Osteopathy, a modern healing art and medical profession

‘Berkshire Woman and family’ interviewed Matt Turner BOst MSc, an Osteopath in Windsor’s well known “Gareth Butler & Associates” clinic as well as “West Hampstead Osteopathic Practice” in London.

Most people have tried some kind of an alternative therapy. However not everyone is aware or in need of every single type of medical help available. Accidentally, I have worked with various practitioners other than pure modern medical practitioners and have tried numerous therapies over the years. Some of those therapies proved to be an excellent solution at some phases of my life, while others stayed as infrequent but permanent features in my health regime. Osteopathy is one of them.

Today I am visiting the clinic I often use but not for my usual treatment. Instead I am interviewing Matt, my osteopath, to find out more about his techniques and get some fresh wisdom for our readers. It is Thursday and I have managed to catch him in Windsor. He splits his time between London (West Hampstead) and Windsor every week.

As I walk into the clinic I am greeted by the friendly smile of Paula, the clinic’s receptionist. As always, she immediately offers me a cup of tea and chats with me about my day while I wait for Matt. Soon I have to abandon our lively discussion about the benefits of belly dancing (which she has been doing for many years and I so badly want to try!) to go and speak to Matt.

In his simple and tranquil work room I am offered a chair. Matt has his usual calm but cheerful demeanour, and I thinkhow remarkable it is that I always immediately relax in this building. I fire my first question.

B.W. – You are a Cranial Osteopath; would you please first explain for our readers the difference between a Cranial Osteopath and a Non-Cranial Osteopath?

M.T. – A lot of people ask that question, and I’m sorry but there is no simple answer. I will try to answer it the best I can. Fundamentally there is no real difference – all osteopaths are guided by the same principles, it’s just the techniques we use that differ. The principles focus on appreciating the body as a unit of mind, body and spirit and understanding that the body contains within it the capability to heal itself. Osteopaths believe that by manipulating the structure of the body they can affect its function, and therefore can help release the body’s inherent healing mechanisms. ‘Cranial’ osteopaths just use very gentle and safe techniques to do this – they feel subtle movements in the body that guide them to tense, problem areas. They can then help the body release these areas by very gently manipulating and balancing the forces that guided them to the restriction in the first place. Osteopaths that don’t use cranial techniques help the body by loosening off tight joints and muscles to help take pressure off problem areas and thus help the body to re-align and resolve problems. Personally, I, like many osteopaths, use both ways of treatment as I find them both useful in different situations, and often use both in the same treatment session, depending on the needs of the patient. Although of course, if a patient responds better to one type of treatment, I will just use that method. For example, ‘cranial’ techniques are particularly useful for babies as they are safe and gentle.

B.W. – Where did you train and how long does it take to train to become an Osteopath/Cranial Osteopath?

M.T. – To become an osteopath takes four years full-time at one of the growing number of osteopathic colleges. Some of these incorporate cranial techniques in the training and others less so. Usually to become proficient at using ‘cranial’ techniques an osteopath will study this in post graduate courses. Personally I chose to study a Masters course in Paediatrics were we naturally focussed on more gentle techniques.

B.W. – The spine is the main subject of study? Is that right or is there more to it than meets the eye?

M.T. – There is a fair amount of study of the spine, as osteopaths are renowned for treating bad backs. But in actual fact that is just some of our patients, and we treat pain anywhere in the body so we learn about the structure and function of the whole body. This includes anatomy and physiology, but also embryology and biomechanics.

B.W. – Who are your patients? What are the common complaints?

M.T. – I treat people from all walks of life with all sorts of problems; from professional sportsmen and women to newborn babies. Often people will come when their bodies are experiencing a lot of change, say when they are growing up, getting old or particularly when they are pregnant. Bad backs, stiff necks, and joint or muscle complaints and headaches are common complaints that lead people to the osteopath. We also treat a lot of stress and posture-related conditions.

B.W. – Am I right that anyone can come to an Osteopath? I took my daughter at the age of 6 weeks. Can you explain the benefits of Osteopathy for small children and links to common problems with babies?

M.T. – Babies are exposed to very strong forces during the birth process and sometimes in the mother’s womb. Usually these stresses dispel naturally after birth, but sometimes they remain. Crying and irritability are often the way a baby expresses such discomfort, and it is thought that this discomfort can then affect the way the gut works and thus may be responsible for or contribute to conditions such as colic.

B.W. – What is the link between body and emotions from an Osteopath’s point of view – how can this be treated?

M.T. – Again, there is no single view among osteopaths, however one of our guiding principles is to see the person as a single unit – mind, body and spirit so it is clear we can see a link. As a simple example – when a person becomes stressed, their shoulders will often rise up. Often patients who seem very emotional are visibly more relaxed after treatment,however I think it’s important to note that osteopaths are not trained to treat emotional and mental issues – an appropriate professional should be sought for these problems.

B.W. – I have been told that pregnant women have different treatments during pregnancy. Would you tell us a bit more about how Cranial Osteopathy can be beneficial for a pregnant woman and for a woman after the birth?

M.T. – Pregnancy is obviously a time of great change in a woman’s body. Fortunately the body is well designed to adapt and cope with the postural changes that need to occur. However, sometimes it needs a little help, and slight pulls and strains can develop. Osteopathy can be useful at times throughout pregnancy to help avoid this happening, but also, when strain does occur osteopathy can help the body re-align and re-balance so the pregnancy can continue as comfortably as possible. After the birth osteopathy can be useful to help the return to a ‘normal’ posture, and also to help settle any strains that result from the delivery. At this time there are sometimes problems with postural adaptations due to carrying or breastfeeding the infant.

B.W. – What about aches and pains of growing up in young children?

M.T. – As for the other aches and pains of growing up, osteopaths are trained to diagnose the causes of these problems, and treat them if it is safe to do so. However, they will also let you know if the problem is something they cannot help with, and if a visit to the doctor is necessary.

B.W. – Following the pattern of ages, any help for menopausal women?

M.T. – Obviously the menopause is primarily a change in hormone levels inside the body, and osteopathy cannot directly alter this. However by releasing areas of tension and helping the body stay in balance treatment can help maintain an overall sense of well-being, which is always beneficial during times of change.

B.W. – How many treatments are usually needed for certain complaints? Is there a norm?

M.T. – Usually patients require between 1-3 treatment sessions for an acute musculo-skeletal problem such as a bad back or stiff neck. However, patients who have been suffering a long time may need more treatments to see a sustained improvement.

B.W. – What advice would you give to an ordinary office worker when it comes to their health?

M.T. – Posture at work is very important, and can be the cause of many problems I see in the clinic. It is important to get your computer in the right position on your desk – the screen just below eye level and the keyboard comfortably in reach, directly in front of you. It’s best to get a professional ergonomist to come and set it up for you – many offices will provide this now. Equally important is to get up regularly for short breaks (say, every 20 minutes) so you do not stay in the same position for too long. Your boss shouldn’t mind – apparently it improves concentration!

B.W. – Can you give any advice for pregnant women and mothers of small babies on how they can look after themselves to avoid the common complaints you deal with?

M.T. – Pregnancy is a time of great change and we often see expectant mothers with lower back pain in the clinic, especially in the later stages when the baby gets heavy. Unfortunately that is not all – pregnant women may also tend to suffer from sciatica, indigestion and carpal tunnel syndrome to name a few. Osteopathy may be able to help with some of these problems, but the best chance of avoiding them is to do your best to remain fit and healthy throughout the whole term. Obviously this is good for the baby too. Simple things like just staying active are important, but it is also possible to attend many fitness classes right up until the later stages of pregnancy. I really think swimming is fantastic as it avoids any weightbearing and can be done right up until full term. It’s important not to push yourself too hard in anything though.

B.W. – Also a few words of wisdom for our older readers – Is there anything you consider a must for our elders and their health?

M.T. – I think exercise is just as important when you are old as when you are young. It’s just the degree you train your body to. Exercise is obviously vital for a healthy heart and lungs, but also stretching and just working the joints to maintain good flexibility keeps the body in good working order. A good idea is to have a little routine which you do each day, going through each area to maintain mobility.
Matt practices in West Hampstead and Windsor.

West Hampstead Osteopathic Practice
The Rooms Above
174 Mill Lane
London NW6 1TB
Appointments: 0796-807 8228

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