When you go to see an osteopath several things happen. You are asked a series of questions, usually asked to undress and then lie down on a plinth and have the osteopath move your arms and legs about. How does this work? What is the osteopath trying to achieve. I hope to answer these questions in this article.

To start to answer this we need to have a look at the philosophies that underpin osteopathy and where it came from. Osteopathy was discovered by a lay preacher/doctor (the evidence he was a doctor is disputed) called A T Still. Driven to dispair by the loss of his wife and children to meningitis, and the failure of conventional medicine he was determined to find an alternative.

Still studied anatomy for many years and eventually founded a system of medicine called osteopathy which was based on four principles, which are as follows:-

1. The Body can heal it'self. This point may seem obvious but many patients I see are surprised when I tell them that I can't heal their ligaments or muscles for them. All the easing of symptoms and healing of pain comes from the patients body. What the osteopath allows the body to go into a position of ease, allows greater to take place.

2. Structure and Function are reciprocally related. What this statement actually means is the way something is affects what it does. To get a good example of this let's look at a chair. A chair is flat (mostly) where you sit and has legs of some sort to get it at certain height. These attributes make the chair easy to sit on. If the chair had massive lumps where you sit, then you wouldn't be able to sit on it the way same way. A change in structure lead to a change in function.

3. The Body is a Unit. All of the body is one thing together, each part depends on each other part inorder to exist. You wouldn't be a able to pump blood with your heart if it wasn't for the nervous system, and your brain wouldn't be able to work without enough blood etc, etc. The osteopath will take this approach to the body to work out what is the actual cause of your condition not just to ease your symptoms.

4. The Rule of the Artery. Still refers in his writings around this subject to the importance of blood flow through out the body. Osteopaths will often use this philosophy to see where there maybe slight restrictions of blood flow or where there maybe slight pooling of blood in the body (varicose veins for instance).

A osteopath will use all four of these philosophies when diagnosing and treating a patient. It's for this reason that every osteopathic treatment is uniquely tailored to each individual patient. This is why the patient maybe asked to dress down to the underwear and is why the osteopath applies movements to the body.

When these philosophies are combined into one examination/treatment osteopathy becomes very much concerned with building up the health of the patient, allowing the body to heal in it's own time.

Author's Bio: 

Ben Adams is a practicing osteopath london bridge. One of few classical osteopaths in the UK, Ben has a specialty in helping people with long term health problems.