Manual Osteopathy

History and Techniques

Discovered and developed in the late 1900’s by American physician Dr. Andrew Still, osteopathy is a holistic approach which seeks to remove obstructions to the body’s innate self-regulating abilities. What makes osteopathy unique is the highly refined sense of palpation which the practitioner develops over many years and uses, along with biomechanical analysis and other tests and techniques, to assess and treat the whole body.

Osteopathic techniques include:

1) cranial osteopathy – addresses the vitality and mobility of the dural membranes and cerebrospinal fluid which nourish and protect the brain and spinal cord and influence nutrient exchange at a cellular level throughout the entire body.

2) myofascial and connective tissue therapy – treats restrictions of the muscles, fascia and connective tissues, normalizing these important structural tissues.

3) osteo-articular corrections – gentle manipulation of joints which relieve restriction and restore proper motion.

4) visceral manipulation – gentle but direct work to the organs and viscera and their ligamentous/ fascial attachments to relieve pain and improve function.

To summarize, manual osteopathy is a philosophy, a science and an art.

Read the FAQ below or for a more visual representation view this video produced by the Canadian Federation of Osteopaths

Manual Osteopathy F.A.Q.

What is manual osteopathy?

Manual Osteopathy, as practiced in Canada by manual osteopathic practitioners, is a type of manual therapy (meaning we use our hands to assess as well as treat) which aims to restore optimal function in the body.

This goal is achieved by the use of the manual osteopath’s highly refined sense of touch that is developed over many years of training. This refined palpation skill allows the practitioner to feel not only surface tensions, like muscle tensions and inflammation, but also deeper tensions and distortions.

The concept of the inter-relatedness of the body’s systems and tissues also plays an important role in how the manual osteopath reasons, and lends a holistic perspective to the therapy.

How can manual osteopathy help me and what kind of conditions does it treat?

By positively affecting and balancing the nervous system, which is in close relationship with all of the other systems of the body, manual osteopathy can be very helpful in the resolution of many conditions.

In addition to techniques for the nervous system, there are many other tools that manual osteopaths use to work with the musculoskeletal system, as well as the visceral system.

The following is a limited list of conditions that may respond favorably to manual osteopathic treatment:

  • musculoskeletal complaints (ie. back , shoulder, arm, hip, leg pain and jaw pain/dysfunction)
  • concussions
  • G.I. complaints (ie. constipation, IBS and acid reflux)
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Fatigue
  • Symptoms from falls or accidents (ie. whiplash, feeling “out of sorts”)
  • Symptoms related to chronic conditions (ie. Shortness of breath due to asthma)

Is manual osteopathy compatible with other types of treatments, i.e. massage therapy or acupuncture?

Yes, manual osteopathy can complement other therapeutic approaches like massage therapy and acupuncture very well. In the treatment of certain conditions (ie. depression, anxiety, some chronic conditions), manual osteopaths may also make referrals to other health care practitioners like naturopathic doctors, MD’s or psychologists for additional necessary support.

What should I wear to a manual osteopathic session?

Ideally, for the assessment (and possibly for the treatment) shorts or loose/stretchy pants are worn, and if you are comfortable, a sports bra (for women) and no shirt (for men). Your comfort is very important however, so if you are not okay with disrobing, accommodations will be made. There is a blanket and heating pad handy so you will not be chilled.

Is manual osteopathy covered by my insurance plan?

Manual osteopathic treatment is covered by many private insurance plans. Please check with yours to see what your coverage is, as individual plans vary. It is important to note that osteopathy is not a service that can be directly billed to insurance companies. You will be given an invoice with my billing numbers on it and you will need to submit this invoice (and a doctor’s referral, if required – again, please check), to receive the reimbursement for the cost.

What can I expect from a manual osteopathic session?

In your first session, you can expect to go over your health history with the manual osteopath as well as having a discussion about what your needs are. An assessment will be done, which includes observation of posture and tests to determine where treatment will be most indicated. With the remaining time, a treatment will be given. In subsequent appointments, there will be a quick assessment (in order to see what changes have occurred and again, to guide the process), and more time will be spent on treatment, which can take place with you sitting, lying face up, face down, or on your side.

How often do I need to come to see improvements in my health?

The number of times you need to come depend on the length of time you have had your complaint, the severity of your injury, and your overall health. Some conditions respond quickly and others take more time. Please feel free to ask me about this when we talk in person.

TMJ Treatment (jaw pain)

The manual osteopathic approach to TMJ includes the evaluation and potentially, treatment of the whole body, as imbalances at a distance may be contributing to an imbalance at the temporo-mandibular joint. Therefore before a focused evaluation /treatment of the TMJ occurs, the manual osteopath will make sure that any contributing causes from elsewhere in the body (ie. an imbalance in the pelvis or spine) are addressed.

Once a global span is completed, specific assessment and treatment to the neck, jaw and cranio-facial bones will follow, and may involve techniques for the soft tissues, including the muscles, ligaments and fascia, as well as specific techniques to release tensions at the articulations of the neck, cranial and facial bones, as well as the temporo-mandibular joints. This may involve the practitioner doing gentle stretches and manipulations inside of the mouth to reach deeper structures.

Of course, this type of intra-oral work is done with disposable gloves and in careful communication with the client to ensure consent and comfort.