This is what an Osteopath is liable to say (sometimes a little tetchily!) when asked how they treat a specific condition. Because we aim to help your body to be able to get on with fixing itself, treatment is specific to the individual patient rather than the condition itself. This means that every treatment is unique, because you are unique – two patients with identical conditions will receive different treatments because they are different people living different lives in different circumstances. It also means that there is no such thing as ‘the osteopathic treatment for’ any specific condition – treatment is as individual as you are.
Treating with Osteopathy
Osteopaths are best known for treating people’s backs (and necks), but because we treat the patient rather than the disease, Osteopathy has, in theory, the possibility of being able to help in a lot of different circumstances. Many of our patients have symptoms that could be described as ‘musculoskeletal’ – they have aches and pains in joints and muscles – but others have found osteopathic treatment helpful in conditions as varied as depression and IBS. We have not treated the depression or the IBS, but some patients have found treatment has helped them cope with some of the secondary effects caused by their conditions enabling them to cope better in general. The amount of benefit each patient gains varies enormously: every individual is different and each patient has to assess individually whether the benefit they feel is worthwhile.
Helping With Mobility
In some cases the symptoms go away and never come back, but ‘help’ doesn’t have to mean ‘cure’. While some patients recover fully, others have long-term conditions which will never go away, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Osteopathy cannot help. For example, some (but not all) patients who have Osteoarthritis feel osteopathic treatment helps them to stay as mobile as possible and some feel it helps to reduce the amount of pain-killers they need. In these cases, our aim is to maintain as much mobility as possible, and to keep the tissues around the joint as healthy as possible. That way, if a joint replacement becomes necessary the patient still has healthy muscles around it to use after surgery.
Helping with Asthma
Similarly, it is possible that a patient who has asthma may find that osteopathic treatment working on their breathing mechanics helps their overall breathing. So the treatment might help the patient cope with their asthma symptoms even though it doesn’t even attempt to ‘cure’ the asthma. As long as the patient is still breathing asthmatically the effect of treatment on the ribcage and diaphragm is liable to be temporary – but some patients still feel that a regular treatment (possibly every three months or so – or even further apart) gives them enough benefit to be worthwhile.
Osteopathy – Guarantees
Because every patient is different, we can never guarantee to be able to help every patient. Sometimes we are surprised at how well a patient responds to treatment – at other times a patient who we expect to respond well doesn’t improve at all. Forecasting how well any patient will respond is a notoriously frustrating business – all we can do is our best, both to help the patient, and also to avoid continuing to treat a patient who isn’t gaining enough benefit to be worthwhile. That requires our patients to help us in assessing their progress and whether treatment is worthwhile for them; treatment is a partnership between patient and Osteopath, and only the patient can, in the end, decide how much treatment (if any) is worthwhile.