living in unhygienic conditions.  He stated that the physician should assist the body to overcome disease by removing the causative factors and encouraging it to heal, but not to meddle with nature. Dr. Still pioneered the concept of wellness and identified the musculoskeletal system as a key element of health.

How long do osteopaths train for?

In New Zealand there is a five-year masters programme run at Unitec in Auckland.  This covers all the subjects usually found in a medical qualification such as anatomy, physiology and clinical diagnosis as well as osteopathic treatment and nutrition.

How is Osteopathy different from chiropractors? 

There is some overlap between all the professions. 

Osteopathy differs from chiropractic in 3 main areas philosophy, training and technique.  Chiropractic originally placed a lot of emphasis on the spinal joints and their impact on the nerves.

Although the two professions grew out of similar roots they have evolved differently.

It is the principles of osteopathy that set it apart from other manual therapies as they are strongly based on the fact that the body works as an integrated unit and is self healing.

If I go to see an Osteopath what can I expect?

The first consultation is usually between half to one hour. During which time the osteopath will take a complete medical history, carry out a physical examination, make a prelimary diagnosis and provide some treatment.  Depending on which practice you go to you may be asked to undress to your underwear so the practitioner can see how your body moves.  So wear your Sunday best.

Who can benefit from osteopathy? 

Osteopaths treat a wide range of issues throughout life. As we look at physical and emotional health, lifestyle and behavior. The patient has an enormous amount of control over their own health and part of our role is to educate them about nutrition and exercise.

We treat achy back, stiff necks elbow and knee problems.  But we also treat migraines, angina, digestive problems and hormonal issues.

The wellbeing of pregnant mothers has a major impact on the development of the foetus, what she eats, how stressed she is and how comfortable she feels.  It is important that when she gives birth  the pelvis is aligned so the baby can come out easily.  If not and it is a difficult birth both the mother and baby can be in discomfort.  This can affect the way the baby feeds and digests food.  Potentially leading to things like colic and reflux and bad sleeping patterns.

Where do Osteopaths work? 

Osteopaths are primary health care practitioners who usually work in private practice and may work alone or within a multidisciplinary center with other health practitioners including GP's, Acupuncturists, midwives and homeopaths.

If you injure yourself can you go directly to an Osteopath?

Yes, Osteopaths are primary health care providers so patients can come directly to an Osteopath if they have an injury and complete the relevant ACC form.

What can people do to help themselves and prevent injuries?

The "whole-person" approach begins with a belief in the interactions of the body, mind, and spirit, and continues with an understanding of how these dimensions can be treated holistically.  It is important to drink a reasonable amount of water, eat healthy freshly cooked food, do regular exercise that has both a cardiovascular part, which gets the heart going and a stretching aspect. 

Good posture is an essential part of looking after yourself especially if you at sitting at a computer most of the day.  A simple tip is to put a wedge cushion ( or rolled up towel) on the base of the chair to tip the top of the pelvis forward.  This straightens your spine and you sit more upright.

And if you feel pain do not hope it will get better arrange a treatment as most of the time we think we get better but the body has just compensated to avoid the pain.  This leads to more problems later on.

How do I find an Osteopath?

A good place to start is the New Zealand Osteopathic Society website.  They will have a list of Osteopaths in your area.


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