Mike King, Kiwi Bank 2019 New Zealander of the year, has recently made headlines for his work with increasing awareness about mental health especially with children. He inspired me to talk about osteopathy’s role in our emotional wellbeing, the theme of our latest newsletter.
As an osteopath it has become increasingly common to be approached to help support individuals in the management of conditions such as anxiety, depression, and unresolved trauma.
As a newbie osteopath, I was educated that osteopaths treat with respect to the body mind and spirit, we look at the whole person not the pathology. This incorporated people’s emotional selves. But how? How do we really do that? Although I understood this on an intellectual level, it was the patients that taught me how to get it on a palpatory level, feeling it with my hands.
When I had my hands on, working with a patient’s body, they might share something a little personal, a little scary or a little old. I realised that sometimes talking through a relevant story or concern would make me feel something different in their body and changes would start to happen under my hand. Something engaged, something relevant and important. Something that related to their physical pain and mechanical dis-ease.
When they returned for another visit, it was how they felt that really surprised me and the changes were with their emotional states, and an ease in themselves I wasn’t expecting, and neither were they. So, I started to learn from the patients how osteopathy can help on other levels. Our regular patient base was also starting to recognise that Osteopathy in the cranial field (OCF) could help with much more than just their physical pain and related to how their physical and emotional health were linked.
Mike King makes some very valid points: As a health care system, we are not well placed in NZ in the area of prevention when it comes to our emotional wellbeing.
I personally think osteopaths are very well placed to help in the prevention role. The work we do is rarely mentioned when it comes to management of emotional health. As a profession we don’t talk about it enough.
Step 1 We have the added advantage that osteopaths always take more time than most with their patients. We are well positioned to listen and develop strong practitioner-patient relationships.
Step 2 As primary health care practitioners who take a full history and relevant examinations we can evaluate if there is something causing your mood to shift, such as an undiagnosed illness and refer you if needed.
Step 3 We ask a little more, do you sleep, do you use drugs, your alcohol consumption, what do you eat? How is your mood?
You might come in with pain, the pain may be long term, you might struggle to sleep. The pain disturbs you at night. Lack of sleep reduces energy levels, you become less motivated in areas of self-care: exercising and preparing nutritious food. Anxiety may start to set in, and moods start to shift. Osteopathy, when thought of in basic terms, can help pain levels by working hands on with your body. Reducing your pain levels may improve your sleep patterns and suddenly a cycle that seems endless, starts to change.
Let’s look a little deeper by working with your body: it may help you to process things that maybe are a little hard to talk about. Maybe balancing your body makes you feel more like you and when you feel more like you, it is easier to make good decisions for you. With tensions in your body resolving you might feel stronger and resilient enough to tackle difficult issues.
Life has its ups and downs and there are many health professionals that can assist with managing and helping with our emotional health. Counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists, help lines etc. Osteopaths have been trained to be able to work alongside other health professionals to provide the best care for you the patient.
Principal Osteopath at Stillpoint Osteopaths