Maintenance Treatment – Is it really necessary?

This is a common question, and the thinking behind it is easily understandable – it goes something like this;

“I feel fine, I have no aches or pains at the moment, so what’s the point of treatment?  It’s like taking pain killers when you don’t have a headache!If my back/neck/knee starts to hurt, I’ll book in then!”

This is entirely reasonable up to a point, but when we think about it, there are many things we do in terms of lifestyle or conventional medical care which are preventative rather than reactive.  Some examples might be:

  • Eating well to provide our bodies with good nutrition – we don’t deliberately eat badly and tell ourselves that we’ll start to eat well if we become ill!
  • Exercising to keep fit, making sure that heart and lungs are in good condition and that our muscles are more likely to be able to cope with the strains we put on them.
  • Taking preventative medication – if we have high blood pressure, we’re likely to be taking medication to lower it and thus reduce the risk of a variety of illnesses.  Once again, if we know we have high blood pressure, we don’t wait to have a stroke before we decide to take the medication.

So how does this apply to osteopathy or manipulative therapy?

Our musculo-skeletal framework is extremely clever and adaptable – it does a fantastic job of covering up potential problems.  If a muscle or a series of muscles become short, or “tight,” and one part of our frame fails to move quite the way it should as a result, our bodies immediately adapt and move another part more, or in a different way, to accommodate the problem.  Most of the time we don’t even feel this happening.

This doesn’t cause injury, but it does make it more likely that in some circumstances injury is more likely to occur.  Here’s an example.

Suppose you work in a way which is inclined to make your upper back very stiff and immobile – good examples might be frequent long drives or work at a desk with computer and monitor for hours on end.  That stiff upper back effectively becomes a long, straight lever.  When you bend down, because the upper back doesn’t move much, your lower back has to move more in order for you to reach down.  This makes it more vulnerable to strain, even in simple movements. How many times have you heard from someone with severe back pain, a statement something like…. “All I did was pick the towel up off the floor, and there was a sudden excruciating pain in my back…”  The “All-I Did-Was…” is heard frequently at Joint Solutions!  The same scenario can apply to many other parts of our frame – shoulder, knee, hip, back, elbow, neck etc.

By assessing movement and muscle tone, osteopaths and manipulative therapists can find those areas that aren’t functioning at 100% and treat them to help to restore normal movement.  This isn’t a suit of armour – it won’t prevent all accidents, but patients who come for planned treatment tell us that they experience fewer injuries, and that when injuries do occur, they recover from them more quickly.

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