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Osteopathy and Health: November 2017

Photo: “Leaf trails” Bill Ward,

Of the people I saw this morning, two had waited a couple of weeks before coming to see me. That’s very normal – we are all used to having occasional aches and pains and a lot of them just go away on their own after a few days. Those that don’t clear up on their own are the ones that people bring in with them. And the question here is “why not”? almost more than “why do they happen in the first place?”

As osteopaths our philosophy is to “find the health”. (Andrew T aylor Still, who discovered osteopathy, went on to say “anyone can find disease”…). What he meant was that it’s usually pretty easy to see what’s wrong, and perhaps give it a name. The challenge is how to help the body resolve the problem. Our role as osteopaths is to help the body do this using its intrinsic resources.

Part of “finding health” is to look at the problem in the round. How long has it been there, what brought it on, is it getting better or worse, what makes it better or worse… and more besides. Beyond this we can look at whether a person is happy in their life, what strains and stresses they are under, and what can be done about them. One of the joys of having an hour with each person or parent and child is being able to spend some time discussing possible contributing factors, and working out what changes might be beneficial. It sometimes takes a minor crisis to wake us up to bad lifestyle habits we have developed like going to bed too late or drinking too much coffee.

Recently I spent a weekend on a course with fellow osteopaths looking at how to support health in a patient’s system itself. Here we get a bit more esoteric – is health a substance?? Well not exactly, but…you might not surprised if I said that stress is a factor in a lot of patient presentations and that stress is a physiological phenomenon. Symptoms of stress in adults, babies and children alike include digestive problems, inability to relax and sleep, and headaches . We have receptors for hormones on each cell of our body , so we really do feel our emotions in our whole body - see and below. A stressed body cannot repair easily or well – it finds it difficult to connect with its health, as if the stress gets in the way. So my job is to help the system “de-stress” by using calming techniques to facilitate more ease, and then support the health that is present despite the presenting problem . We always have health in reserve, it’s what keeps us going!

So to help healing we need to focus on supporting health? I would say so, yes . After 10 years in practice my reverence for the inner wisdom of each body is ever increasing. We are all individuals and our individuality is expressed through the healing journeys we make, both internally and externally. “ Life is always trying to express health” .** I don’t want to dictate to anyone how to heal, I just want to help get them to the place from which they can heal themselves.

  • Candice Pert, Molecules of Emotion; Why you feel the way you feel. New York Scribner 1997
  • ** Rollin Becker, p11 Life in Motion . Stillness Press LLC, Portland. Oregon 2006