How Osteopathy Works
Through discussion, observation and manual tests, osteopaths find the key blockages and their root causes, and then use various manual techniques to release them. These tend to be quite gentle, though approaches may vary.
1 - Joint and muscle problems:
Osteopaths may work to release joints such as vertebrae, sacroiliac, bones in the feet etc.... However, if we solely adjust joints, the problems can often return. In osteopathy, this is a sign that the root cause has not been addressed, so I do not "crack" repetitively.
One way of getting to root causes is to address tensions of soft tissues including muscles, ligaments and organs) that may be pulling on the skeleton and causing blockages. Yes! Organs... All our organs, muscles and bones for that matter are wrapped in fascia, which is conjunctive tissue.
2 - Fascia
You could picture everything being wrapped in saran wrap with a thin oily coating in between, allowing all structures to slide as you move. This fascia also serves to suspend organs to the skeleton (no... your organs don't just float around in your abdomen!). Because the intestine is solidly tied the lumbar vertebrae, a tightness in an organ such as the small intestine often pulls on the lumbar vertebrae and restricts their movement causing pain and muscle tension. So osteopaths can release tensions in the small intestine thus relieving lumbar blockages. When adhesions caused by inflammation or surgery form, tightness in fascia is often communicated to distanced areas, like pulling one corner of a bed sheet and seeing the tug manifest itself at the other extremity. As an example, a neck problem could be due to the conjunctive tissue around the lung (which attaches to your 6th and 7th vertebrae), being pulled down by the diaphragm, which is being pulled down by the liver, which is being pulled down because of adhesions in the fascia around scar tissue where the appendix was removed 10 years ago. Osteopaths would seek to find this line of tension and release adhesions in your groin and tensions all the way up to your neck.
4 - Cranial (yes, we treat your skull!)
Though osteopaths have claimed to treat the bones of the skull for over a century, anatomists contested the claim because they considered the bones of the skull to be fused. However, recent developments in technology have allowed us to measure the movements of cranial bones. We have found that if these bones or the dura (the thick tarp-like fascia inside the skull) are "stuck" or tight, it can compress and impact on all the cranial nerves, leading to dysfunctions of everything they drive, e.g.: sight, taste, smell, hearing, suckling, swallowing, digestion. Blockages of blood vessels can produce headaches or affect certain cerebral functions, while mechanical blockages of these bones can lead to headaches, jaw problems or ear, eyes and sinus infections.
For example, babies who have difficulty suckling at birth often are found to have a compression of their 9th or 12th cranial nerve which is responsible for the suckling action. Babies born with congenital torticollis often have a compressed 11th cranial nerve that creates a spasm of the sternocleidomastoid muscle. These nerves are often compressed at their passage through the jugular foramen at the base of the skull, which osteopaths can release quite gently.
A tight dura (that membrane inside the scull which ties down at the base of the spine), can compress the spine. It in facts consists of a mechanical link between the its' two extremities (the ethmoid bone behind the nose and the tail bone) which we call the cranio-sacral mechanism. So a fall on the tail bone often pulls the sinuses backwards creating sinus issues and a blow to the head or whiplash can pull the sacrum upwards compressing it on the lumbar vertebrae and causing lower back pain).
And so, osteopathy can be useful for muscular skeletal problems, as well as for issues relating to systemic functions of the entire body, for all people of all ages.
3 - Systemic problems
Nerves, blood vessels and lymphatics all travel in fascia (conjunctive tissue around all body structures). So if a fascia is tight, circulation is slowed down. This means that organs, muscles and bones aren't properly fed, and their waste is not properly evacuated. This can cause pain in muscles and joints, but also lead to inadequate functioning of organs.
For example, decreased blood to the intestine can affect lower digestion and constriction of nerves regulating digestive functions could also hinder the process. Tightness around the thyroid gland in the neck could hinder thyroid functions, adhesions of fascia around the uterus or ovaries could affect the menstrual cycle... and so on.