The CAM therapies are known all over the world as alternative medical treatment which is built upon centuries’ long theory and practice. Nowadays CAM therapies are becoming instrumental in the health care system and widely used among the doctors, who often combine them with conventional medicine to achieve better results. Among various CAM therapies, osteopathy appears to be the one of the most efficient. Such a method of manual therapy has its proponents and opponents and has been widely discussed for the last few centuries. The purpose of this article consists in considering and clarifying the history, methods, advantages and disadvantages of osteopathy, its effectiveness and recommendations for use of this therapy.
According to American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, “Dr. Still believed that it is possible to improve the body's ability to function and to heal itself using the manual therapy techniques now known as osteopathic manipulative medicine” (“A brief history,” n.d., para. 5).
“In 1892 Still opened the first Osteopathic medical school together with William Smith in Kirksville, Missouri. Osteopaths were registered as independent medical practitioners by the State legislature by 1897. In the twentieth century, one could encounter 4,000 osteopaths and more than 10 schools. Moreover, 17 states had recognised them as physicians and surgeons. Through the succeeding decades, osteopathy became a successful profession and in 1930 accepted the pharmacology as part of its treatment” (Howard, n.d., para. 3).
“Osteopathy came to Britain in 1917. The British School of Osteopathy (BSO) was founded by Dr. Still's student, Dr. Martin Littlejohn, and became the sole institution until the 1950s” (Howard, n.d., para. 4).
Today, it is possible to encounter five main training establishments and several smaller schools. The main four include The British College of Osteopathic Medicine (BCOM), The British School of Osteopathy (BSO), Oxford Brookes University, The European School of Osteopathy (ESO), and the London College of Osteopathic Medicine (LCOM). Osteopathy has been developed greatly since Still's times and nowadays exist over 5,000 registered osteopaths only in the United Kingdom (Howard, n.d., para. 5) and there encountered 20 accredited establishments of osteopathic medicine in the U.S. which prepared almost 44,000 practitioners (Barrett, 2003, para.5).
Considering the methods of the osteopathic therapy, the following techniques appear to be the main sub-disciplines which are combined and developed among manual practitioners.
1. “Soft Tissue Manipulation. As a rule, this method is used to evaluate the condition of tissues and to help the fluids of the body (such as lymphatic fluid and blood) flow in a smooth manner as well as relax hypertonic muscles” (“Osteopathic Treatment”, n.d., para.3). According to Dr. Masiello, “such a technique is commonly applied to the muscles surrounding the spine and consists of a rhythmic stretching, intense pressure and pull of muscles” (Masiello, n.d., para.3).
2. “Osteo-articular technique. Osteopaths use this method to reduce the spasms of the muscles near a joint, to ease neurological tenderness around joints, to make them more flexible, and to ease ache and discomfort (“Osteopathic Treatment”, n.d., para.6). According to Hempel (2006), the osteoarticular techniques include mobilization and manipulation of blocked joints. The Thrust-techniques (manipulation techniques) allow manipulating of every joint of the body. From Dr. Masiello’s perspective, “in Thrust Technique the physician applies a high velocity/small-amplitude thrust to recuperate the motion of a specific joint. Using this technique, the joint reverses its normal volume of movements and restores reflexes” (Masiello, n.d., para.7). Furthermore, Hempel (2006) states that manipulation is a high speed technique which allows usage of strength has to be used because at an appointed angle. Mobilization applied with less speed; however it covers nearly every muscle of the body. Apart from joints such a technique applied for fascias, nerves, ligaments, vessels, and scars.
3. “Cranial Osteopathy, based on Dr. Still craniosacral osteopathy has been developed by Dr. William Garner Sutherland” (Hempel, 2006, p.14), “is a treatment exploiting the body’s third wave pulse, outflowing from the central nervous system and the fluid wave of the liquor cerebrospinalis. This is known as Cranial Rhythmic Impulse (CRI). This tender, manual technique uses the CRI to cure the whole body, putting an emphasis on the head and spinal area” (Masiello, n.d., para.5). The aim of this method is to restore the balance to the blood circulation and other body fluids. Practitioners treat person using biorhythm of his/her organism. Osteopaths can perceive this rhythm in the patient’s spinal cord, head, sacrum, etc. (“Osteopathic Treatment”, n.d., para.12).
4. “Visceral manipulation. Manual Practitioners utilize visceral manipulation to cure organs and viscera of the body, which include heart, lungs, spleen, bladder, pancreas, intestines, liver, kidneys, stomach, uterus” (“Osteopathic Treatment”, n.d., para.13).
“The visceral osteopathy treats osteopathic lesions, which can affect the movement and motility of some organs. Physiologically such displacements happen because of the diaphragmal pressure. If organs lose their ability to carry themselves, they will need exterior forces, in particular, visceral-osteopathic techniques” (Hempel, 2006, p.15).
Many practitioners claim that osteopathy cannot possibly cause harm, but only bring health; however, there exist a number of opponents which do not support such pronouncements.
Christian Nordqvist is one of the strong proponents of such a CAM therapy and states that “osteopathy is a non-invasive drug-free manual medicine which focalizes on the health of whole body by treating and strengthening the musculoskeletal region, which includes the muscles, joints, and spine. The aim of the therapy is to favourably affect the body's lymphatic, nervous, and circulatory systems. What is more important, this therapy is uniquely holistic” (Nordqvist, 2015, para.1-2). This is of highly importance because with “proper blood and lymphatic support the body’s immune system can easily fight the infection” (Groesbeck, 2013, para.7). According to Dr. Groesbeck he was often asked to see patients for pneumonia who were being treated with antibiotics. If he could improve lymphatic and blood flow, the cells of the immune system had greater access to the infection, so the body was able to take care of the infection more easily. The antibiotic, which was circulating through the bloodstream, was delivered to the infection more rapidly, so recovery time was shorter (Groesbeck, 2013, para. 8).
Other benefits of this CAM encounter the elimination of the underpinning of the pain, amelioration of the range of motions in the joints, relieving chronic pain through non-invasive treatment, reducing of the tension in the body, relieving tension headaches and migraines. Osteopathy can treat trauma resulting from accidents, increase circulation, and reduce blood pressure (“Benefits”, n.d., para.1-4).
On the other hand, the opponents of such a therapy argue that “for example, cranial osteopaths do not even perceive the pulses as blood pressure; their hypotheses revolve around the “congenial rhythmic motility” of the brain and spinal marrow, mixed with breath and cardiac cycles, causing rhythmic oscillation of the brain and fluid. Osteopaths think they can feel them through the bones of the skull, and restore with a bit of jiggling. They write books about myosin and actin (the substances in muscle cells which make them move) being present in brain cells; however, they always fail to mention that brain cells do not have the dense arrays of those fibre which are indispensable to generate any consistent movement” (Goldacre, 2004). What is more important, that “osteopathic manipulation can cause soreness. This side effect can take place regardless of the gentleness of the technique, and can often appear after muscle stretching out and relaxing. Headache is another common side reaction, irrespectively of the techniques being used” (“The Side Effects”, n.d., para.4-5). Opponents state that the discipline is based on a misconception because osteopathic practitioners cannot determine what they claim to determine and work with, and there’s no evidence to say that such a practice works (Goldacre, 2004). Unfortunately for opponents, there is no serious research on the harm of the osteopathy and all the claims on the damage of such medicine are groundless.
In furtherance of the osteopathy’s partisans, a large number of investigations are conducted from year to year to prove the efficacy of such a therapy. One of them is the controlled trial on the effectiveness of osteopathic treatment in pregnant women suffering from low back pain, conducted by Sabine Gundermann. This research was grounded on the study of “41 pregnant women aged 24 to 39 years with the LBP during pregnancy. In random choice 21 women were distributed to the intervention group and 20 to the control group. The patients of the intervention group received 4 specifically developed osteopathic treatments in 2-weeks intervals based on osteopathic fundamentals. After child-bearing a treatment was prolonged. The patients allocated to the control group received their treatment after untreated waiting period for 8 weeks. The attained results showed statistically significant improvement in favor of the osteopathically treated group for the pain intensity; dysfunctions were diagnosed in the parietal and visceral systems; almost all women demonstrated dysfunctions of the diaphragm and in the sacral area” (Gundermann, 2013).
Osteopathy can treat more that many people think and a number of health problems are amenable to osteopathic treatment. They include “headaches, aches in the back, neck, heel; sciatica; tennis elbow; shin splints; and repetitive strain injury. Osteopathy can be recommended for those who suffer from arthritis, asthma, digestive problems, whiplash, carpal tunnel syndrome, and postural problems. Osteopaths can be of help to patients who have been injured at home, at work, or while playing sport” (Norquist, 2015, para. 4-5).
Considering everything said above, one can arrive as a conclusion that osteopathy is a manual medicine which is based on noninterventional drug-free approach and focuses on the health of full body by treating spine. Its purpose consists of positive effect on the nervous, circulatory, and lymphatic systems. Moreover, osteopathy strengthens the musculoskeletal system. Such a holistic practice has been thoroughly developed since 17 century and now has a great impact on traditional medicine. Osteopathy includes four basic approaches which gave life to various sub-disciplines. Osteopathic methods include soft tissue manipulation, osteo-articular technique, cranial osteopathy, and visceral manipulation. This non-invasive subsort of medical treatment has an impressive number of proponents and opponents who persist in arguing on the benefits and side effects of the treatment. However, the resent research show that approach to osteopath should be individual and thorough developed, only in this case in will improve health conditions. Furthermore, many research state the incontestable ameliorations in the patient’s health after osteopathic treatment. Osteopathic procedures can be recommended for those who suffer from frequent aches in different parts of their body, who have injuries or arthritis as well as congenital diseases. The therapy will strengthen muscles; balance nervous, circulatory, and lymphatic systems; help the fluids of the body flow in a smooth manner; equilibrate all the systems in the organism.
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Goldacre, Ben. (2004, September 23). Cranial Osteopathy. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://www.badscience.net/2004/09/cranial-osteopathy/
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Gundermann, Sabine. (2013, October). Effectiveness of osteopathic treatment in pregnant women suffering from low back pain (LBP). Retrieved from http://www.osteopathic-research.com/index.php?option=com_jresearch&view=publication&task=show&id=15363&lang=en
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Norquist, Christian. (2015).Osteopathy: What Does Osteopathy Treat? Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/70381.php?page=2
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