What is Osteopathy?
Osteopathy is a system of healthcare which addresses the obstacles to healing in our lives. It is best known for helping with musculoskeletal issues, including lower back pain, but in truth has a much wider range of applications.
In skilled hands, it can help with conditions ranging from digestive disorders to recovery from stress and trauma, using methods that address each of us as individuals in our personal situations, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
Primarily a hands-on approach, the techniques of Osteopathy are safe, gentle and effective, and are guided by a holistic philosophy, taking into account the impact of all aspects of our lives on our capacity to meet life’s challenges.
To better understand how Osteopathy can help you, it’s helpful to first understand how we can get stuck, and arrive at problems.
Getting Stuck: Patterns of Compensation
We – and our bodies – are constantly learning and compensating according to challenges in our lives and environment. For example:
- Physical compensations – e.g. having to stay off an injured leg, but also developing our bodies through exercise.
- Emotional compensations – e.g. having to avoid things that stress us out, but also developing meaningful relationships with our families and friends.
- Mental compensations – e.g. having to recognise when we’ve made a mistake, but also learning new skills to help in our lives.
Conflicts of Compensation
However, we don’t just have one pattern of compensation at a time, we can have many, and there is no guarantee that each pattern of compensation will be able to smoothly dovetail with all our other patterns of compensation.
For example, if we injure a knee, we might end up compensating and overusing the other leg, which in turn could lead to injury through overuse. If we then try a second compensation by going back to the first leg, we run into a problem – it’s already injured! – and this means that these two compensations are now in conflict with each other – essentially, you are unintentionally fighting yourself.
Because it can also take time to adjust our patterns of compensation, it’s possible that we can keep responding with the same pattern of compensation – even after a challenge has changed in nature, or even completely finished.
The Straw That Breaks…
After a while, we can run out of ways to outrun our challenges, or we can remain stuck in a loop, constantly gearing up for a challenge that finished long ago.
When that happens, our already overloaded ability to compensate can become overwhelmed, forcing our patterns of compensation to juggle – taking care of one thing, at the expense of other aspects of our health or lives.
This makes us more vulnerable to injury from further challenges, or prevents us from resolving existing issues that cause pain or discomfort.
This is where Osteopathy comes in.
Osteopathy: Understanding How to Get Unstuck
First and foremost, Osteopathy is about understanding our patterns of compensation, and how conflict, pressure, and tension between these patterns can be preventing our own natural healing mechanisms from resolving our issues.
With this understanding of your own personal situation and individual patterns of compensation, your Osteopath uses his or her skill and experience, together with the physical techniques of Osteopathy to enter into a dialogue and negotiation with your body.
This enables the resolution of conflict, and release of pressure and tension – helping you and your body to arrive at a solution which benefits the whole of you, and allowing you to meet the challenges of your life without pain or discomfort.
So it’s just that simple?
Not necessarily! Working to resolve health issues in a holistic manner like this can often mean we have to be patient, and work in a step-by-step manner, untangling and unpicking situations which are often complex and nuanced – there are no shortcuts in healing.
However, when challenges are met in bite-sized chunks and steadily worked through, it can be truly surprising what can be achieved and what can turn out to be not so difficult after all.
For example, the challenge of building a house from scratch could seem incredibly daunting – almost impossible maybe – however, every house ever constructed has been built in the same way – with consistent and patient effort, one step at a time.
Healing is the same. When you take on the responsibility for the challenges you are facing, there are those who can truly meet, support and work with you. Through their skill and training, a collaborative journey of discovery – and actually making the changes required – becomes possible, allowing you and your body to move forwards with life.
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