Saturday, November 22, 2008

To Cure, or not to Cure? Reasons why Osteopaths Differ from GPs

By Andrew Mitchell

We have all been there: we go to the doctor with an aching back, she gives us a diagnosis, and writes out a prescription for some pain killers, along with some medical advice of what we can and cannot do. We take the pills, follow the advice, and the problem goes away. Or does it? Two months later, we pick up a heavy suitcase and injure our back once again - and start the vicious cycle of doctor-pills-advice all over again.

Treating psychical injuries is always an uphill struggle, unless you can find a way to eliminate the problem completely. This is where the role of an osteopath becomes central, since osteopaths don't just treat the symptoms of a problem (as your local GP would), but will look at the entire body take the extra step of finding not only the cause of the ailment, but the cure as well. There are a range of other factors that differentiate an osteopathic doctor from a medical doctor:

1. Osteopaths are specialists in how the body works. Where medical doctors have a general overview of a large number of diseases, osteopaths are specifically trained in the musculoskeletal system. They therefore have a greater understand of how one system within the body influences the other, giving them a diagnostic as well as therapeutic advantage over GPs.

2. Osteopaths also undergo something referred to as Osteopathic Manipulative Training (OMT). This is a special diagnosis technique using one's hands. This technique stimulates the blood to flow to the target areas, serving as a much more natural way of diagnosing a disease.

3. An Osteopath not only uses their hands to diagnose a problem, but also to treat to the predicament. While a medical doctor would prescribe an anti-inflammatory drug to treat the symptoms at face value, an osteopath would work to free the muscle tensions, which not only stimulates circulation, but encourages the body's own forces to eradicate the problem, preventing it from re-emerging in the future.

4. Where doctors deal with the present symptoms of a given problem, osteopaths will look at the persistent history of an illness. If a patient has injured his knee, for instance, a medical doctor would gather a patient's medical history through a means of blood tests, psychical examinations, and perhaps certain laboratory procedures. An osteopath would acquire this same history by questioning the patient about whether he previously experienced stiffness in the knee joints, whether the knee is more painful in a specific position, or whether the pain increases in the patient's most active moments. By getting a patient's history through this approach, osteopaths work to find the cause of the problem, and attempt to cure it at the source.

Osteopathy therefore has many advantages, but do these outweigh the benefits of a visiting a GP? That is up to you: depending on the nature of your injury, you might want to see both. The question you want to ask yourself is whether your ailment is persistent or not, and whether you merely want to treat the immediate symptoms, or cure the source of the problem.

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