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Holistic Healing thru
by Peta Sneddon & Paolo
Continued from Part
Principles of Osteopathy
Three of the main principles of
1. Structure and function are
2. “The rule of the artery
3. The unity of the human
Structure and Function are Interdependent
Life is a dynamic process in
which change is the only constant and so its main characteristic is motion.
Motion — or movement — within a healthy, balanced body (or any other living
thing) is fluid and rhythmical. Free movement between the body structures is
essential for the health of an individual. When it is disrupted the function is
in some way disturbed. Disrupted movement is the altered state that comes about
before disease emerges.
When we use the term structure,
we mean the muscles, bones ligaments, organs, and fascia. By the term function,
we mean the way in which all the different parts of the body work within
themselves and in relation to each other. The relationship between structure and
function applied in a therapeutic context is probably the greatest contribution
made by Andrew Still to medicine. A very good example of this relationship is
the young, growing brain. The amount of varied activity that stimulates the
brain to work also influences the rate and quality of the growth of the brain
The structure of the circulatory
system is the heart, blood vessels, their valves, and the blood. If the blood
vessel walls get thicker and harder — which may be caused by an imbalance in
the contents of the blood — then problems may develop in the circulation.
The osteopath looks for free
movement between the joints. In the spine, for example, she looks for
flexibility and mobility, as without these the blood and nerve supply to the
surrounding and related tissues and organs will be poor. In treatment, the
osteopath aims to have a positive effect on the body’s function, even though
she works directly on the structure.
Rule of the Artery Is Supreme”
This expression means that, for
good health, good circulation of all body fluids is essential. Poor circulation
is likely to mean that the cells will be starved of what they need to survive,
and will eventually die. All the tissues in the body are made up of different
kinds of cells, which get their nutrients from the fluid in which they live. The
body fluid consists of the blood, lymph, which drains and cleans the tissues,
and the spinal fluid that supports, nourishes and drains the central nervous
system. In order for the nutrients to be easily absorbed and for waste products
to be got rid of, three conditions need to be fulfilled:
• the fluid must be present in
• the rhythmic movement of the cells must be constant
• the body fluids must circulate freely
The circulatory system carries
the hormones produced by the endocrine system and is controlled by the nervous
system. The two systems that form a communication between all the systems of the
body are the nervous and circulatory systems. In his writing, Dr. Still often
emphasized the importance of one particular system — the musculoskeletal
system, the lymphatic system, the fascia, etc. The reason for this was probably
his intuition that in each individual case, one system was the most important
factor in creating the disease. At the same time, he always maintained his
vision of the unity of the whole body.
Unity of the Human Being
According to the Western
Christian tradition, the human being consists of a threefold unit: body, mind,
and spirit. This view was adopted by many of the first osteopaths and it is
still held by many practitioners today. The relationship between the mind and
the body is now taken into consideration by most physicians and health-care
professionals. The effect of emotions such as fear, laughter, or sadness on the
body, for example, is immediately apparent.
This unity of the body, and its
self-healing capacity, is also evident in the neurological, endocrine, and
immune systems. In the past decade, researchers have discovered that chemical
substances (a variety of hormones and neurological transmitters) produced by the
body are recognized by, and communicate with, these three systems. This process
is a means by which the body sets in motion its healing mechanism.
For example, an inflammation in
the tissues results in the release of substances that increase circulation and
temperature, and cause increased sensitivity or even pain by irritating the
nerve endings. This information travels in the spinal cord, and some of it goes
to the brain, where it stimulates the release of hormones into the blood. It
also brings to our conscious awareness the local problem. Once in circulation
around the body, these hormones will affect different organs and interact with
the immune system. In this way, the whole body is woken up and works as a
complete unit to bring things back to normal.
The nervous and circulatory
systems not only integrate the normal functions of the body but, if disturbed,
can inhibit the body’s natural powers of self-healing. The body’s
musculoskeletal system reflects, and may aggravate, the condition of these
systems and so influence a person’s state of health. When an osteopath thinks
of the interconnectedness of the body he has in his mind all of these systems.
and the Holistic Approach
A holistic approach to health
means that every part of the body is seen within the context of the whole; that
whole is more than the sum of the parts. As all the organs and systems of
the body are interconnected, we cannot treat one part without influencing and
changing the whole. This may mean that the cause of a problem may be far from
where the symptoms are found.
A patient who has had a whiplash
injury in a car accident, for example, may complain of pain in the leg. Tension
in the lower back may be causing this pain, but as the primary problem is
located in the neck, until this is resolved there is little chance that the
symptoms will clear. The osteopath will therefore take great care in treating
the neck, as well as the leg and back. This approach will release the stress in
the nervous system and help the body to recover as a whole.
Dr. Andrew Still said: “Find
it, fix it, and leave it alone.” These words sum up how the principles of
osteopathy may be applied to treatment. As the path to cure lies inside the
patient’s body, treatment is directed toward removing some of the obstacles
that are stopping the healing process from taking place spontaneously.
Overtreatment is a mistake — the osteopath must respect each patient’s own
rhythms and the pace at which each person functions and so can heal. The
practitioner needs to offer the space and time for the individual to carry out
their own self-healing.
By acknowledging the uniqueness
of each individual, in every treatment session there is a key point for the mind
and body which, if properly corrected, will in time bring about a broad and deep
change in that person’s situation. In order to find the key point, the
osteopath must be, as much as possible, in tune with the patient.
Dr. Still emphasized in all his
books the importance of mind-matter-motion. He identified “mind” with man’s
spiritual being, which can maintain the body in good health only by tuning in to
nature’s “mind”. Behind this, for Still, lay the will of God, the Mind of
all minds. Motion was central to Still’s thinking because he saw in it the
very expression of life.
With this as a starting point,
we can say that health is a dynamic process characterized by every aspect of a
human being — the thinking, social, physical, and spiritual components that go
to make up the whole person. A deep healing cannot take place without the
combination of all of these parts in our lives.
The way in which the body and
mind are linked in the process of healing may be as follows. Within ourselves,
we have a series of built-in, automatic reflexes ranging from physiological
homeostatic mechanisms, to those that regulate our behavior patterns. These
mechanisms can become locked in a circle of self-repetition that may eventually
lead to disease. An example of this may be a person who has been under a great
deal of stress; because of this, he develops an increasing level of anxiety and
starts to eat compulsively. This in turn may in time lead to diabetes. So a
conditioned pattern of behavior becomes locked in a vicious, self-repeating
Another example could be an
elderly woman who breaks her hip. Consequently, she is bedridden for several
weeks, becomes depressed, loses interest in food, and eventually dies
On the other hand, we also have
a natural tendency toward self-improvement, which means that we can function
more efficiently both psychologically and physically. Psychologically, this
tendency is characterized by the conscious effort we make toward an increasing
self-awareness that can break down unbalanced, conditioned behavior and be our
source of continual growth.
Healing spans an extremely wide
range, from getting rid of a common cold, to achieving a well-balanced
personality. It is, of course, not necessary to go through a deep inner change
in order to cure a cold. On the other hand, to heal from serious illness such as
cancer may require — along with the appropriate medication — a total
transformation and an awakening. Healing goes hand in hand with a feeling of
well-being and the return to a joyous personality.
Healing does not always coincide
with treatment. Whether the treatment takes the form of manual manipulation,
surgery, drugs, or counseling, healing will not always follow and may come about
months or years after clinical treatment. One definition of healing may
therefore be that a person is functioning to the best of her potential and is
therefore healthy. An example of this is a child who, after a fracture, has one
leg slightly shorter than the other. He suffers from low back pain and has a
limp; he may also have problems with his digestion and difficulty in sleeping.
Osteopathic treatment may help with the back pain, digestive and sleeping
problems, but the length of the child’s leg may be irreparable. So we could
say that he is healing when he is back to functioning as well as he can, given
and Other Therapies
Chiropractic and osteopathy
both had their origins in the U.S. toward the end of the nineteenth century. Dr.
Daniel Palmer, the founder of chiropractic, is believed to have spent some time
studying with Dr. Still. Following that study, Dr. Palmer moved to another state
and started his own personal healing discipline. Chiropractic means manual
treatment — it is formed by two Greek words, chiro, meaning hands, and praktikos,
meaning done by.
There are similarities and
differences between the two therapies. Palmer first stressed the role of the
nervous system and of the spinal column in health and disease, seeing nerve
compression as the basis for all problems. Chiropractors are more likely to use
X-rays when diagnosing a patient’s problem. They also concentrate on
manipulation of the spine, directly adjusting it with rapid movements.
The differences between
osteopathy and physiotherapy are mainly found in their underlying philosophies.
They do not use drugs, but manual treatment, exercises, and electrotherapies. In
the past, physiotherapists did not make diagnoses, but worked with a patient
after the doctor’s diagnosis.
Physiotherapists are experts in
their field and they work in collaboration with osteopaths in various cases.
Over the past hundred years of its life, the profession has changed greatly and
it is interesting to see how the attitude and approach of physiotherapists has
come to appreciate other methods of treatment. They maintain that they are
moving toward a more holistic approach to health and patient management.
Peta Sneddon &
Info/Order this book
Peta Sneddon and Paolo
Cosechi are registered osteopaths who share a private practice in
Chianti, Italy. This article was excerpted
with permission from "Discover Osteopathy" published by
Ulysses Press. Ulysses Press/Seastone Books are available at bookstores
throughout the US, Canada, and the UK, or can be ordered directly from
Ulysses Press by calling 800-377-2542, faxing 510-601-8307, or writing
to Ulysses Press, PO Box 3440, Berkeley, CA 94703, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Their website is http://hiddenguides.com
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