What should I expect during my first visit?

When you visit an osteopath for the first time a detailed case history will be taken, including questions relating to your medical history, occupation, lifestyle and presenting complaint.  You will normally be asked to undress to your underwear and to perform a simple series of movements.

Osteopaths use their hands to identify abnormalities in the structure and function of a body, and to assess areas of weakness, tenderness, restriction or strain.  By this means, your osteopath will make a full diagnosis and discuss with you the most appropriate treatment plan, estimating the likely number of sessions needed to treat your condition effectively.

If appropriate and safe to do so, you should expect to receive treatment during your first visit.

What should I expect from treatment?

Techniques include massage, muscle stretching, passive rhythmic joint movements, and high velocity thrusts (HVTs), or adjustments. Adjustments often produce a pop or a cracking noise which is thought to be due to a natural release of gas from the joint as adhesions between the joint surfaces are released.  It is not a painful technique.

The cranial-sacral approach, also called cranial osteopathy, is extremely gentle and often patients are unaware of anything happening.  Cranial osteopathy is based on the understanding that there is a constant micro-motion throughout the whole of the body, a property of living tissue, which can be used to diagnose and treat patient’s ills. Cranial osteopathy uses osteopathic principles, but does not concentrate just on the head, and can be used to treat the whole body.

The particular range of techniques your osteopath uses will be geared towards your particular presenting complaint and to you as an individual.

It is not unusual for you to feel a little stiff or sore for up to 24 hours after a treatment, however, ice packs wrapped in a damp cloth usually helps in the body’s recovery.

What is the difference between an osteopath and a chiropractor?

In simple terms, both osteopaths and chiropractors tend to treat similar conditions with similar techniques.  Especially in the UK, where the two evolved along parallel but converging paths, there is a significant overlap between the disciplines.

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.  Both osteopaths and chiropractors are interested in the movement of the spine, which is made up of boney segments, called vertebrae, which protect the spinal cord and individual nerve branches stemming from it.

While chiropractors tend to focus on the spine and the alignment of vertebrae as the primary means to relieving pain and tension throughout the body, osteopaths tend to take a more holistic view of the body based on two important principles. 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.

In general, chiropractic appointments tend to be shorter as the practitioner focuses on adjusting the spine. However, chiropractors tend also 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 a 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, and it is important for a patient to find a practice that fits his or her unique needs, regardless of the label.

Treatment is generally aimed at minimising pain through improving mobility and reducing inflammation in the body by using a wide range of manual osteopathic techniques on joints, muscles and ligaments.