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In line with advice from the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC), the governing body of the osteopathic profession, it is the policy of Leek Deansgate Osteopaths to enable patients to make informed decisions about their treatment and their consent to it. This entails making sure a clear explanation of the diagnosis and what treatment will involve is always given to each patient. It also includes outlining adverse reactions to treatments that may occur, and what the risk is of this happening.

Adverse reactions to treatment are possible with any effective medical procedure. When associated with osteopathy they are usually mild, such as a temporary increase in symptoms or muscle soreness. Whilst most patients do not suffer with this, it is not uncommon and in the majority of cases will resolve within 24 hours (Carnes et al 2010), possibly lasting up to 72 hours.

The more serious treatment reactions such as vascular damage and major neurological incapacity are very rare. The procedure most commonly queried is cervical (neck) manipulation in relation to strokes and injury to blood vessels. Research shows that the risk of stroke or damage to blood vessels following cervical manipulation is between 1 in 120,000 and 1 in 1.6 million. The risk of lumbar disc damage following manipulation is approximately 1 in 38,000 (Carnes et al 2010). To put this in perspective the risk to the general population of the UK of a stroke for any other reason is 1 in 1000 (Carnes et al 2010), and the risk of potentially fatal bleeds from the use of NSAID drugs such as Diclofenac or Ibuprofen is as high as 1 in 4000 (Dabbs & Lauretti 1995), yet these are prescribed and bought over the counter every day.

Whilst these levels of risk are extremely small, at Leek Deansgate Osteopaths we appreciate how serious these events are no matter how unlikely they may be, and we take patient safety very seriously. This is one of many reasons why patients should always ensure that their treatment is performed by practitioners comprehensively trained in their field.

Carnes, D., Mars, T., Mullinger, B., Froud, R., Underwood, M. (2010). Adverse Reactions in Manual Therapy: A Systematic Review. Manual Therapy. 15, 355-363
Dabbs, V., Lauretti, W. J. (1995). A Risk Assessment of Cervical Manipulation vs. NSAIDS for the Treatment of Neck Pain. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 18(8):530-536

Osteopathy was founded in North America in 1874 by Dr Andrew Taylor Still of Kirksville, Missouri. The son of a medical doctor, Still went to medical school and received formal medical training. His rejection of traditional medical treatment arose from the death of three of his children from meningitis and his feelings of inadequacy and helplessness to do anything to help them survive. He concluded that orthodox medical practices of his day were frequently ineffective and devoted the next ten years of his life to studying the human body and finding other ways to treat disease. Dr Still thought that the body’s systems were inter-related and dependent upon one another for good health and that “bones out of place” could damage blood and nerve supply, hence causing illness.

Dr Still’s research led him to believe that the musculoskeletal system contained all the elements needed to restore health if properly stimulated and by correcting problems in the body’s structure through manual techniques, the body’s ability to function and heal itself could be greatly improved. This specialised form of treatment he referred to as ‘osteopathy’.

In 1892 he opened the first osteopathic school in Kirksville and at the turn of the century osteopathy was brought to the United Kingdom. The British School of Osteopathy was founded in 1917 by a student of Dr Still’s, Dr Martin Littlejohn, and today is one of the largest osteopathic teaching centres in Europe.

Osteopathy is a system of clinical practice that looks at the individual from a mechanical point of view, it emphasises the importance of the musculoskeletal system to the overall health of the individual. Osteopaths believe that the musculoskeletal system contains all the elements to restore health if properly stimulated through various manual techniques, correcting problems in the body’s structure and providing an environment for the body to heal itself.

Due to legislation which came into effect in March 2011, osteopaths and other healthcare professionals must only make claims for treatments that have been scientifically proven. As with most complementary therapies osteopathy, its effects and its mechanism of action has not been proven scientifically despite having been found to be anecdotally very effective in pain management for a variety of patients from the very young to the elderly. However, research into osteopathy and its effects is rapidly gathering pace. As a result it is important to point out that any information found on this website has not been qualified by scientific research and any treatment you undertake will be at your discretion.

Neither the Committee of Advertising Practice nor the Advertising Standards Authority has assessed to which, if any, serious medical conditions osteopaths may refer but the Committee of Advertising Practice accepts that osteopaths may claim to help the following medical conditions:

  • Generalised aches and pains
  • Joint pains including hip and knee pain from osteoarthritis as an adjunct to core osteoarthritis treatments and exercise
  • Arthritic pain
  • General, acute and chronic back ache, back pain
  • Uncomplicated mechanical neck pain
  • Headache arising from the neck
  • Frozen shoulder/shoulder and elbow pain/tennis elbow arising from associated musculoskeletal conditions of the back and neck, but not isolated occurrences
  • Circulatory problems
  • Cramp
  • Digestive problems
  • Joint pains, lumbago
  • Sciatica
  • Muscle spasms
  • Neuralgia
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Inability to relax
  • Rheumatic pain
  • Minor sport’s injuries and tensions

Osteopaths work with their hands to improve the health and function of the body’s musculoskeletal system – the joints, muscles and ligaments. Through a highly developed sense of touch called palpation, the osteopath will endeavour to identify any points of weakness or excessive strain throughout the body. Rather than just treating the area that is symptomatic, osteopaths will search for the underlying cause of the problem. This may be well away from the area giving pain and once addressed will reduce the chance of the condition recurring.

As a result of trauma, overstrain or illness your body’s tissues may become restricted in their ability to move, this restriction can upset the body’s self-healing ability and give rise to symptoms. By removing these restrictions osteopathy creates an environment for the body to repair itself. Osteopaths use specific joint manipulations, gentle articulations and soft tissue massage to remove restriction and relieve pain.

Structural osteopathy is a loosely used term to indicate the more traditional forms of mechanical manipulations used during assessment and treatment by an osteopath. This form of osteopathy is better known to the general public and employs a number of differing techniques. Techniques used involve mobilising joints and massaging soft tissues, both of which most people are familiar with. These mobilisations may be slow and rhythmical or they may be small with very high velocity movements, which may result in a ‘crack’. The cracking is a result of gapping apart the joint, causing a pressure difference and drawing nitrogen out of solution into a gas. This subsequently leads to increased range of movement and decreased muscle tone locally, aiding fluid movement and providing an environment for the body to heal itself.

As osteopaths, we have an understanding of tissue behaviour in response to stress, both physical and mental and what effect subsequent physical manipulations may have. One such physical manipulation is myofacial release. This involves the facia, or connective tissue of the body. The purpose of myofacial release is to stretch and elongate the facia; this is done through both massage and actual stretching. This can then be modified/adapted to perform a strain-counterstrain technique, which involves establishing areas of pain or tenderness in your tissues, then moving to the joint that is in conjunction with that tenderness. By manipulating that joint, the osteopath will find the angle that best releases or diminishes the pain and tenderness and will hold that angle for a short period of time. This manipulation is used to increase range of motion and can lead to decreased muscle pain.

Another technique commonly used by osteopaths to improve mobility is the muscle energy technique. Briefly, this involves the osteopath moving a joint to its ‘barrier’. The barrier is the point where the muscle or muscles involved start to resist movement, at this point you lightly resist the pressure applied for several seconds. This process is repeated several times, each time gradually increasing range of movement.

As osteopaths we recognise that every individual is different in presenting complaint, morphology and physical history and so, commonly, a combination of techniques will be employed to treat you as an individual.

Cranial osteopathy is a refined and subtle type of osteopathic treatment that encourages the release of stresses and tensions throughout the body, including the head. It is a gentle yet extremely effective approach and may be used in a wide range of conditions for people of all ages, from birth to old age.

Cranial osteopaths are trained to feel a very subtle, rhythmical shape change that is present in all body tissues. This is called Involuntary Motion or the Cranial Rhythm. The movement is of very small amplitude, therefore it takes practitioners with a very finely developed sense of touch to feel it. This rhythm was first described in the early 1900’s by Dr William G Sutherland and its existence was confirmed in a series of laboratory tests in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Tension in the body disrupts the cranial rhythm. Practitioners compare what your rhythm is doing to what they consider ideal. This shows them what stresses and strains your body is under at present, and what tensions it may be carrying as a result of its past history. It also gives them an insight into the overall condition of your body, for example if it is healthy, or stressed and tired.

Cranial osteopathy can be useful during pregnancy and childbirth and for the treatment of babies and children.

Pregnancy is a unique and powerful experience. Enormous physical, hormonal and emotional changes take place over a relatively short period of time. The body has to adapt to carrying up to 9.07kg of baby, waters and placenta, which can impose physical strain on all the organs and tissues.

Discomforts of Pregnancy

Aches and pains are common during pregnancy, as the body changes shape to accommodate the increasing size and weight of the uterus. This involves considerable changes to posture.

Postural changes may cause backache, neckache, headaches, sciatica, aching legs and undue fatigue.

Nausea and vomiting can cause debilitating physical strains in the diaphragm and ribs.

As the uterus expands, it can stretch and squash the diaphragm contributing to heartburn.

Postural changes through the lower ribs and spine can impede the action of the diaphragm and make breathing difficult.

Tension within the pelvis or diaphragm area can increase resistance to the return of venous blood to the heart from the lower half of the body. This can cause or aggravate varicose veins in the legs, and haemorrhoids.

An important part of preparation for childbirth is to ensure that the mother’s pelvis is structurally balanced and able to allow the passage of the baby down the birth canal.

Trauma to the pelvic bones, coccyx or sacrum at any time in a mother’s life can leave increased tension in muscles and strains with the ligaments and bones of the pelvis. This can limit the ability of these bones to separate and move out of the way during labour and thus limit the size of the pelvic outlet. Osteopathic treatment aims to release old strains within the pelvis, thus giving the best chance of an easy and uncomplicated labour.

Birth is one of the most stressful events of our lives. The baby is subjected to enormous forces, as the uterus pushes to expel the baby against the natural resistance of the birth canal. The baby has to twist and turn as it squeezes through the bony pelvis, on its short but highly stimulating and potentially stressful journey.

Many babies are born with odd shaped heads as a result. In the first few days the head can usually be seen to gradually lose the extreme moulded shape, as the baby suckles, cries and yawns. However, this unmoulding process is often incomplete, especially if the birth has been difficult or was assisted with forceps or ventouse. As a result, the baby may have to live with some very uncomfortable stresses within its head and body.

Some babies cope extremely well with even quite severe retained moulding and compression and are contented and happy. For others it is a different story. Osteopaths have some observations about how these retained compressions and stresses might affect the baby.

Compression in the bones and linings of the skull

The baby may be uncomfortable, with a constant feeling of pressure in the structures of the head. This may be made worse by the extra pressure on the head when lying down. Physical compressions may also affect function. Osteopaths consider that the structure of the head and body has a profound affect on their functioning. Unresolved birth compressions around the base of the skull and the ears can compromise drainage of the Eustachian (Auditory) Tube and leave the ears more vulnerable to recurrent infections and glue ear.

Pressure on nerves

Osteopaths consider that the nerves to the lips, cheeks and tongue can be affected by birth compressions. These nerves exit the base of the skull and in the baby this area is not as well protected as it is in the adult. Baby needs these nerves and muscles to be working well in order to latch on and suckle comfortably and efficiently.

Tension in muscles and soft tissues

The tube to the stomach, the oesophagus, passes through a sheet of muscle under the ribs called the diaphragm. Stress from a difficult or fast birth can cause tension in the diaphragm, trapping wind. If the diaphragm is pulled out of shape around the oesophagus, it can compromise the ability of the stomach to retain its contents. Any strain through the umbilical cord, for instance if the cord was around the baby’s neck, can add to the strains in the abdomen.

General level of tension

Stress in pregnancy and during birth contribute to the general level of tension of the baby and can keep the baby’s nervous system in a persistently alert state. This can occur with either a difficult, or a very quick birth – the baby may find it difficult to relax fully and may have difficulty sleeping.

There is a theory that if the baby is in a persistently alert state, its digestion can work too quickly. Milk may exit the stomach before it has had a chance to digest and the partially digested milk enters the intestine where it may ferment and produce wind which can be uncomfortable for the baby.

Cranial Osteopathic Treatment

Osteopathic treatment using the cranial approach is gentle, safe and effective for babies and children. Very specific, skilled, light pressure is applied where necessary to assist the natural ability of the body to release stresses and tensions. (Source – Sutherland Society)

Osteopaths are primary health care practitioners, complementary to other medical practices. They have the ability to diagnose and treat a number of musculoskeletal dysfunctions. Osteopaths work primarily on the neuro-muscular-skeletal system, they also pay attention to relevant psychological and social factors in order to form a diagnosis.

Osteopaths treat the whole person and not just the areas causing symptoms. This is because osteopaths believe the cause often originates in another area/part of the body. Therefore, several people may come in with the “same” symptoms, but the reasons for their symptoms may be very different, it would follow than no two osteopathic treatments are the same. Most treatment received from an osteopath is manual or “hands on”.

Physiotherapists are healthcare professionals who evaluate and manage health conditions for people of all ages. Physiotherapists are considered a profession supplementary to medicine (P.S.M.).

Physiotherapists help in circumstances where movement and function are threatened by the ageing process or subsequent to injury or disease. Physiotherapists view full functional movement at the heart of what it means to be healthy. Physiotherapy aims to promote, maintain and restore both physical and psychological well-being, after taking into account the individual’s health status.

Physiotherapists apply therapeutic technique and intervention in order to assist recovery of functional limitation and disability following injury and disease. The intervention (particularly with NHS physiotherapists) is often aimed at preventing impairment and may involve therapeutic exercise, electrotherapeutic and mechanical intervention, functional training exercises, patient education and counselling as well as working with occupational therapists in the provision of aids and appliances. Emphasis is on health promotion, quality of life and fitness in all ages. Some physiotherapists will also use manipulation, but this is undertaken as a short post-graduate course. (Source – Osteopath Network)

In simple terms, both osteopaths and chiropractors tend to treat similar conditions with similar techniques. Especially in Britain, where the two evolved along parallel but converging paths, there is a significant overlap between the disciplines. In some countries, such as Australia, the two fields are overseen by the same regulating body and a practitioner can graduate from university with both an osteopathic and chiropractic qualification.

Both osteopathy and chiropractic share a common history and philosophy which set them apart from the more traditional allopathic medical fields. Rather than focusing on the individual components of the body, osteopaths and chiropractors view the body in a more holistic manner, as a self-contained, self-healing, fully interconnected unit. The first proponent of this philosophy, Dr Andrew Taylor Still, is credited with founding osteopathy in America in 1874. Just twenty-one years later, a former student of Dr Still, Daniel David Palmer, founded the chiropractic discipline.

The difference between osteopathy and chiropractic stem from a rather subtle variance in philosophy. Osteopaths subscribe to two axioms based on the concept of the body as a unique interdependent system. The first, “the rule of the artery is supreme,” means that a healthy blood supply is likely to support a healthy bodily environment. Thus, osteopaths take circulation carefully into account when assessing patients. The second axiom, “structure governs function,” concerns the fact that problems in the structure of the body, for example, too much tension in certain muscles or the misalignment of a bone, can inhibit the natural function of multiple bodily systems,. Though the root of the word “osteopath” means “bone”, osteopaths do not actually treat bones. Rather, they use the bones as levers to improve the condition of other structures in the body like muscles, ligaments, tendons, fascia and organs. By treating these structures, osteopaths can aid the body’s natural healing ability.

Chiropractors, on the other hand, tend to focus on the spine and the alignment of vertebrae as the primary means to relieving pain and tension throughout the body. The spine consists of the vertebrae, which are bone segments that protect the spinal cord and the individual nerve branches stemming from it. These nerve branches exit between the bones, conveying important messages between the brain and the rest of the body. Because the vertebrae shift and move with everyday activity, they can misalign and interfere with the nerve messages travelling among them. This interference causes problems, and frequently pain, throughout the body.

In many cases, patient experiences with osteopaths and chiropractors will be very similar; however, there are some differences. When diagnosing patients, osteopaths and chiropractors both use visual inspection (observation) and palpation (touch). Chiropractors frequently rely on more diagnostic procedures, such as X-rays, MRI scans, blood tests and urine tests. Osteopaths tend to place more emphasis on the physical examination and will generally refer patients on for more diagnostic procedures if required.

The length of treatment also typically varies between osteopaths and chiropractors. In general, chiropractic appointments tend to be shorter as the practitioner focuses on adjusting the spine (this does not mean to say that chiropractors don’t adjust areas other than the spine). However, chiropractors tend to see patients more frequently as the muscles connected to a misaligned vertebra can pull the bone back out of place and it may take a few adjustments for the spine to settle into its proper alignment. Osteopaths tend to spend more time with the patient per visit, as their focus is somewhat broader and their treatment techniques are more varied. Osteopathic treatments also tend to be spaced out over a longer period of time.

Having described these differences, it is important to remember that both chiropractors and osteopaths address the same structures and use principally similar manipulative techniques. There are a huge number of variations between individual practitioners of both disciplines, from what they focus on to how they apply treatment. Each chiropractor and each osteopath is an individual with his or her own unique style of practice. (Source - Osteopath Network)