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Talking bones

Did you know your can ‘talk’ to you. They have a role in giving us physical feedback and giving us a sense of physical presence, in other words another form of proprioception!

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Why should I pay to see an Osteopath?

So, What is osteopathy?, and What does an osteopath do?  That isn’t easy to explain in a few words because it is based on a set of principles about the self-healing mechanism of the body, rather than just a thing! I find the most succinct way to put it is we are like car mechanics for the body. We can ‘MOT’, service and help you repair your body but unfortunately, we cannot replace parts.  We have to deal with what we have! Which is why general health and posture are so important. One of my lovely patients once called me a body whisperer which I think is a lovely way to put it!

For some people there may be no reason to seek help from an osteopath during their lives.  I personally only heard about osteopathy in my early twenties when I went to a careers library trying to work out what job to apply for after completing my first degree! So, there isn’t always a need but we can be particularly useful for some people at some times in their lives, and you usually know when that is! We can’t help everyone all the time but most of you some of the time?  I am very pleased to report that through a small recent survey we conducted it showed we had over 90% satisfaction rate for those that have visited us. 
 
Do I need to seek any professional help?
Many simple/ minor musculoskeletal (muscle and joint) problems can resolve themselves with knowledgeable care and attention. However, if the problem is more complicated such as a severe or longer-term injury, and it doesn’t show any sign of improving within a week, it is not advisable to leave it to heal itself. The more time healing takes the more confused and exhausted your body can get.  Your mind and body can then look for other ways to get around the pain, sometimes causing another long term issue.

Usually after an injury there is an initial twenty-four hours of acute pain, and sometimes shock, when your brain will want to protect the area.  The healing process should then kick in. Inflammation is actually a part of the healing process so we do need it. However, we need to try and manage it.  Like a fever, it’s good because it shows your body's immune system is active. We want enough reaction to heal but definitely not too much otherwise tissues can get re-traumatised. 

An inflammatory process takes at least twenty-four to forty eight hours. That’s why many simple strains will stiffen after a few days then start to heal/ease after three to five days.  If the natural healing mechanism doesn’t start to improve after a week or so the body tries alternative coping strategies like limping or trying to ignore the area. Although this might help short term it often causes more long-term problems.  This is the time to seek professional help. Alternatively, it is just when you just know you need help!

Osteopathy is a small cog in a big health care wheel depending on which part of you needs help. Most Osteopaths work within the private sector but some do work within the NHS. Most NHS manual therapists are physiotherapists, mainly out of NHS tradition. Osteopaths, like other manual therapists, are able to provide a service for those that need professional advice and manual treatment, occasionally alongside medication to re-balance the body, but not yet needing further intervention such as Injections and/or surgery. 
 
So, the next question if you have a musculoskeletal issue/pain who should you see? 

  • GPs are great at basic guidance and medication prescription.  They can also refer for further tests such as blood tests, X-ray and sometimes MRI depending your area, and if necessary, refer on to see a musculoskeletal therapist such as Osteopath. Physiotherapist, Chiropractor, Orthopaedic consultant and/or Rheumatologist.  
  • Medical Specialists such as Orthopaedic Consultants and Rheumatologist have many years specialised experience and have better access to more detailed test from blood tests, X-rays and MRI, and knowledge to read them.  However, they are still limited in their treatment options.  Which usually are prescribing medication, referring to manual or other therapists, injections (usually steroid based) and/ or surgery.
  • Manual therapist such as Osteopaths, Physiotherapists, and Chiropractors, know bodies but usually don’t have direct access to detailed tests. They usually just use clinical tests and knowledge to diagnose problems. Their treatment is usually based on advice, touch and or movement to help the body heal. 


So how do Osteopaths compare to other manual therapists?  Osteopaths like chiropractors are very well trained, with at least 4 years degree level training, although technically should have a master’s degree, which is why some chiropractors give themselves the title of ‘Dr’. We both have legally strict registration through regulators and compliance to adhere to, with a minimum of 30 hours continual professional development (CPD). Physiotherapist are also well trained but only do 3 years training and have less CPD requirements. All 3 professionals are specialist in the mechanics of the body.

So, who should you see? There is no right or wrong! We have subtle differences but not huge and quite hard to explain. Unless the individual practitioner has a specialist area appropriate for your need. Even within each profession there are varied styles and skills. So it’s often a personal decision, who you get on with and trust.

Here’s a few of the subtle, mostly historical differences;

  • Physiotherapists were established mainly after the second world war for rehabilitation as movement nurses. hence the NHS link. Modern day they are often relatively less hands on (approx 40-60%), but still most skilled at rehabilitation/ exercise prescription. 
  • Chiropractors in general are most focused on the skeletal/structural alignment and most skilled at short level manipulation techniques (cracking!).
  • Osteopaths are interested in soft tissues and joint function, like physiotherapist. They are best at feeling soft tissue changes. In other words, getting their hands on and feeling the bodies changes.  I’d approximate we are a 90% hands-on therapy. 


One of my patients many years ago said “chiropractors are good at getting things moving but osteopaths are better at fine tuning”. I tend to agree!
 
So what does an Osteopath do?
Osteopathy are part of nature’s cure in other words we utilise nature’s own healing ability. We try and evoke your body’s own response to make a positive physical change.  In other words, Osteopaths don’t fix you, we just help your body fix itself. That’s why I like to call it teamwork.

To do this we utilise our two strongest senses we have which are vision and touch, plus knowledge.

  • We are trained to look at your body and see if it doesn’t look and or move right. It’s quite subjective as we are all different shapes sizes, tissue tone etc which is one of the reasons why our training takes so long. We can see if an area is under or over working, and then put into perspective of other parts of the body to try and re-balance the movement patterns.
  • We are trained to feel soft tissue changes, when something feels different. Again ‘feel’ takes years to acquire, and then years to improve, but it can tell you a lot about the local soft tissues health and how it is communicating with your central nervous system/brain.  If a joint area isn’t happy we can feel the soft tissue changes around it. We are all different so it’s always good to compare sides to provide some perspective of your normal. This is why we like to get our hands on!
  • We are trained to know anatomy particularly the soft tissues and joint mechanics, physiology, neurology, pathology, pharmacology etc. The list goes on. Then we learn natural/ naturopathic healing solutions to heal such nutrition, hydrotherapy, mindfulness etc. 


What I’ve realised over the years is we are so complex the more you learn the less you know. We don’t know everything and learning is endless. But at the end of the day everybody is basically the same but we are all different. A lovely saying I heard recently is we are on the same journey but in a different boat!

Ask any medical professional and they will tell you diagnosis, treatment and prognosis is rarely a simple process. There are always other possibilities and probabilities. I often say the more you know the less you realise you know!

That’s where knowledge, experience, perspective and a good judgement call comes into its own. Our diagnosis and treatment are always about team work.

It’s also worth noting that some people benefit from regular osteopathic treatment, sometimes monthly, six weekly, three monthly etc. Others just need help at certain times in life.

The benefit from seeing an osteopath regularly as they can manage an existing problem and or identify potential problems building up and make changes early to stop it getting too bad. At the end of the day prevention is better than cure. Hence the last set of emails with lots of posture and self help advice to try and get you physically fitter and more body aware. It also makes our jobs easier and can make osteopathic treatment more effective.

Are we expensive? Of course, I say no. If you look at our training, 4 years full time degree status with clinic experience. Statutory Regulated by the GOsC, 30 hours annual CPD training requirements and compliance under the Osteopathic Act 2000. We are regularly keeping up to date and learning. To be honest most osteopaths thoroughly enjoy what they do, and do it for the enjoyment not the financial rewards. We often have to inspire people to make often quite tough life changes to break bad habits. We are no less trained and regulated than other professionals such as accountants and or solicitors, and far less well paid! It’s just we deal with health and not finance! I know it sounds daft but it’s hard to put a value on health until you haven’t got it then it is everything! It is with you for better or worse when you wake up, during the day and asleep at night. It is your life, why make life harder than it needs to be. I’d say live it to the full, be proactive and tip health in your favour. 

The bottom line is Osteopaths know the look, feel and changes a body has and tries to help you make the best of it. So you live life to the fullest for as long as possible???? It really is that simple.
  

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Core Stablity - Its the centre of us

I find we get a bit intimidated about core stability as it’s been made a bit mythical but really it’s very simple. It refers to engaging our deep stabilising muscles which help us balance our core against gravity. In other words, the deep stabilising muscles hold us steady whilst our superficial mobilising muscles move us. 

If we can engage our core and lower our centre gravity with good posture, we are much more stable and balanced, more coordinated and hopefully we are less likely to strain and hurt ourselves.

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Walk for joy

Our body likes to move! Almost 60% of our body is made up of fluids, and movement help those fluids to move and flow. This includes the blood circulation, our lymphatic/immune system, our breathing/respiration, digestion system and every joint in our body, particularly synovial joints. As one of my peers succinctly put it "movement is life if you don’t move you die". So, it’s kind of important to move!  Walking is one of the best rhythmical activities we can do. It is ‘free’, and should be available to us all at some level.

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Stand like the queen

Now I’d like to talk about how to stand.  Ideally tall and proud.... like the queen.

The Queen is known, in her younger years, for standing at ceremonies for long periods of time without fidgeting. She is balanced, upright, stable and yet still soft and elegant, definitely not rigid. My understanding is it is the military at ease position. For anyone who has done Pilates, Thai chi, Yoga standing is often one of the first things we learn.

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Are you sitting comfortably?

The body is like a super intelligent computer, it does what you tell it to with the added ability to self heal! So, whatever you spend most of your life doing will become your bodies default habits.  This is a good place to start trying to improve things, if you need to!

In this modern world we spend a lot of time sitting. This influences your bodies patterns and therefore how you ‘do’ everything else

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Passion for posture

After over twenty years of practising osteopathy I have become very passionate about POSTURE. So what is posture? It is much more than just standing upright and putting your shoulders back.  Posture is everything! It’s about the balance of your mind, body and spirit.  If your physical posture improves not only does your digestion, breathing and circulation improve but YOU ‘feel’ better and it improves your mood, and vice versa. 

 
“A strong body makes the mind strong.” – Thomas Jefferson

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Knot again!!!

Did you know, there are over 650 muscles in the human body, the Gluteus being the largest and the Stapedius (found in our middle ear) being the smallest. Our muscles not only support movement, they also help maintain posture, keep blood circulating as well as assist with breathing. As the muscular system dominates our other bodies systems in terms of size, it’s no surprise that many, if not all of us, have had some exposure to muscular knots, either physically or at least heard/used the term ‘knot’.

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Proprioception - the real 6th sense

Proprioception aka “joint position sense” is the body's sense of its position relative to its environment e.g if we wave our hand above our head we know where it is without looking at it, and in the foot's case, it is what gives us an “instinctive” sense of where it is relative to the ground. There is a constant stream of information from the foot to the central nervous system as to what's going on underneath it, this is processed, and information is sent back down to the foot as to how to keep us upright. (The other two input mechanisms of balance are our vision i.e. maintaining a horizontal horizon, and the "internal gyroscope" we have in our inner ears.) 

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Benefits of massage

 

Massage therapy is centuries old, with the earliest recordings dating back to 2700BC! As the practice of massage has evolved over time and gained momentum in recent years, why is it that massage has stood the test of time?

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How to get the best out of your skiing holiday

Those of us looking forward to this year’s skiing holiday may be surprised to learn just how challenging this is for our musculoskeletal systems, even if we consider ourselves quite cardiovascularly “fit”.

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Could acupunture help you?

At Bishop's Stortford Osteopathy and Physiotherapy we often use Medical Acupuncture in parallel with osteopathic techniques to alleviate pain.

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Breathe of life

Breathing is the most basic function in the body and one of the most important, not just to keep you alive but to achieve an active state of health. Relaxed regularly breathing is a reflection of physical and mental balance.

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Do you want to continue doing the sport you enjoy, into middle age and beyond?

Do you want to continue doing the sport you enjoy, into middle age and beyond?

Are you finding your performance is being hampered by twinges of pain and a lack of flexibility?

Don’t assume that it is just “old age” setting in and that nothing can be done.  We can help you to continue to enjoy your sport and exercise for years to come.

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Footstrike When Running

There is ongoing debate about the merits of exactly which part of your foot should land on the ground first when running. This not only throws up some interesting questions about running technique itself, but from a therapist’s point of view has wider implications about the role of artificial means of support in all forms of exercise and activities of daily life.

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Perfect Posture

Are you spending long periods at a desk, laptop or in the car?  Or maybe curled up on the sofa with feet up, knees raised and a phone or tablet resting on your legs?  Sounds familiar?  Osteopath Andy McGowan explains how improving your posture doesn't need to be strenuous or difficult.

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Ice Pack or Heat Pack... or Both?

We’ve all heard about putting heat or ice on an injury, but which? 

Given that cold & heat are opposites how can both be helpful, surely it’s one or the other?  Here’s our guide on what to use, when to use it and how to use it most effectively.

 

What to use, and when.

In general if something is a recent injury or very acute/painful a Cold Pack can be the most helpful, but when if something is less angry and more of a chronic (long term) ache or pain, alternating Hot and Cold packs can be much more beneficial than Cold Packs alone.  

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What to expect at a Sports or Deep Tissue Massage

What to expect at a sports massage

One question I am often asked is “what should I expect from a Sports Massage”?  It’s a great question, as talking to one of my clients on our second or third massage I actually found out that she didn’t know what to expect, that she was actually quite nervous and had in fact put it off for quite a while.  So to put your mind at rest, this is what will normally happen…

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Cranial Osteopathy and Babies

We often get asked how osteopathy particularly cranial osteopathy can help newborn babies.   The best way I have found to explain it is to say the three things that a baby has to do a lot of is eat, sleep and poo! - oh and grow!!     

Osteopaths believe that the healthy balance and function of the musculoskeletal framework of the body is essential for whole body health. 

Osteopathy is based on the principle that the structure and function of the body are intimately related.  If the structure is not in balance then the function is affected, and vice versa.  In turn osteopaths can help the body find the changes it needs to make to develop to optimal efficiency.

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Posture and Injury

Posture is about how we hold and use our bodies.  In all animals including humans, posture can provides significant clues about our mental and physical health.  A good posture should mean that the body is aligned and working at maximal efficiency which in turn should imply to good health and relaxation.  A healthy body has an ability to heal itself and to revert to its normal structure and function when outside influences have been removed. Sometimes when an injury is either of major trauma, such as a car accident, or following repetitive minor trauma such as bad habits when in time it gets confused as to what ‘normal’ really is, the body needs physical (manual treatment) and sometimes chemical (painkillers) to help rebalance itself.   

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Natures Cure

“Nature itself is the best physician” Hippocrates

In modern life we now often reach for a tablet to ‘cure’ an illness or complaint.  Don’t get me wrong, modern medicine is amazing – just look at how long we are all living now.  But in many ways we seem to have forgotten that the body has to heal itself – medicine just helps!  

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Natural Anti-inflamatories

After an injury one of the first things to happen is that tissues swell and become inflamed, and it is this inflammatory process that causes us pain, as the damaged tissues become more swollen and pressured.   Ironically inflammation is part of the healing process and therefore important.  However excessive inflammation can increase pressure and therefore cause long term tissue damage, so it can be helpful to moderate inflammation when symptoms are abnormal.  However many people cannot tolerate some anti inflammatory medication, but luckily nature has an answer.  

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Welcome

Welcome to our new website.

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127 Dunmow Road, Bishop's Stortford, Herts, CM23 5HQ