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  • Ann-Christin

Updated: Apr 18

Osteopathy was born out of the desperation of a father who had lost three children to meningitis in 1864.

Andrew Taylor Still was an American medical doctor. At that time, mercury-based medicine was widely used to cure the ill. The problem with that was that it either made you better or it killed you.

Having lost 3 children, Andrew Taylor Still made it his life’s work to find a way to treat people that did not involve putting mercury in them. Osteopathy was born.

Describing osteopathy is always difficult as we cannot produce strong research to back it up. It works on so many different levels that double-blind controlled trials are hard to conduct.

In the following, I would like to outline our basic osteopathic principles so you can get an understanding of what we do and why we do it.

The body only has a finite amount of energy.

It uses this energy for its immune system to fight off microorganisms that invade the body every second of its life. Energy is also used to clean and replace the cells that make up our skin, muscles, bones, organs, blood, etc.

It also uses energy to move, or to be static: breathing, walking, playing basketball and even sitting still at a desk.

Our body evolved to be very good at movement and its physiological processes like digestion, respiration, reproduction and tissue healing depend on it. So being still, like when you’re waiting in a long queue or sitting in a chair for a few hours, is actually a really difficult thing for it to do.

Digestion takes energy, food needs to be moved from one side of the body, to the other, moving through some very long pipes, your intestines, while at the same time nutrients need to be taken from it and waste products and toxins need to be extracted and excreted.

And here comes the big one: thinking takes energy. If you have ever found yourself overthinking something, you will know how physically draining it can be. Our brains are large, and they need a lot of energy to function.

So, as you can see, we need a lot of energy for a lot of basic processes in our body.

The “pipes” that need energy to move their contents to and from body areas where they are needed/ used up are our blood vessels, nerves and lymphatic vessels. As you all know from your garden hoses, a kink in the pipe makes it harder for stuff to go through. It uses up more energy and makes the process less efficient.

All our blood and lymphatic vessels and nerves lie in close proximity to bones, joints and muscles. And this has a reason: in order to help the process of moving things through the pipes, the body uses the natural pumping occurring through movement of joints and muscles. For example, venous blood returning to the heart is hugely helped by the movement of your calf muscles, in which the veins and their valves are embedded. Clever. The movement of your diaphragm, the big internal muscle that makes you breathe, acts as a massive lymphatic and blood pump to your internal organs. And very mobile joints like your shoulder play a big part in creating a suction effect on your lymphatic fluid throughout your body, encouraging it to return to your heart.

The spine is meant to have an S-shape, as this guarantees perfect shock absorption and energy efficiency when walking. As bipeds, this is what we evolved to do: walk. Therefore, the spine and skeleton have a certain shape, and each bone a particular way of making contact with the next. Each of these unions, also called joints, play a very important role in the pumping processes in the nerves and blood vessels sitting next to them.

Now imagine you fall off your bike, horse, or ladder, and you twist your knee and ankle, pull your shoulder and overarch your back. Suddenly the body is injured. Bones may have moved out of alignment, muscles and ligaments may have been overstretched or are too contracted now, you may even be bleeding. A muscle that is too contracted or too stretched needs more energy to maintain its state, in a way you could call it ‘hungrier’ for energy. The same with joints that are now slightly out of alignment, their capsules and cartilage are now using up more energy than before the fall. And moving those out-of-alignment joints is also much harder for the body now.

You will feel sore for a few days while the body heals itself. Healing takes a lot of energy. Maybe you also use a lot of energy to think about why it happened, that you feel weak/embarrassed or worried about it happening again.

Going back to all the physiological processes our body needs energy for and the initial principle of the body’s energy is finite. You can now appreciate why some essential processes in the body will be put on the back burner while the body heals the injuries. There is just not enough energy, to have all body processes work as normal plus healing an injury. Something has to give. You may not digest as well, you may feel your thoughts are less clear, you may find it harder to move or just sit. You may feel like you have less energy to do the things that you enjoy.

And this is where we come in!

As osteopaths, we find the areas which have been injured, and that does not need to entail a fall, it could just be some long hours at your desk with poor posture. To the body, that is traumatic and can lead to injury.

Using our techniques of mobilising joints and soft tissues like muscles and tendons, ligaments and fascia, we can help restore that S-shape and normal skeletal alignment which is so good for our nerves and blood vessels. The better we are aligned; the less energy is bound up in joints that aren’t gliding properly or tight muscles. And the more energy we have for cellular cleaning, immune function, thinking, digesting and expressing who we want to be.

  • Ann-Christin

As the seasons are changing, we are reminded of the cyclical nature of our world. Everywhere you look, there are cycles: night and day, summer and winter, feeling well or unwell… to name just a few, and we respond to each of them with certain behaviours: being active or resting, spending time outside or cosied up at home, feeling good or bad.

Most living beings have a circadian rhythm: an internal process that regulates our sleep and wake cycle. We are no exception and it is crucial for our health that we listen to it. Despite what Strictly Come Dancing has us believe; we all have rhythm. It is not only sleep and wakefulness that dictate our days but also things like feeling hungry or full, happy or sad, hot or cold, in control or overwhelmed - I’m sure you can think of many more.

In the world we live in, we have become very good at finding ways to disturb our natural cycles, in order to satisfy our minds’ demands. For example, you may have thoughts like “I really need to binge that new box set tonight” or “I’m not actually feeling hungry” or “you really do need that bar of chocolate” or “I’m too old for this”. Additionally, we have invented things to help us cheat our natural cycles, like stimulants such as coffee, energy drinks, sugar or screens, to certain medications or drugs that help numb us and keep us from listening to what our body tells us.

As our brains have evolved to be intelligent, we can override our instincts to follow the cycles created within our environment, unlike in the animal kingdom. This is both a blessing and a curse: for example, we can do shift work, which is great as we all might need a doctor during the night at some point in our lives. But it also brings with it the danger of us “losing our rhythm” which will ultimately lead to disease in one form or another.

Obviously, the solution is not to stop shift work, to ban sugar or to never binge a box set again. Those things are important, but we need to know how often and why we are doing them. And always make sure that we also have a break from them every now and then.

Check in with your body: are you feeling tired? Maybe this would be a good time to go to sleep instead of looking at your phone screen to see Lady Gaga’s latest post. It is dinner time: how hungry are you? Do you need to cook a bigger or smaller portion today? Feeling restless? Maybe a walk would be just the right thing to get rid of that extra energy rather than playing a video game. Feeling sad or concerned? Have you got a friend or relative who could listen to your worries instead of numbing it with sugar/alcohol/drugs?

We are designed to experience the cycles in their entirety: the joy as much as the pain. The gain as much as the loss. The hunger as much as the fullness. The tiredness as much as the alertness. The moment we start interfering with them, we confuse the biological and chemical processes in our minds and bodies.

If you’re worried about sleep, weight, certain behaviours or thoughts, do share them with me. We can work with you to find a better rhythm. We can discuss how you can respect your cycles whilst still living life to the full.

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