I have heard many times that someone is reluctant to come see us for their back pain because they’re too nervous. They’re anxious about what the treatment is going to be like. Will treatment hurt? Will it be full of scary cracks and odd machines putting me in horrible positions?
It’s time to put the record straight on osteopathic techniques. The last thing we want is somebody missing out on pain relief because they are terrified to come in.
First and foremost, the most important thing to state is that you are in control of your treatment. We try and say this as much as we can before and during a technique. If you are not happy about something, you can say no. If you want more explanation that is fine. If you just don’t like the sound of it, then that is also fine.
We can only understand what is said, not what is meant. Mid treatment is not the time to be quietly stoic if you want something to stop!
So, what can you expect? Well, as usual it entirely depends on you and your presentation. Some people really aren’t suitable for the joint cracking that is often associated with manual therapy. Some people respond horribly to deep massage techniques. We are trained to assess all these things and palpate tissues to understand what is best for your particular case.
You can be treated lying on your front, back, side, sitting or even standing. You rarely get the same treatment twice and we are constantly changing what we do depending on how you react.
However, here are some of the common techniques we tend to use in our particular clinic. We’ve massively simplified them to make them easier to understand but any questions just ask next time you’re in!
HVT or high velocity thrust.
Sounds scary but when delivered with skill and accuracy shouldn’t be. This is when you may hear that classic joint click. The sound is just a little gas bubble popping from the brief pressure change in the joint. Think of it more of an opening up, gapping of the joint rather than a crunching or grinding.
Why do it? It gets a stiff joint moving better and the quick nature of the technique has an effect on the nerves that feed to the surrounding muscles getting them to relax off. A joint is a balanced machine of bone, ligament, muscle, nerve and blood supply. This focused technique has a “resetting” effect on the lot.
We don’t learn these techniques until 3rd year at college and even then with tutor supervision every single time we perform them. It’s then another two years of practice and after passing some hefty exams until we’re allowed to do them alone. Please don’t go to anyone who has learned these techniques on a weekend course!
Soft tissue techniques
These are your massage style techniques and there are too many of these to list separately! We spend a full year getting them all learned at college. From light pressure across entire, big muscles to deep pressure on single points or getting you to resist some movement then relax to get some extra stretch through a muscle, these techniques relax muscles and drain off inflammation.
Although sometimes tender until the muscle releases, you should never be in pain. If it feels too much, let us know!
Sometimes we want to get a joint moving without the “cracking” side of things. With knowledge of joint orientation and mechanics and all the muscles that act on it, we can effectively encourage increased movement into a stiff joint by gently and rhythmically moving it through its range of motion with a little applied pressure. Effective for preparing joints for an HVT or often enough on their own alongside some soft tissue work.
What now? Has this digressed into a music lesson?! No, this is when we use the body’s own rebound rhythm to perform a nice gentle mobilisation through a joint or several joints. It feels a little like we’re just wobbling or gently shaking you, but I promise there’s more to it than that!
This approach is particularly useful when you’re just too sore or fragile to be poked and prodded or to get into the positions for HVT.
They’re also useful for improving lymphatic and blood circulation, so anyone struggling with energy or chronic ill health I would tend to use this as well.
No not a sandwich! This stands for balanced ligamentous tension. Bit of a mouthful (again, not a sandwich) but as the name suggests it’s all about getting the ligaments, the supporting guy ropes of a joint, balanced and equal so that the joint is in optimal, healthy position to operate.
This feels incredibly gentle and subtle. Again, I often need to reassure people that I am actually doing something with these techniques! Your involvement is often needed too, with tiny little movements to achieve perfect joint position for release.
Apparently small but mighty, these techniques are a firm favourite of mine with fantastic results.
Involuntary Mechanism techniques sometimes referred to as “cranial.” Now we’re getting into more specialist stuff that some osteopaths dive into as post graduates. Again, its incredibly subtle and gentle but don’t underestimate its potency.
Some people feel very little during treatment but notice the effects later on and others feel things shift as they’re being treated. One patient described it as being “massaged from the inside out.” I love that description!
This is brilliant for babies who are still so malleable and fluid and unfused but wonderful for adults too. It’s not just for head stuff as the term cranial suggests but a whole-body approach to the deep-rooted driving force propelling life and health within our whole system.
I know, this can sound hippy and out there, but it is based on in-depth anatomical and physiological observations for over a hundred years and the effects often speak for themselves. This is palpation (feeling things) on a whole other level though and does take a lot of extra training and practice.
This is by no means exhaustive and there is a lot of crossover between all the techniques we use. The beauty of osteopathy is its ability to constantly adapt to the individual. A good osteopath will have many tools in the treatment toolkit so that ideal treatment can be delivered safely and effectively.
Have we put your mind at ease? Hopefully you can see that even if you hate the idea of “having your back cracked” we have loads more to offer than that.
If you’re feeling more confident about getting on the treatment table, knowing you are in control and we will always listen, why not give us a call on 01324 670 670 to get an appointment.
Don’t let anxiety get in the way of being pain free any longer!