Shedding light on osteopathy

June 16, 2021

Though it has been around for quite some time, osteopathy is still a relatively unknown practice. What is it, and what can it do for you?

What is osteopathy?

“Osteopathy is a non-invasive, drug-free treatment that uses hands-on manual therapy techniques to boost the body’s natural healing abilities,” says Pamela Kennedy, supervisor, benefit services at Manitoba Blue Cross.

Though osteopathy is a holistic treatment method and is not limited to one specific area of the body, it’s often used to treat feeding issues, acute or chronic pain, digestive problems, muscle spasms, respiratory difficulties and postural issues.

What should you expect when you go to an osteopath?

As osteopaths are holistic practitioners, they start with taking a detailed health history to understand where your concern may be coming from. This will be followed by a whole-body assessment, and then a focus on specific areas as needed. You may be asked to do simple movements or stretches to allow the osteopath to analyze your mobility. They may also make assessments with a technique known as palpation that uses varying degrees of touch to determine the internal condition of the body.

Treatment itself consists of hands-on techniques, including stretching, resistance and gentle manipulation and pressure to release tension, increase mobility and enhance the body’s ability to adapt. Like a physiotherapist, osteopaths focus on self-healing, so they may also give you exercises or techniques to follow at home, as well as other suggestions to improve your health and wellness.

What should you look for in an osteopath?

With osteopathy being a relatively new specialty in Canada, the answer is not cut and dried, Kennedy says.

“The best way to confirm if a provider is eligible with Manitoba Blue Cross is to call them and ask,” says Kennedy. Or, you can also check with Manitoba Blue Cross customer service.

Manitoba Blue Cross bases our eligibility requirements on World Health Organization recommendations. When it comes to your benefits, eligible osteopaths must be members of an approved association, submit proof of education from an approved institution and submit proof of professional liability insurance. Requirements may also change based on the provider’s prior training.

On top of ensuring your practitioner is eligible under your health coverage, the Manitoba Association of Osteopathic Manual Therapists recommends asking your practitioner how many years of training they have. With varying standards, not every practitioner will have the same experience. For reference, graduates of the Canadian College of Osteopathy have to complete five years of hands-on training and a research thesis.

For more information about osteopathy, visit the Manitoba Association of Osteopathic Manual Therapists.

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