Osteopathy comes to India

The complementary therapy that is practised abroad, now has takers in our country

While technology and machine precision are slowly making medical treatments more effective around the globe, there is one branch of science that is going back to the human touch.

What is osteopathy?

Osteopathy, like most alternative therapies, takes the whole body into account. It’s described in an article in Medical News Today as, “…a drug-free, non-invasive manual therapy that aims to improve health across all body systems by manipulating and strengthening the musculo-skeletal framework.”

“It works on connective tissue. It originally had a lot to do with realigning the bones on the spine and the neck to be in the correct position. Now, it also includes the visceral organs: the stomach, liver, lungs. In the natural state of the body, these organs must be aligned,” says Stanley Rosenberg, one of the first cranio-sacral therapists.

What does it involve?

A thorough knowledge of body systems, so that manual techniques like stretches, resistance, and gentle pressure can be applied to the musculoskeletal system. “We do it with our hands in contrast to allopathic doctors who use tools, surgery, and pharmaceuticals. We have to know the anatomy, where to push and pull, what to feel for and release,” says Rosenberg.

Holistic health Osteopathy uses techniques like stretches, resistance, and gentle pressure for treatment gettyimages/istock

Holistic health Osteopathy uses techniques like stretches, resistance, and gentle pressure for treatment gettyimages/istock
 
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ChesiireCat

Who are osteopaths?

In India, osteopaths are not licensed to prescribe medication or perform surgeries, unless they are qualified as doctors and surgeons via an MBBS degree (and a specialisation in surgery, in the case of surgeons).

“Osteopathy is patient-centred rather than disease-centred. We look at disease as a manifestation of something happening in the body and focus to improve health itself so that health heals the disease,” says Dr Deeptha Pandala, a graduate of medicine from the Kakatiya Medical College, Warangal, who recently added a post-graduation degree in Osteopathy.

Who discovered it?

Osteopathy, Greek for bones and suffering, was the result of the explorations of Dr Andrew Taylor Still, an American physician and surgeon, who reportedly lost three of his children to meningitis and one to pneumonia. He lost his faith in the strict adherence to conventional medicine. He based his treatment on the osteon (made up of bone tissue) and in 1875 set up his practice. He later set up the American School of Osteopathy, now called AT Still University.

What should one expect when at an osteopath’s?

“Osteopathy is a holistic system of medicine that bases itself on certain simple and deep principles. We believe that the body has an innate ability to heal itself. The role of an osteopath is to facilitate that process; we also have an in-depth system of diagnosis. We diagnose by identifying a tissue causing the symptom. From there, we look to identifying aggravating factors and relieving factors, and accordingly prescribe advice and treatments to help patients along their journey to recovery and wellness,” says Keerti Mathur, who is associated with the Gait & Posture Centre in London, and has studied Osteopathic Medicine at the British School of Osteopathy and Oxford Brookes University. He says that in India, where osteopaths sit and how they are governed needs to be structured, as they are still a small number.

Who should see one?

According to Juan Guillon, Assistant Professor at Sri Sri University, “One of the characteristics that differentiates it from allopathic medicine is that it does not consider the subjectivity of the practitioner as a weakness, but rather a strength. As osteopaths, we are trained to feel through our hands different states in the tissues of each patient. We build our practice based on that. We can also support our diagnosis with MRI, x-rays and other classical means.” The therapy covers everything from spine problems to headaches, digestive complaints, respiratory disorders and endocrine imbalances.

Are there any negative reports?

Last year, a study in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine put out a report that said, “The results of the systematic review lead us to conclude that well-conducted and sound evidence on the reliability and the efficacy of techniques in visceral osteopathy is absent.” Southern Cross University in Australia has put online a thesis that states: “The work in this thesis has confirmed a number of aspects of osteopathic healthcare that were based on anecdote and expert opinion, but never systematically researched.”

The bottomline: there just isn’t significant data to suggest that it works, but there are certified professionals available — another dichotomy in the medical system.

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