Osteopathic Principles

My interpretation of the basic Principles of Osteopathy (For any bored Osteopaths out there)

These are the principles as commonly described. I know we could discuss epistemology, ontology, models of health and all sorts of interesting things for weeks on end and never get to a conclusion. This is how I justify calling myself an Osteopath when I am very skeptical of the rational for traditional practice and highly doubtful of the postural-biomechanical model of pain and dysfunction.

1) The body is a unit

This means that every system of the body can be impacted by influenced by another part. You can’t functionally separate the shoulder from the spine, or the low back from the hips. Being able to understand how everything relates is an integral part of Osteopathy.

From the mind, to the body’s internal relationships, to society and the environment. For example: Mental stress levels can affect the cardiovascular system (heart), digestive system, immune system,  and the hormonal (endocrine) system. Which can end up with you having high blood pressure, poor skin, low energy levels, trouble sleeping or reduced mental focus. These things and your mental state can influence your decision making in nutritional choices and can detrimentally affect your pain levels.

So when you are in pain. Remember that you are more than just the part that hurts. You have so many different structures and systems and thoughts that can play a large role in pain or dysfunction. Sometimes it is nearly impossible to fix an injury quickly – but there is so much more of you that can be healthy and thriving. Which will encourage healing!

The power that the other parts of the body, the mind, our social connections and the environment have is profound. Changing pain, awareness, body control, general health and stress. We influence and, in turn, are influenced by our thoughts, our body, the people, the media, and the world around us. Being able to identify, treat, train and maintain all aspects of the self and it’s relationships are important for total health and wellbeing.

For yourself; for your social connections; for society; and for the environment around us.

2) Structure governs function (and the corollary that function maintains and develops structure)

Dysfunction often occurs when structures of the body are compromised or injured. This will likely have an effect on the function of the body. Also, that the structure of our bodies is constantly remodelled and modified by the functions we perform.

So when we train to improve tendon strength, it changes the thickness and density of our tendons. When we stop doing exercise our bones get less dense and our muscles lose their mass.

And conversely, the structure of certain joints means that they move best is certain ways.You can move away from ‘correct’ movements – but it might not be as effective, efficient or as safe (unless done with control and appropriate preparation).

The real world doesn’t always allow ‘correct’ movement, so we have to know how to strengthen ‘misaligned’ movements and positions – to ensure the connective tissues are strong and prepared in case ‘real life’ happens. The better we can prepare our body, and develop our ‘internal armour’, the more we are able to function in challenging circumstances and remain resilient.

3) The body is its own ‘Medicine Chest’

The human body has it’s own built in healing abilities and mechanisms. These can be stimulated,  hindered or even blocked. Removing barriers to recovery is a very important part of Osteopathic thinking. Rather than try to ‘heal’ the body, the idea is to use the bodies own ability to a) Self regulate (homeostasis) and b) Adapt to overcome.

When injured, joints need movement to encourage healing. The amount of movement is dependent on the individual. You can look at it in terms of dosage. Too small a ‘dose’ of movement, and nothing happens. Too much and it’s and overdose. But the right amount has a positive effect.

The same is true for encouraging adaptation (like muscle growth or joint strength) – too much dosage of certain things can lead to pain and dysfunction. But progressively and carefully controlling and can improve the tolerance for higher doses.

4) The ‘Rule of the Artery’ is supreme

For the body to heal properly and be healthy, it needs a good blood supply. The blood provides nutrition, oxygen, immune cells and healing factors essential for healing and health. If an area has restricted blood supply or nutrition: healing is slow. This is an important part of dealing with certain injuries or pain.

Encouraging blood flow is good. Movement and exercise can act like a pump for both venous blood and the lymphatic system. Which can reduce swelling (getting rid of waste products) and encourage new blood (healing and immune factors) to enter the affected region.