Osteopaths treat principally by using their hands. Treatment varies from the barely
perceptible feeling of cranial osteopathy via the stretching of
muscles and ligaments, to the slightly more dramatic joint .
This is called a treatment
(HVT) and may produce the infamous click in the joints. A popular
misconception is that the joint has been out of place, and the click
puts it back in. This is not the case at all.
Each synovial joint in the body has fluid
in between the bones which facilitates easy movement. If the joint
becomes jarred, or the overlying muscles go into spasm, the bones
encroach on each other, squeezing the fluid to the edges. This can
create a suction effect similar to two wet plates sticking to each
The HVT treatment puts the joint in position
and then applies a very quick pressure to it, over a very short
range of movement. The speed of the movement opens the joint space,
releasing the pressure and this may produce the characteristic popping
noise. Any "pop" is a by-product of the manipulation -
in other words, it does not have to happen for the treatment to
be effective. Much more importantly, there is a reflex relaxation
of the surrounding muscles, so the result is a much more mobile
joint whose surrounding muscle is no longer in spasm. The whole
process is very quick, either entirely painless or only moderately
uncomfortable, and produces a dramatic improvement.
Some other techniques are extremely gentle, involving placing you in a position of comfort (or "ease") for a while, to allow tissues to relax, or applying almost imperceptible pressure to support your tissues in specific directions, again to allow tissues to relax and, very gradually, be stretched back to their normal length.
I may also give you to do. These are an integral part of the treatment - this is how you can treat yourself. They may be used, for example, to stretch shortened muscles or to strengthen weak ones, as part of a treatment programme, or they may be something that you will need to do long-term in order to manage a problem yourself rather than having to keep coming back for treatment.
Osteopathy does not aim to 'cure' - Osteopaths are not heroes who dash around 'saving lives' and the only thing an Osteopath will 'cure' is bacon! The aim of Osteopathy is far more modest: it is to treat the patient to help create the conditions that will allow the patient's own body to recover normally (what medics refer to as 'spontaneous resolution') as quickly and completely as possible.
This means that once your condition is improving I want to allow it to get on with the job itself. I only want to get invoved if you are not improving. So at this point I will trust you to monitor your own progess (it is, after all, your body, not mine, and you are the person in the best place to know whether you are improving or not) and make another appointment if things do not resolve completely. I am happy to assess and treat you at any time if you want me to, but the decision should be yours not mine.
It is not uncommon for symptoms to improve about 80% and then stop - leaving you with an irritating, but not disabling, niggle. It is worth coming back for more treatment at that point. The 'niggle' indicates that something is not quite right and your body may need more treatment at that stage to allow it to recover completely. For some patients 80% better may be as good as it is going to get - there are permanent changes that no amount of treatment is going to change. If I think that is the case I will tell you and we will look at lifestyle changes and exercises that might help you to manage any remaining symptoms as well as possible.