The role of the osteopath is to try to eliminate pain. So first of all we need to find out what is causing the problem.
After having taken the patient’s details we will ask about the pain, i.e. where it is, how it started, how long it has been around, what makes it worse etc. We will then go into past and present medical history. This is vitally important to us because, while most people’s pain is due to mechanical problems i.e. joint strains and muscle problems, a small percentage is due to an underlying illness or disease. We are trained to recognise these so it is important that the patient answers fully and doesn’t withhold any information including what medication is taken.
We will then examine the patient. This generally involves looking at the way the patient stands and sits as well as moves, so we will ask the patient to bend and turn. Often we will examine the patient in their underwear, this makes it much easier to see how the body stands and moves, if, however, the patient feels uncomfortable about this it is better to say as sometimes lifting a jumper or a trouser leg will do. We may look at individual joints and asses their shape, movement and strength. Depending on what we find we may undertake a number of clinical tests e.g. reflexes, pulses, blood pressure or look in your eyes or ears as this helps with the diagnosis.
If we conclude that the problem is mechanical we will start treatment. This usually involves working on the muscles to reduce their tightness, the joints by stretching and articulating to improve their movement, and ligaments and tendons by local pressure to reduce tenderness. Often, if appropriate, osteopathy involves manipulation, which can result in an audible click, this is not bones and disc going back into place but simply the sound of gas bubbles popping within the fluid of the joints, this makes the joints move suddenly and is a quick and effective way to reduce local muscle tone and increase movement and so leading to reduced inflammation. We will try to predict how long the problem will take to improve as well as try to give the number of treatments needed.
Most patients will receive exercises after treatment in order to maintain movement or to increase muscle strength. We may also give advice with pain relief i.e. ice, heat, anti-inflammatories etc. We may advise time off work, we can write out off-work certificates which are as legally binding as your GP’s.
If after the examination we do not think we can help due to an underlying disease or condition we will refer the patient back to their GP. This will often be in the form of a letter but may be a ‘phone call.
We can refer patients for X-rays and scans but only privately so generally we would go via the GP as it is cheaper but not quicker. If we need to see the images we will write to the hospital for a copy which will unfortunately incur a small charge (from them, not us). Reports on tests can be obtained from the patient’s surgery. We have the only one device to detect osteoporosis in the whole of Powys, click onto following link for more information, www.osteoscan.co.uk.
We would always ask the patient to bring with them any information they have about their medical history i.e. medications, reports and tests.
Everything that the patient tells us is absolutely confidential we would only divulge information i.e. to solicitor, doctor or employer with the patient’s written consent. We do, however, insist that patients who are under 16 years of age or have learning difficulties or any type of dementia have a parent, guardian or responsible adult present through-out all consultations.