My path to Osteopathy, Part 1

As with probably most young adults, I did not know what to do with my life after High School. I was interested in a lot of things, new discoveries always filled me with excitement and no matter what I discovered anew, I was convinced that this was the very thing I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Being born and raised in Germany almost half a century ago, the notion that the profession you chose will be with you for the rest of your life, was drilled into me from a very young age. Naturally, the decision which occupation I would select was a very important one. I felt a bit overwhelmed and ended up listening to my mother who suggested that becoming a physical therapist would be a good choice. I believe, at this time, she really liked the physical therapist who healed her chronic neck pain and thought she could secure herself some free treatments given by her daughter.

I went to physical therapy school, finished my one year internship in an orthopedic hospital, which specialized in hip and knee replacements, and found a job in a rehabilitation clinic for athletes. The work was okay, but did I really like it? After a few months of working in the clinic a thought crept up which whispered, “Maybe your mum wasn't right. What if this is not the right profession for you?” It wasn't that I didn't like what I was doing. I met interesting people and sports has always been a passion of mine. But the work wasn't exhilarating either. More and more often I felt bored by explaining the same exercises over and over again. I also started to doubt the effectiveness of the techniques I had learned in physical therapy school. A lot of explanations didn't make sense to me. We learned, for example, that a protruded disc in the neck would cause neck pain, that osteoarthritis would cause back pain etc. However, my clinical findings didn't agree with this knowledge. There was something which didn't make sense. Why do some people have no pain even though their MRI shows ruptured discs and arthritis in several joints? On the other hand, why do some people have excruciating pain with only mild degenerative variations? There were a lot of questions. I knew that I needed to learn more in order to find answers and not resign to a work routine I considered ineffective.

After two years of working in the rehabilitation clinic, I met a colleague who had studied osteopathy. I had never heard of this method before and was curious. Patients praised her for her gifted hands and her success rate seemed much higher than mine ever was. What was her secret? One sunny afternoon (sunny afternoons are not very common in Germany, so it is worth mentioning here), we met for coffee and I asked her about this mysterious field of osteopathy. What is it? How does it work? Where does it come from? She shared her knowledge about osteopathy and I was in for a treat. Her eyes were sparkling, here voice vibrant, and her body language full of excitement about the topic. Her love for osteopathy was obvious and contagious. She started talking.

“Osteopathy was developed in 1874 by Andrew Taylor Still in Kirksville, Missouri after losing three children of spinal meningitis. He was disillusioned with the health care system and tried to understand the nature of disease. He considered the body as a unit and not as separate parts. He believed that all the systems in the body are interrelated and interdependent. Therefore it is important to find the Cause for a dysfunction. The cause for a headache can be found in the head, but not necessarily. Maybe a fall onto ones tailbone dislocated the bone. Now, the pull on the dura, which is fixed on the tailbone, is stronger than normally and causes headaches by transferring the higher tension to the meninges surrounding the brain (the dura extends from the tailbone through the spinal canal into the brain). Hundreds of obvious and hidden connections like this can be found. The work of an osteopath sometimes resembles the work of a detective. Even though common patterns can be found, every body is different, with different interrelationships and connections.”

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