Osteopathy and chiropractic therapies concentrate on the musculoskeletal system but use different methods to relieve problems related to the spine, joints and muscles. Both techniques may beused in conjunction with conventional treatment.
Osteopaths and chiropractors believe that bones can move out of position through misuse or injury. As a result of ageing or because we do not use our bodies enough, muscles and connective tissue (ligaments and tendons) can become weak or inflexible, upsetting ti skeletal system. The most immediate effect is pain, as the muscles try to . compensate and the nerves are irritated“ However, because the proper working of our body depends on the supportive framework provided by bones, the effects of these problems can be much more widespread.
Although both of these therapies can help conditions seemingly unrelated to the musculoskeletal system, most people choose them for the relief of back and neck pain.
Choosing a practitioner Osteopaths and chiropractors must have professional qualifications to practise. An osteopath is a medical doctor.
A chiropractor is not. They diagnose as well as treat-which means that if they don’t think they can help you and you would be better off with a different sort of practitioner, they will say so. Although treatment is purely manual-meaning no drugs or surgery are involved-some of the diagnostic techniques are similar to those of a conventional doctor. You should advise your primary care doctor if you are interested in being treated by an osteopath or chiropractor and discuss any possible risks.
Osteopathy This treatment was developed in the U.S. at the end ofthe 19th century. Practitioners use various techniques of which the most important is deep tissue massage. This can be combined with manipulation and “thrusts”–sudden movements that click bones back into place. It should not be painful although you may feel stiff for a time after a session. Another gentle technique, cranial osteopathy (see box, right), is used on children or people who are frail.
Osteopaths can treat soreness and stiffness as well as severe pain, and acute as well as chronic cases. You can also see an osteopath for a regular check-up. It is a recognized therapy, and your doctor can refer you. Even if an osteopath can’t cure a problem (for example, rheumatoid arthritis, which is‘a disease of the immune system) osteopathic treatment may reduce pain and, in time, increase your range of movement.
As well as the back and neck, osteopaths treat other areas of the body such as the feet, knees, hips, hands and arms. For example, they will try to relieve the pain of tennis elbow or repetitive strain injury and advise on preventing recurrence. They will treat acute injuries such as those from sports or car accidents (such as whiplash). Headaches may be helped, particularly if they result from muscular tension and bad posture. Pregnancy, childbirth and carrying around a baby or toddler can place a lot of strain on the back and jointS, and osteopathy can be beneficia‘ in addition, osteopaths say a range of other problems may respond to osteopathy treatment: premenstrual syndrome (PMS), dizziness, recurrent sinusitis, asthma and digestive problems.
Chiropractic Unlike osteopathy, chiropractic treatment largely concentrates on the spine and makes greater use of manipulation and thrusts to bring the body back to its proper balance. Chiropractors must complete a five-year training before they can practise. . They use conventional diagnostic techniques, and many have X-ray machines on site (although X-rays are not taken if a woman is pregnant). Visits tend to be short (45 minutes for a first Visit, 20 minutes for later ones), and treatment may not begin until the second appointment. Basic to treatment is the chiropractic couch, which can be placed at different angles to increase the effectiveness of treatment. The practitioner will decide how many treatments will be needed; the average is five.