What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is a discipline that involves manual therapeutic intervention with joints and soft tissues, largely to reduce pain or restore normal movement. Skilled therapists are trained in assessing the body to evaluate the source of a patients pain, and then to gently manipulate joints and muscles to release tightness, spasm and stiffness.

Following the American Civil War in the 1800s, Dr Taylor Still (MD) became disillusioned with orthodox medical practices of his day, concluding that they were ineffective and could be at times harmful. His personal research led him to believe that the muscles, nerves and joints all played a larger role in health and disease that previously thought, and that treating disorders of these should play a significant role in promoting and restoring normal health. This became the basis of the “Whole patient” focus. It was part of his philosophy that the body had an inherent ability to heal  itself, and that his Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) could be used to give the body its best chance to do this naturally. He promoted preventative medicine as part of this whole body discipline, rather than simply reacting to disease a physician should act to restore normal health and healing before symptoms were becoming adverse.

In Australia, Osteopaths must complete rigorous training at University, completing a five year degree, involving the studies of anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, pathology, general medical diagnosis and manipulative techniques. They are trained in differential diagnosis, and can evaluate the need for further medical referral to a GP, or liase with the GP about referral on to higher level specialist care such as orthopaedic or neurosurgeon.

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Osteopathy vs Physiotherapy

While there has been confusion in the public as to the similarities and differences between osteopaths, chiropractors and physiotherapists, on the whole osteopaths and physiotherapists seem to have more closely aligned philosophies, in that they are self-critical and evidence-based. As techniques become more rigorously and impartially studied for clinical effectiveness (over placebo or control groups) and some are shown to be ineffective, a profession ought to welcome this criticism and reject the unhelpful or unsupported intervention. By doing this we only improve patient outcomes, demonstrate effectiveness and improve the standing of the profession within the medical community, and insurance landscape. To ensure ongoing funding from private health insurers, Workcover and TAC we must prove that our treatment improves patient outcomes and reduces the cost of healthcare in the long run. Physiotherapists and Osteopaths both focus on reducing patient reliance on passive techniques from the very first session, giving a patient the skills, exercises and control over their own rehabilitation pathway so that no long term reliance on a therapy is developed.

So what can a patient expect to be different between an Osteopathic consultation and a Physiotherapy consultation? Well, in the private practice setting . . . not much really. Both will do thorough, skilled assessment of your movement or lack of, and palpate (feel) where you have pain and tightness. Both will treat joints and soft tissues to reduce these symptoms. Both will assess you again afterwards to see if you’ve improved, and both will give you some home exercises to try to improve your body between treatments. If anything physio probably see more acute soft-tissue trauma and post-surgical rehabilitation, where Osteo may do more spinal manipulation – but both practitioners are perfectly capable of treating either, and rather it seems to be public perception that still directs the case load one direction or another.

Taryn Shugg has been working around the outer South-East for a decade and has developed strong ties with GPs, midwives and maternal health nurses. She has an excellent reputation for treating infants and children for injuries and conditions caused by the rigours of child-birth, and early childhood development. She is prides herself on her gentle manual therapy focus and finds the relief that she can give to infants and parents is the most rewarding aspect of the job. Not only does she work on babies and children but does a fine job of treating adults and has worked with several sporting teams. Her osteopathic treatment can assist in the management of

  • Torticollis
  • Strains/Injuries from the birthing processing
  • Difficulty turning head to both sides
  • Asymmetric Rolling