Osteopathic medicine (sometimes referred to as osteopathy) is a complete system of primary health care that is both an integral part of mainstream medicine and firmly rooted in the principles of holistic medicine. It is also the most comprehensive holistic therapy to originate in the US. Osteopathic medicine is most noted for its emphasis on the musculoskeletal system and the interrelationships of the body’s nerves, muscles, bones, and organs – yet its overall scope is far more encompassing.
What Is Osteopathic Medicine?
The primary goal in osteopathic medicine is to educate the client while working with them as an active participant in their journey to optimal health in body, mind, and spirit. To achieve this goal, a health professional specializing in osteopathy takes a multifaceted approach toward disease prevention and treatment. It is also important that the Certified Holistic Life Coach know the client very well.
An Holistic Life Coach can refer a client out to an Osteopathic specialist but this field is broad – including specialists in such fields as cardiology, ophthalmology, rheumatology, pediatrics, psychology, or surgery. In recent years, osteopathic medicine has emerged as one of the fastest-growing medical professions in the US, with many D.O. candidates choosing to become osteopathic physicians because of the holistic elements seen in the approaches used.
Techniques of Osteopathic Treatment
The goal of OM is the resolution of what many osteopaths call somatic dysfunction in an attempt to aid the body’s own recuperative faculties. Osteopathic manual treatment of the musculoskeletal system employs a diverse array of techniques. These are normally employed together with dietary, postural, and occupational advice, as well as counseling in an attempt to help patients recover from illness and injury, in an attempt to minimize or manage pain and disease.
The Range of Manual Therapies
Osteopathy employs manual therapies for the treatment of many neuromusculoskeletal pain syndromes, such as lower back pain and tension headache, alongside exercise and other rehabilitative techniques. Many osteopaths also attempt to manage (or, more often, co-manage) organic or Type-O disorders conditions, such as asthma and middle-ear infections in children, menstrual pain, and pulmonary infection.
Cranial osteopathy is a set of theories and techniques that have been developed from the observations of Dr. William Sutherland. Dr. Sutherland believed that the plates of the cranium permit microscopic movement or force dissipation and that there is a ‘force’ or rhythm that is operating in moving the plates of the skull. Cranial osteopathy is said to be based on a primary respiratory mechanism, a rhythm that can be felt with a very finely developed sense of touch. Some osteopaths believe that improving dysfunctional cranial rhythmic impulses enhances cerebral spinal fluid flow to peripheral nerves, thereby enhancing metabolic outflow and nutrition inflow. It has gained particular popularity in the treatment of babies and children.
The primary respiratory mechanism is not acknowledged as existing in standard medical texts, and at least one study has failed to show inter-related reliability between craniosacral therapists attempting to detect this rhythm. While other studies have reported evidence of the existence of such a rhythm, the link between any such mechanism and states of health or disease has also been contested.
One meta-analysis from the British Columbia Office of Health Technology Assessment (BCOHTA) concluded that there is evidence for a craniosacral rhythm, impulse or ‘primary respiration’ independent of other measurable body rhythms, however, it was noted that these and other studies do not provide any valid evidence that such a craniosacral ‘rhythm’ or ‘pulse’ can be easily perceived by an examiner and that the influence of this craniosacral rhythm on health or disease states is completely unknown.
Craniosacral therapy is based on the same principles as cranial osteopathy but the practitioners are not qualified, osteopaths. The theory and techniques of cranial osteopathy have also had a major influence in alternative medicine in general.
Proponents of visceral osteopathy state that the visceral systems (the internal organs: digestive tract, respiratory system, etc.) rely on the interconnection synchronicity between the motion of all the organs and structures of the body, and that at optimal health this harmonious relationship remains stable despite the body’s endless varieties of motion. The idea is that both somato-visceral and viscero-somatic connections exist, and manipulation of the somatic system can affect the visceral system (and vice-versa).
Practitioners contend that visceral osteopathy relieves imbalances and restrictions in the interconnections between the motion of all the organs and structures of the body— namely, nerves, blood vessels, and fascial compartments. During the 1940s, osteopaths like H.V. Hoover and M.D. Young built upon the work of Andrew Taylor Still to create this method of assessment and manipulation. The efficacy and basis of this treatment remain controversial even within the osteopathic profession.
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