Each month Fitness Journal puts the spotlight on a health profession or treatment. This month Damian Kitcheman offers an insight into osteopathy.
What is osteopathy?
Osteopathic medicine is truly holistic. The patient is assessed and treated as a whole person. It was developed using precise knowledge of the body, its workings and the mechanics behind it.
Under normal circumstances the body is able to cope with most forms of illness and stress. An osteopath sets out to restore normal function of the body; therefore leading to good health. There are a large number and variety of techniques used by osteopaths and individual osteopaths may or may not use all of them. An osteopath is defined as a practitioner who adheres to the osteopathic principles, which are as follows:
- Structure and function are integrally related. Restrictions in the body cause dysfunction and disease.
- If there is a good supply of oxygenated blood to an organ or tissue and free drainage from it, it will be healthy.
- The body has its own medicine cabinet and an in-depth knowledge of this allows a practitioner to promote health in any disease. The best drugs for the treatment are already within the patient’s immune system.
- The body is a unit.
Osteopathy is a primary healthcare system, complementary to other medical practices. It is suitable for almost anyone and can contribute to the treatment and management of a wide range of conditions. Osteopaths primarily work through the neuro-musculo-skeletal system, mostly on muscles and joints, using holistic and patient-centred approaches.
A core principle behind osteopathy is the idea that the body is an integrated and indivisible whole, and contains self-healing mechanisms that can be utilised as part of the treatment. No part of the body works, or can be considered, in isolation.
How does osteopathy work?
Each person is evaluated and treated as an individual. There are no predetermined protocols. Receiving information from your words, your whole body and the forces which are affecting you (physical, biochemical, psychological, etc), with our hands, osteopaths identify abnormalities within the human structure and function. They then facilitate the body’s ability to heal itself through a variety of stretching, mobilising and manipulative techniques. With added exercises and health advice, osteopaths aim to help reduce the symptoms and improve your health and quality of life.
Who can it help?
Essentially anybody. The principle is that we treat people, not conditions. The people we treat have conditions, but we treat people. The aim is to facilitate the healing powers that lie within each and every one of us. The treatment is specifically tailored to individuals and their needs. This is why treatment may vary from patient to patient. One treatment may be very physical and another extremely gentle. This is why the spectrum of patients seen by osteopaths can range from athletes to new born babies.
Are there restrictions on people who can have treatment?
No there is not a restriction on who can be seen by an osteopath. There may be restrictions on particular techniques depending on the given situation. This is one of the factors that influences why treatment is tailored to the individual.
What is an osteopath most commonly used for?
The most common ailment is back or neck pain. But people can be given an osteopathic opinion, for any condition.
What are other benefits?
Health is not merely the absence of disease. People see us because they want relief from their symptoms. But after treatment, patients often say they feel even better than they did before the injury.
Are there any side effects?
Occasionally there can be a little discomfort 24 hours after a treatment, very similar to what you can experience after a gym session. I stress this is only occasionally associated with a more dynamic treatment and extremely rare with the more subtle/gentle treatments.
What are the origins of osteopathy?
The profession of osteopathy was founded in 1874 by an American physician, with a mechanical background, named Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917). He was the son of a pioneer doctor, under whom he apprenticed. Following Still’s participation in the American Civil War, he began an empirical study of the human body under the premise that by studying “God’s work” he would have a greater understanding of his “Creator.”
How did you become involved?
From a very early age and indeed still to this day, I have been interested in how the human body and mind works. I have a passion for health, not only my own, but the whole subject in the broader sense.
What is involved to become qualified?
The training of osteopaths in New Zealand involves a three-year undergraduate degree followed by a two year Masters programme. Then to provide osteopathic treatment to the public or for that matter to call yourself an osteopath, you need to be registered with the New Zealand Osteopathic Council. This is our professional governing body.
What is the most common misconception?
That we are bone doctors, but this is understandable given our title. Also that we only treat backs but this is not the case. The spectrum is much broader.
What is the most surprising fact?
That we don’t just treat muscles and joints. We use techniques that can be directed toward blood vessels, nerves, glands even internal organs. Any tissue of the body can be influenced through touch.
What are the costs?
This varies depending on clinics and practitioners. At The Osteopathic Clinic if you have a current ACC claim associated with your injury, treatment is $40 per session, and if not the average cost is $70.
Damian Kitcheman and his business partner Oliver Russell are both British-trained osteopaths. After spending several years in London, at different times they chose to make New Zealand home and joined forces at The Osteopathic Clinic in Hamilton.
Damian’s osteopathic career began in 1997 and since then he has had the privilege to help many New Zealand athletes on their road to the Olympics. He is also a NZ sports academy registered provider. A keen multi-sporter, the father of three has competed in the Coast to Coast and thrives on the challenge that sports provide.