Why Is Osteopathy Considered a System of Medicine, Not a Treatment?

"Why is osteopathy considered a system of medicine and not a treatment?"

Many students are unable initially to answer this question; however, fast forward to the end of their diploma, and AOI students who have embraced their learning will be ready to fight the corner for why this statement is correct, and they no longer deem osteopathy a treatment modality.  

As osteopaths, we often spend more time assessing and evaluating our animal patients than treating them because the route to creating the most effective and appropriate treatment and management plan for your animal patient is to assess and analyse them to understand thoroughly all the factors at play and how these interact together to create the situation that the animal is currently presenting. 

In the case of a dog with hip capsulitis, whilst hands-on therapeutic intervention may be beneficial, strategically placed mats to reduce the impact of slippery flooring, the adaptation of exercise programmes, for example, reducing the use of a ball thrower, and the implementation of owner education maybe some of the most effective tools at hand to reduce the current presentation and to support preventative healthcare moving forward.

As an osteopath, it is important not only to consider mechanical dysfunction but also to consider the environment and the psychological and physiological elements. The aim is not merely to ‘patch up’ current symptoms but to formulate a health plan to support the individual’s long-term health and well-being. 

Osteopaths look for health, not disease, and investigate to find the barriers stopping the animal from expressing optimal health. These factors may be internal or external to the body. 

A horse in a stable 20 hours a day with a neighbour it doesn’t get on with, and a limited hay supply does not have its five freedoms met. The lack of movement will impact the lymphatic system, healing, repair, and the immune system, whilst the stress of a neighbour it does not get on with will increase its allostatic load. 

Over time, these components will impact the horse’s ability to deal with day-to-day life and functionality. 

As an osteopath, it is our role to identify any such factors and work with the owner to lessen their impact. This may mean changing the horse’s position in the yard and altering turnout schedules in an achievable way for the owner that will benefit the horse. Sometimes, creating the ideal scenario is impossible, and compromise is necessary. However, creating steps on this path towards positive change is critical. 

All these elements discussed do not involve the ‘hands-on’ therapeutic application of techniques but rather require analysis of the case, a detailed case history, observation of the environment, listening to the owner and thorough assessment of the animal.

When assessing the animal osteopathically, it is important to undertake health screening and neurological testing as appropriate and assess the animal in front of you by undertaking gait analysis, observation, body scanning, passive assessment, muscle testing, etc. But also remember the environment, the owner, the interaction, and the elements picked up within your detailed case history taking that indicate grief, depression, behavioural change, etc. Bring these components together in a complete and thorough analysis of your patient. This will impact treatment frequency, duration, and technique use as you identify the elements of allostatic load and the contraindications raised within the formulation of your differentials and working hypothesis. Clinical flags will impact each step of your process. Delve into this process and embrace the information it gives you because in seeking detailed information, we are better placed to serve the animals needing our care effectively.

This is osteopathy.

Eleanor Andrews

© Herdwick & Goose Limited


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