An Osteopathy FAQ with answers to frequent questions. Click on each question to see the answer, or use the search box to find the information you are looking for.
If your question is not answered here, please feel free to contact us.
Osteopathy is a primary healthcare profession, governed by statutory law, to provide the highest quality care for patients in the treatment of their muscular and joint pains. It is a hands-on therapy which uses a system of diagnosis and treatment with the emphasis being on helping the body heal itself.
It is a misconception that we only treat back pain. We treat a wide range of conditions such as headaches, knee pain, tennis elbow, foot pain, whiplash etc. If you are not sure whether treatment can help, just ring us and you can talk to an osteopath over the phone before you book an appointment.
Yes, it is safe. Osteopaths undergo training for many years and an important part of the training is knowing when treatment is not suitable for a patient. Osteopaths are taught to recognise medical conditions which can present as musculoskeletal pain. In situations where the osteopath is concern then they will ask permission to write to your GP.
In the press, there is a lot of concern about neck manipulations (‘clicking’) and the fact that there have been a few cases of stroke associated with this technique. All osteopaths are trained to perform upper neck manipulations in a way that minimises the risks of this happening and we manipulate with a minimum of force. We will always ask your consent before doing this technique and we only perform this treatment after using our clinical judgement based on your case history and your symptoms. For further information talk to the osteopath who is treating you.
You don’t need a referral from your GP but a lot of doctors will recommend you come for treatment. However, if you wish to claim on your Health Insurance, some companies require a doctor’s referral as with any other specialist or consultant.
Osteopaths take an integrated approach to your healthcare. The first appointment consists of a case history which involves asking you lots of questions about your past medical history, family history, any medication you may be on etc. You will also be asked about the symptoms you are experiencing at the moment. Information such as when it started, how long you have had it and what makes it worse or better helps the osteopath formulate a diagnosis and subsequently a treatment plan. Some of the questions may seem unrelated to your complaint but just ask the osteopath if you are unsure as to why they are asking a certain question.
The next step is a detailed examination in which the osteopath uses their highly developed sense of touch, called palpation, to identify joints which are not moving correctly and muscle strains in the tissues. Your osteopath will ask you to make certain movements and may perform some clinical tests, such as your reflexes, to ascertain what the problem is.
After the examination, your osteopath will have a working diagnosis and will discuss this with. The osteopath will then treat you and discuss what they are doing as they are doing it. After treatment, they will often reassess you to see how your body has reacted and determine how many further treatment you may need.
Ideally, we like to be able to see the area we are treating and the surrounding tissues so that we can deliver an effective and safe treatment. In most cases, if we are treating the upper back in women a strappy top will allow us to treat effectively. We do have gowns which can be worn and we use blankets to place over patients as we treat, if necessary. If you do not want to undress then talk to the osteopath and we can work around the issue. Your modesty will be respected at all times.
You are free to bring along a friend or relative with you to act as your chaperone at any time.
Osteopaths work with their hands, and treatment often consists of a combination of techniques such as:
• Rhythmic articulation and joint manipulation (clicking) to restore joint mobility
• Massage and pumping to improve fluid dynamics to restore tissue health
• Myo-fascial stretching to restore normal tissue length and structure
No, manipulation of a joint results in increased joint mobility and consequently muscle relaxation around the joint and neurological feedback resulting in reduced pain. The joints and discs are very stable structures and they do not come out of position easily.
Osteopaths will use specialist techniques to release joints and the weight of your own body to release an area. You may feel a temporary minor discomfort as the technique is being performed but patients often express relief afterwards once they can move easier after treatment.
Side effects are generally rare. Patients can feel some tiredness or soreness for a few days afterwards, but this usually subsides quickly. If you are concerned after treatment then we recommend that you ring us. After working hours, our phones are transferred to the principal osteopath and she can talk you through any concerns, reassure you and offer advice.
Our aim is to get you better as quickly as possible. Some patients may need one treatment and others may need a course of treatment over several weeks. It is dependent on what the problem is and also factors such as age, general health and the lifestyle of a patient. It is important to follow the advice that your osteopath gives you to help speed up your recovery. Our policy is that if you haven’t noticed a change in your symptoms within the first two treatments then we will discuss other alternatives which may help or refer you back to your GP for further investigations.
Treatments tend to be one week apart, although as the condition begins to improve they may be spaced more widely.
Occasionally, patients find some techniques are uncomfortable but as we treat the patient we ask for feedback and will work within the patient’s comfort zone.
Anyone practising as an osteopath is required, by law, to be registered with the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC), established by The Osteopaths Act, 1993. An osteopath must study for four to five years for an undergraduate degree. This is similar to a medical degree, with more emphasis on anatomy and musculoskeletal medicine and includes more than 1,000 hours of training in osteopathic techniques.
Osteopaths tends use more rhythmical and gentler techniques (less spinal manipulations “clicking”). The consultation time is longer and patients tend to require fewer treatments. We also work on a wider area of the body rather than concentrating primarily on the spine and pelvis.
Yes, most insurance companies will reimburse your osteopathic fees. We can also submit invoices to your company directly so that you don’t have to pay for the treatment yourself. It is best to ring the insurance company before booking a treatment because we will require an authorisation number.
This depends entirely upon the problem and your osteopath will advise you if they feel that you would benefit from coming for regular treatment. Some patients will come for one treatment and not need to come for years, since they are symptom free. Other patients are so impressed with how they feel after treatment that they decide that they want to come on a regular basis to prevent the aches and pains. As a profession, we encourage patients to manage their own health and will often discuss with you how to keep supple and symptom free by perhaps exercising, stretching, going to pilates classes etc.
Osteopaths can treat patients of all ages. A day old baby can have cranial treatment and many patients are in their 80s or 90s. All of our patients benefit from a personalised approach to their healthcare.
Pregnancy results in huge structural changes and consequently a lot of women experience back pain. Osteopathy is safe, effective and a drug-free therapy which can help a pregnant woman as her body adapts to carrying the weight of the baby.
Then please ring us so that we can talk either over the phone or we can arrange a meeting. We are a caring profession and the last thing we want is for patients to be unhappy with any aspect of their treatment. The General Osteopathic Council inform that in the instances where complaints have been made against osteopaths, almost all are down to an error in communication. Therefore, we would hope to resolve any problems efficiently and effectively by talking it through.
Osteopaths are regulated by statute law and a statutory register is held by the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC). Should you wish to make a formal complaint to GOsC then please contact us and we will give you full details of how to go about this.
Cranial Osteopathy is a form of hands on treatment which many Osteopaths use and parents will often bring their babies to the clinic for this type of treatment. It is very gentle and involves an Osteopath “listening” with their hands to subtle tensions in the body. It often appears as if the Osteopath is hardly touching the patient because it is so soft and gentle. The birth process as well as subsequent knocks and falls can affect the way in which babies, children and adults react resulting in tension or pain within their body. Cranial Osteopathy can be described as a relaxing or unwinding process.
Tennis Elbow is also known as lateral epicondylitis and presents as a weakness in your grip and pain in the hand, wrist or forearm, especially when holding something heavy, such as a kettle, and is a common condition in tennis players, aggravated by holding a racket. The pain is caused by inflammation of the muscles in the upper outer part of the forearm where these muscles attach to the bony part (lateral epicondyle) of the elbow.
Why do people get it?
The cause can be due to many factors working together. Some of the causes are not related to tennis but then tennis can cause the condition to last for longer than expected:
- Too much tennis (if you never give it a rest the chance of recovery is slim!).
- Too little tennis (you never build up enough muscle in the arm to cope with the demands).
- Playing with the arm in the wrong position or with a stiff upper body or holding the racket too tight (the muscles are too tense to allow enough blood perfusion).
- Wrong racket grip size, the racket is too heavy (needs a strong grip to control it) or the racket is too light (you have to use a lot of force to hit the ball hard enough).
- Stiffness in or around the upper back, shoulders, elbow or wrist – all of which will respond well to Osteopathy.
- Bad sitting posture resulting in upper back stiffness and prolonged computer/mouse use can cause tightness in the forearm and wrist.
- DIY – using a screwdriver or painting for long periods can lead to TE.
- Accidentally knocking the elbow.
If you have had it a long time, it is hard to get rid of completely even though you may have resolved the underlying cause. This is because long term inflammation turns the muscle near the elbow into fibrotic tissue and this reduces the efficiency of the muscle. If you haven’t had it very long and it is not getting better quickly then you need to seek advice and treatment as soon as possible to stop it becoming a chronic long term condition which could end your tennis career!
What can you do about it?
Come and see an Osteopath – We can give you advice and treatment, including soft tissue massages and stretches which will relax the upper back, shoulder complex, elbow and wrist. We can teach you how to do some massage into the muscle so that it will loosen up and also some stretches so the inflammation will calm down. We would advise that you do this massage several times a day quite firmly (and definitely in the evening after a match) so that the condition starts to improve, as soon as possible. In the beginning, this will be painful but with time it will get easier. You could even massage and stretch the muscle in between sets.
Ice the area or use a cold gel pack (we sell these at the clinic and they are always useful to have in the freezer for any injury) – Place the ice (put some cubes in a plastic bag) or use the gel pack over the tender area. It is best to wrap the ice in a cloth so it doesn’t burn the skin. Keep this on for 10 minutes and repeat as many times as you can throughout the day. It is best to use the ice after you have had your Osteopathic treatment, or done your daily massage and stretches. Don’t use the arm for anything strenuous for at least twenty minutes afterwards. If you want to get this condition better, you must massage, stretch and ice several times a day.
Come and see an Acupuncturist – Acupuncture works by stimulating the primitive parts of the brain which deal with pain and help to reset these pathways. Also using needles around the area can relax the muscles without causing as much discomfort as direct tissue massage.
Wear a TE support while you play – this is not a cure, but it will minimise the pain and damage when you do play. The support works by gripping the muscle and stops excessive pull of the muscle on the tendon and therefore prevents the inflammation around the bone from getting any worse. However, long term this affects the blood flow to the muscle and can cause the muscle to become weaker. If you must use a support to get through a match, take it off as soon as you have finished playing and gently massage and stretch the muscles.
What will my GP do?
Your GP will recommend that you stop playing for a while and will suggest that you take some anti-inflammatories (such as ibuprofen or diclofenac) which can be effective but may be harmful to the digestive system, so must be taken after food. If you start getting heartburn/indigestion then you must stop and return to your GP for further advice. You can also try an anti-inflammatory gel which can be applied to the area.
You may also be referred to a physiotherapist who may do some local soft tissue work and will recommend some stretches. However, referral times can be an issue.
If your symptoms don’t resolve with time then your GP may suggest a steroid injection. This can be effective but it may only work for a short time and the symptoms can reappear.
In the long term what should I do to prevent it coming back?
If you regularly massage, stretch and ice the area and your symptom haven’t fully resolved, you should also consider addressing some of the issues which may have caused the problem in the first place:
- Try some sessions with a coach to see if there is a fundamental problem with your technique and they can also advise you about your racket.
- Consider having some regular Osteopathy or Acupuncture treatment to help keep the tissues supple.
- Start Pilates which will address some of the postural problems and also improving your core muscle strength will help your game in the long term.
- A regular Sports massage can also be beneficial.
- Look at your computer set up either at work or at home. If you use a laptop, then a stand and external keyboard and mouse would be a good idea.
Joint pain in the arms and legs, such as elbow, wrist, knee and foot pain respond well once an accurate diagnosis has been made. This type of joint problem is often associated with overuse, such as repetitive strain injury. It is commonly seen in the wrists of typists and VDU operators, the elbows of tennis players and golfers, and the knees and feet of walkers. However, this problem also affects ordinary people who find that certain everyday activities such as climbing the stairs at home are now a problem.
Arthritis is very amenable to Osteopathic treatment. There are many types of arthritis and none of them are actually curable, but both the pain and also the restriction of joint movement can be relieved by accurate treatment. Bones seldom cause the pain of arthritis. This comes from contraction of local ligaments, capsules, muscles and other soft tissues that are responsive to treatment
When women become pregnant, as postural changes slowly take place, quite often the mechanics of their spines are altered, especially if they have had problems in the past. Osteopathic treatment of preg-nant women is perfectly safe and is almost invariably helpful, since we help the body to compensate for the postural changes of pregnancy. A high proportion of women who have recently had a child also experience low back, buttock, or even neck and shoulder pain. This can be very quickly eased, even in mothers who have had post-natal pain for years
Children and adolescents commonly suffer from back problems, leg pain, shoulder and neck pain and headaches, in fact no less so than adults. These pains are sometimes dismissed as “growing pains”, and left undiagnosed and untreated. It is known that many such untreated conditions lay down the foundation for future potentially serious problems in adult life. If such problems persist, or go away but return after a while, they should be checked by a competent therapist.