Frequently asked Questions
We hope that, by browsing through this website, you will find out a great deal about Osteopathy – where it has come from, what it can treat, and what it’s like to visit an Osteopath.
However, from talking to numerous patients over many years, we have found that a number of questions arise again and again – we have tried to answer these below, but if you find your particular query is not dealt with, please give us a ring.
Does Osteopathy work?
This is the million-dollar question. Every day we discharge many patients from our care who are free from pain and able to return to full activity following treatment. Many others find considerable improvemt and some chose to continue with treatment on a regular basis, say every month or so, because it enables them to keep going.
In 1996 - 98 our practice took part, with 27 others around the country, in a research project undertaken by the Medical Research Unit of the University of Sheffield. As a part of this, a survey of a sample of referred patients was undertaken in order to measure satisfaction with treatment and perceived health gain following treatment. The research team reported that “the majority of patients referred reported a significant change in health status, particularly pain reduction, following treatment”.
Osteopathy is not, of course, a panacea. From surveys we have done within our practice we know that, if a patient is going to benefit from Osteopathy, they will do so quite rapidly (see “How many times will I need to come?” below). We will not keep you hanging on if you are not making any progress, but will discuss other avenues of help for your case.
How many times will I need to come?
This, obviously, depends very much on the diagnosis of your particular problem. Some problems are very painful, but actually quite simple to resolve, and the patient may only need one or two sessions. Other people find they feel very much better within a few sessions, but, because of the nature of the problem or, perhaps, the job that they do, they need regular treatment to help them make the best of their lives.
From their experience, your Osteopath should be able to give you some idea of how much treatment is likely to be needed at the time of your first assessment, or, in some cases, a week later when they have been able to see your response to your first treatment. Audit-research we have undertaken within our practice has shown that benefit from Osteopathy is gained quite rapidly. This means that, even in complex cases that have been going on for a long time, you will have a good idea whether treatment will help you within about 4 treatment sessions. You are not committing yourself to something never-ending without perceiving real benefit.
Why do I need to wait between treatment sessions – wouldn’t one long session be just as good?
Essentially the body heals itself – Osteopathy is like a helping hand in this process, or sometimes like a catalyst when the healing process has stalled. There must be a time interval between treatment sessions to allow the body to make its response, and then take it on a further step.
A treatment session can be regarded a bit like a dose of medicine. Each session takes the process on a bit at a time – to try to make too great a change all at once can shock the body and set the healing process back.
Your Osteopath will advise on the correct time interval and number of treatment sessions likely to be required. You, however, remain in control. You can discuss this advice at any stage and, if you feel you are not making adequate progress, you can curtail treatment and ask your Osteopath about other possible approaches to your problem.
How much will it cost?
We charge £45 for the initial assessment and treatment, and £40 for any subsequent half-hourly treatment sessions. The overall cost obviously depends on the number of sessions required – see above.
Am I too old to see an Osteopath?
Certainly not. We have treated many patients in their 90s very successfully. Our own research found that the over-60 age group fared equally well with Osteopathy as the younger patients, and researchers from the University of Sheffield wrote “Patients of all ages and both sexes reported benefiting from the service”.
Is Osteopathy suitable for children?
Yes, definitely. Very gentle techniques can be used, and these are explained thoroughly in the section “Cranial for Babies and Children” elsewhere on this web-site.
I am ill in other ways. Can I still see an Osteopath?
The first thing that happens when you visit an Osteopath is that he/she will take a full case-history about you. This will include asking you about any other health problems that you may have at present, any illnesses requiring medication, and any problems or accidents you may have had in the past. This will enable the Osteopath to assess whether or not you are suitable for treatment and what techniques would be the most appropriate.
There are numerous osteopathic techniques available, ranging from the most gentle and sensitive massage or cranial techniques, to the more robust manipulations. Your Osteopath will choose suitable techniques depending on your overall state of health.
Our own research found that, where patients had significant other problems, such as advanced Diabetes, Cancer or Obstructive Lung Disease, not such a big proportion benefited from Osteopathy as in the population overall, but over 50% were still helped with their musculoskeletal problems. If you have any concerns about trying Osteopathy, you should discuss these with your GP. Those who have had cancer in the past may be reassured by requesting their doctor for a bone scan prior to osteopathic treatment.
Please be assured that if, after thorough examination, the Osteopath does not think your pain is arising from a musculoskeletal problem, or is unlikely to be helped by osteopathic treatment, he/she will refer you straight back to your GP
Can I see an Osteopath whilst I am pregnant?
Yes – Osteopathy is probably the treatment of choice for musculoskeletal pain during pregnancy, because both medication and bed-rest are contra-indicated.
It is hardly surprising that low back and pelvic pain in particular are very common in pregnant women, given the increased weight and postural changes that occur. In addition, hormones are released in pregnancy which slacken the ligaments binding the joints together – this is to enable the pelvic joints to loosen and the birth canal to widen so that the baby can pass through more easily. These hormones are released surprisingly early in pregnancy, so that joint strains of all kinds are much more common than at other times, and should respond quite readily to Osteopathic treatment.
There is no evidence to suggest that osteopathic treatment is in any way dangerous to the unborn child, nor that it can bring on a miscarriage.
Please do not hesitate to give us a ring to discuss any concerns you may have.
Do Osteopaths treat feet and other parts of the body?
Certainly we do. Osteopathy can treat any problem arising from the musculoskeletal system – the joints, ligament and muscles of the body. It is strange that so many people still think we are only interested in low back pain. We can help pain occurring in any part of the body, and also other related problems such as headaches/migraine.
It is also strange that people are often troubled by foot pain, but regard feet as beneath consideration. There are 26 small bones in each foot, with numerous joints between them and a complexity of muscles within the sole and tendons passing through to reach the toes. The feet are expected to carry the full body weight and many people spend much of their day standing. It is little wonder that the feet suffer all sorts of problems. Joint strains and restricted movement within the foot can often be solved quickly and successfully by Osteopathy.
What is the difference between an Osteopath and a Chiropractor?
Osteopathy and Chiropractic have very similar origins in 19 th century North America, and treat patients with similar conditions, using hands-on techniques. There may be very little distinction between individual Osteopaths and Chiropractors. However, generally speaking , there is a difference in the style of practice. Osteopaths usually see each patient for a longer period. This enables us to spend time using highly developed palpatory (sense of touch) skills to diagnose a patient’s problem and give the gentlest treatment we can to relieve their pain. Although, like Chiropractors, we do use the more robust “thrust” techniques where appropriate, this is in a context of slow joint articulation and soft tissue massage to change neural pathways and alter muscle chemistry.
At the Fishponds Practice we never leave patients by themselves for periods linked up to heat or vibratory pads, nor do we use any mechanical manipulation devices.
Pateints are often confused by the use of the title “Dr” by Chiropractors. This is a courtesy title only. It does not necessarily denote previous medical qualification, nor the holding of a higher degree and its use may be very misleading. Any doubts concerning exact qualifications should be addressed to the individual practitioner.
What is the difference between an Osteopath and a Physiotherapist.
There are probably more differences between Osteopaths and Physiotherapists than between Osteopaths and Chiropractors. Although many Physiotherapists work outside the hospital field in private practice, their training tends to focus on hospital-based work, giving them a greater expertise in the areas of rehabilitation following severe trauma or after surgery. Osteopaths excel where problems have arisen for no apparent reason, as far as the patient is concerned, but probably stem from an individual’s posture or daily life-style.
At the risk of generalising, it is probably true to say that physiotherapy treatment tends to focus on the locality of the pain only, rather than looking at what an Osteopath would see as its underlying cause. For example, tendonitis at the shoulder could be treated locally by a Physiotherapist, whereas an Osteopath would be interested in the curvature of the spine which had produced a faulty position of the shoulder joint and its consequent dysfunction. Certainly Physiotherapists make considerable use of ultrasound and heat therapy in their treatment, where Osteopaths rely on the heightened sensitivity of their hands in easing muscle tensions, stretching out scarred tissue and altering neural feedback.
Some Physiotherapists go on to learn spinal thrust techniques at postgraduate level, whereas Osteopaths begin to learn these techniques from day one of their undergraduate training, enabling them to carry out these manipulations with minimal force.
In the Bristol area, largely due to lack of funding within the NHS, Outpatient Physiotherapy focuses largely on the teaching of remedial exercises to patients. These have a very useful part to play, but many patients are in so much pain and are so immobile that they really cannot undertake exercises until they have received some hands on work Osteopaths also believe that targeted exercise can help in restoring full function, but will ensure that their patients’ pain is eased and their mobility improved first, so that they are in a position to cope with any exercises given.
Please note that the answers to the questions given above are the opinion of the author alone.
G Waldron – updated July 2010