Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, Jul 19, 2002
Variety - Health
Columns - Health-Scan
Osteopathy, the healing touch
AMONG the emerging alternative systems of medicine gaining popularity, particularly in the US and Europe, is osteopathy which, its practitioners claim, is art, science and technique, all rolled into one. Bringing relief from pain and disease by stimulating an individual's natural healing process, this form of treatment provides best results in relieving pain. Based on gentle manual techniques, osteopathy does not prescribe any medicines or use invasive techniques, not even injections.
At the behest of the Art of Living Foundation of Bangalore, two French practitioners of osteopathy, both disciples of Sri Sri Ravi Sanker, founder of the organisation, are setting up an osteopathy clinic as well as a school of training in Bangalore. This week, they were in Chennai's Apollo Hospital to carry out consultations.
Mr Eric Bauer
Explaining the basic features of osteopathy, Mr Eric Bauer told Business Line that though not a medical doctor, the osteopath undergoes rigorous training to gain thorough knowledge of basic subjects, such as anatomy and physiology. This is essential to practice osteopathy safely and competently.
Considering the human being as a whole, and not as a sum of different parts, the technique of osteopathy works on the body's bone structure, the muscles and the body fluids contained in the muscles.
Mr Thibaut Lion
"We treat not only the body, but also the mind and the spirit. We do not look at the aura, but by the way it works, osteopathy has some effect on the aura... We do not go from the aura into the body but vice-versa," says Mr Thibaut Lion.
He explains that most people come to an osteopath to get relief from pain of the back, joint, migraine or some other pain.
"When you have pain in an area of the body there is tension in that area and 99.99 per cent of the time, when you have pain, your bone structure is not positioned correctly. When there is tension in any part of the body, the bones move, even though slightly, causing tension in the muscle, nerves and blood vessels. So, by putting the structure back into its place the tension is released," he says.
Practising the cranio sacral form of osteopathy, and not structural osteopathy, which takes many more long years of training, these osteopaths first check the bone structure with their hands, looking for the beginning points of the tension in the body. "We are trained to feel this with our hands. We are even trained to feel the blood circulation with our hands and we do not need machines for this. We do not say that machines are not useful but for our work we do not need them," says Mr Bauer.
For example, when there is back pain, one of the vertebrae could have moved out of its position impinging onto a nearby muscle, resulting in tension in both the muscle as also the nerves in the region.
In structural osteopathy, this vertebra can be moved back or "cracked back into place by manipulation."
But cranio sacral form of osteopathy believes that the bone or vertebra has moved out of position because the entire area is weak and the muscles are not strong enough to hold it in place. So, the osteopath seeks to strengthen the area by working on the fluid movement in the body.
"Osteopathy believes in the body's own energy breathing which is called the primary breathing motion. This begins in the womb when the foetus is three months old and it lasts for 20 minutes after a person dies. We do not know why or how it is there; but we know it exists and we can feel it and work with it. This breathing can move all the cells of the body as the bones with the help of the fluids. We have been trained to feel this breathing, which can be physically directed to a certain place to cause healing," says Mr Lion.
He explains that though this is not Reiki, it is something like Reiki. "The breathing is there in the body... like the heart beat... and by gentle touch and motion with our hands we can direct this breathing to bring about healing," he says.
In osteopathy, the most important parts are the head, the spinal chord and the pelvis, "which are the main structures of the body formed first in the foetus. The limbs and the rest of the body are formed later. So, if a patient comes to us with a knee problem, we would work in that area, but also work on this basic structure of the body."
Answering a question Mr Bauer says that till now, osteopathy has not cured such major ailments as cancer, heart disease or diabetes, but there have been instances of osteopaths working along with medical and surgical therapies to help these patients.
For example, the loss of hair when a cancer patient undergoes radiotherapy can be arrested through osteopathy. The same is true of heart ailments too.
But osteopathy provides "the best results in eliminating pain without any medicine or surgery in problems, such as arthritis or migraine. In a young person we can first arrest the progress of arthritis and then even reverse the disease by slowly altering the bone structure."
Migraine is more complex, having more than 100 root causes, and can often come from bad positions of the bones in the skull. The osteopaths point out that contrary to what was first said about the skull being fixed, "we now know that it breathes and the structures (bones) within it move ever so slowly. There are 24 bones in the skull; and each one has its own movement pattern.
Sometimes, due to a problem, a bone can get stuck and this causes tension in the membrane and results in pain or migraine. So, by gently working on the skull with some manipulation...very slight manipulation... of the primary breathing, we can give mobility back to the bone structure, relieve the tension and bring relief from pain," says Mr Bauer.
He says, in some cases, like in a particular bone at the back of the skull, the relief from migraine can come as dramatically and as speedily as from a single session of treatment.
But another form of migraine can be due to a liver problem; in that case, the osteopaths would work with the bones in the skull, working at the same time on the problem in the liver by prescribing a special diet to the patient; in some cases it might be a whole new diet. Being vegetarians themselves, they believe that a totally vegetarian diet is good for the body.
Each osteopathy session lasts for about half an hour, and the costs in Europe for each session range from about 40-60 euros; in the US it would cost about $165 a session.
Mr Bauer added that doctors in Apollo Hospital at Chennai had shown interest in learning this technique. The cases they treated in the hospital related mainly to back pain, arthritis, knee and other joint problems, migraine, water retention and psychological problems.
The two practitioners have been invited by MRF to make a presentation of osteopathy and its techniques at the meeting it is organising in Chennai for sports coaches in a month's time.
"Osteopathy can play a very important role in both the treatment and prevention of sports injuries," adds Mr Lion.
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