If one were to ask people on the street what osteopathic treatment was, they might get a lot of blank looks or incorrect responses. Osteopathy has been around since the 1800’s, yet many people don’t know it exists or what it is actually about. Many other manual therapy professions use concepts and techniques that originated within the osteopathic profession. Even when others use techniques originating in the osteopathic profession, they may not get the same results. There is more to osteopathy than just the techniques. Here’s three reasons that make osteopathic treatment different:
Osteopathic physicians have very extensive training in anatomy. Patients are often amazed at all the areas that are found and treated during their osteopathic treatment. They don’t always realize until they have an experience how many areas and structures they did not know about were involved in their pain.
“No one has ever checked that before” is a common remark as people get treatment. As osteopathic physicians (D.O.’s) we are taught that where the person has pain is not necessarily where the problem is. Because of that, we have to check and treat many anatomical structures that most of the public, even professionals, don’t know exist and we have to understand how they tie into the problem the patient is having.
This means when we put our hands on a person, we’re aware of ALL of the anatomy under our hands. This means being mindful of organs, tissues, nerves, blood vessels, and anything else that is part of the body. Not only that, but we have to be able to interact with that anatomy to produce a significant change. This means understanding what an abnormal structure feels like versus a structure that is operating optimally. We also have to understand how to interact with those structures to bring health back into the area. This really is an ongoing process that an osteopathic physician can practice their whole life. There’s always more anatomy to learn.
Besides being extremely thorough, osteopathic physicians develop a more holistic understanding of the human body. Yes, we may be thorough and comprehensive, but that’s not enough to have a holistic understanding of the human body. Being holistic means understanding how affecting one part of the body can have effects throughout the rest of the body.
For example, that can mean understanding how one’s tailbone could cause headaches; how one’s liver could cause a shoulder to lose range of motion; how one’s eyes could cause neck and upper back pain. When patients experience how things may be connected during their treatment, many often say, “Well I understand everything is connected.”
Patient’s understand the concept, but knowing how to do it is a different matter. This comes through creativity, study, and experimentation. Years of it. It requires practice, an openness, and a mindset that will help the D.O. feel and learn these connections as they become more advanced.
The mindset and reasoning through a person is, in my opinion, one of the biggest differences that makes osteopathic treatment stand out. Not only do osteopathic physicians not just do a routine on their patients, but they have to have a systematic way of interpreting what information they pick up with their hands and figure out how to address problems. Each treatment must be customized based on what is happening to the patient at that time. It does not matter what a person was like on a previous visit, each time will be different if the D.O. is successfully treating problems.
The osteopathic mindset is why someone who is not an osteopathic physician can learn “osteopathic techniques” and still not get the same results when applying them. One can learn a set of techniques, but learning when to apply them and applying them correctly is different. It is learning how to reason why a person is having pain or a particular problem anatomically. It is understanding what to do if what one tries does not work.
It is the mindset while applying osteopathic principles that keeps osteopathic physicians pushing to improve not just themselves but the profession. It is this mindset that separates osteopathic treatment from those who only do routines or only work with certain structures, or don’t know how to read the body holistically. It is the osteopathic mindset that helps osteopathic physicians strive to continue to learn anatomy and make unique observations about how the body works.
I believe the above are the main reasons why I can have successes with patients when others have failed. It is the osteopathic approach that is different. It is why a patient I saw recently was able to get resolution of migraine headaches after 8-9 years trying many other types of treatments, that osteopathic treatment was able to bring her more permanent relief. It is why we could get results with the patient below when no one else, including chiropractors, could. Obviously I am biased but if you’re looking for the highest quality manual treatment, osteopathy is the best.