I have mentioned the fact that I am beginning my education at the Canadian Academy of Osteopathy before. What a week! The first day Mr. Robert Johnston, one of my professors, told the class that our experience would be like standing in front of a fire hydrant trying to catch the water with our mouths. He said this because of the sheer volume of the information we would receive as well as the fact that it would be so hard for most people to digest as the information is so radically different than what most people involved in any health-care field are trained to believe. Needless to say, he is very correct!
I have no intention of starting any controversy here when I say that the way that osteopathy views the body in, what I believe to be, a much more sophisticated way than the common allopathic medical practices (sorry, this link may require a bit of reading) we are all accustomed to. There seems to be a disconnect between structure and function in the common Western medical systems. We hear a lot of talk about Complimentary and Alternative Medicines (CAM) as they generally approach the human body in a more holistic way. As I felt before, and have been re-taught at the CAO, it is IMPOSSIBLE to do something to one area of the body without affecting another. I will repeat that to be clear (this time with more upper-case letters) IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DO SOMETHING TO ONE PART OF THE BODY WITHOUT AFFECTING ANOTHER (watch a drug commercial and listen to the side effects). Don’t believe me? Stand behind someone at approximately arms length, place your hands on their back with your fingers under their bottom rib and your thumbs gently running towards their spine. Once you have that hold (be firm but not hard, the nervous system doesn’t like hard touch), ask them to walk and follow them. In all likelihood, you will feel their back rotate above and below your fingers. If you were just to watch them walk they would look like they were straight up and down but, if you take the time and know what you are feeling (I am going to help you here), you will realize that when their leg moves there is a reaction somewhere else. If you pay good attention (even though it will be very obvious even if you don’t) you will notice that they like to move to one side much more than the other. This is the most basic proof that anyone can experience that a movement in one area of the body creates a reaction in a seemingly unrelated area (as well as the fact that we are all imbalanced in some way). Sorry for the long-winded explanation, I’ll get back on track here. Allopathic medicine will find where it hurts, treat that and think they have done you good (in other words – they will give you drugs, massage, analgesic creams, ultrasound, maybe even IFC) without considering that where it hurts is NOT the problem area, it is simply where the problem hurts (this is often the result of clearly traceable lines of mechanical force – I may explain this in the future but it will take longer than needed here).
Osteopathic principles are based (at least in my initial understanding) around the simple fact that the structure determines the function. Look at any anatomy book that you have (if not click here to browse a bunch of links to illustrations from Gray’s Anatomy) and notice how the vertebrae in different sections (cervical, thoracic, lumbar) look different. If you care enough, look at how they look different in the SAME section. There are very important reasons for this (I am in the process of learning a lot more of these reasons than I already know). If you are really keen, look at how nerves often piggyback on veins and arteries. To make some of this make sense, if you have an area that is not aligned in its ideal fashion, you will likely have obstruction of nerves (muscular, blood vessel diameter, and organ control), arteries (blood away from the heart and in to tissues), and veins (blood away from the tissues and towards the heart) in the exact same area. When the nerves and blood are obstructed in an area, I guarantee you will have an issue with the function of anything that is fed by the obstructed structures. Not only will there be an issue in that area directly, you will likely have other issues that are related to it!
Despite my possibly poor synopsis of basic osteopathic principles, I will say, in no uncertain terms, that osteopathy is extremely powerful. I learned the basic algorithm for osteopathic structural diagnosis (OSD) this week and had to practice the entire thing many times as well as have it practiced on me. As a result of having it practiced on me, my physical issues became extremely apparent through the OSD, as did the issues of everyone else in the class. The fact that I learned the OSD is nothing special right? Wrong. In approximately 15 minutes I can go through a whole body and have a really good idea of what is going on (I say pretty good because I have 4 years of training ahead to make all of the information crystal clear). In the process of assessing the body in a manner that respects the structure and function of the body as a whole, an osteopath will have an extremely powerful effect on the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest – take special note in the link of the term lacrimation). In having my parasympathetic nervous system affected so regularly this week (especially today), I had 2 extremely powerful responses today…1. I became extremely relaxed when being assessed and had some trouble getting of the table because of it and, 2. I came home, got in the bath to relax, and started crying (that’s right, I said I started crying). The job of an osteopathic manual practitioner (especially a classically trained osteopath) is to remove restrictions to the body’s nerves, arteries, veins, and lymphatic system (known to me as N.A.V.L). When those systems are free from obstruction (by respecting the body, not poking/stabbing/rubbing where it hurts) there can be powerful responses. I have been told by my professors that it is normal for patients to begin defecating (pooping) and urinating (peeing) a LOT more then they were after a treatment due to the strain that is released on the underlying structures (N.A.V.L) that control those processes. In my case, I received non-treatment based touch and I have already seen strong effects (to be clear, I rarely cry and often let things that would excite the emotions of most roll off my back…but that does not mean they do not affect me).
I would like to close by saying that I am not an osteopathic manual practitioner yet, but in one week of education in osteopathy, I am already a better kinesiologist. I can also say that I have always seen the body as a fully connected and integrated unit, but now I have a real taste of what that actually means, and it has already drastically changed the way I see most of the commonly used health-care modalities (and no, I am not going to call names!). As I go through my education I will keep relaying my experiences…but WOW, this stuff is strong!