What to expect on your first visit
How long will the consultation take?
Your osteopath may spend from 45 minutes to an hour with you on your first appointment. This allows ample time to get to know you, understand your complaint, ascertain enough information to form a diagnosis and begin to treat your condition. After this you will normally have 30 minute follow up treatment sessions.
What will the osteopath do?
Initially a thorough case history will be taken, discussing your past and present medical background, your current symptoms, work-life, hobbies and general well-being. A physical examination will then take place, at which point your osteopath may ask you to remove certain items of clothing where necessary. You may feel more comfortable wearing loose clothing that can be rolled up to access the area of your symptoms if need be. You will be made to feel as comfortable as possible throughout this process, and if you do not wish to remove any item of clothing you will never be forced to do so. Any physical findings during the examination such as posture, quality of joint movement and muscle tone will be considered alongside the case history to form a diagnosis. This will be explained to you openly before any treatment is carried out, and you will have a chance to ask questions at any point throughout the consultation process.
What happens if the problem is not musculoskeletal?
In certain cases, if your osteopath has reason to suspect that the cause of symptoms may not be purely or primarily musculoskeletal they will perform a number of diagnostic clinical tests. Osteopaths are medically trained to examine a number of body systems, including Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Lymphatic, Neurological and the Abdominal organs. If there is anything concerning or clinically unusual in these preliminary tests, osteopaths will refer you to your GP for further investigations to rule out or explore other potential causes of your symptoms. In all cases, if your osteopath believes that your symptoms are not appropriate to treat without further investigation, you will be referred. It is not uncommon for your osteopath to examine an area of the body that you feel may be unrelated to the cause of your symptoms, it is not normally due to concern over something more serious so you do not need to worry. Diagnostic clinical tests are also used to gauge your general health and as a marker for recovery. This will be explained to you throughout the process and if you are concerned about anything at all, please ask questions!
What happens if you come with a pre-existing condition, can osteopathy still help?
Osteopaths look at the whole body and how it works as an entirety, not the symptomatic area alone. The way in which our bodies adapt and compensate when we suffer from dysfunction commonly leads to changes in other areas. In addressing these areas we can help speed up recovery time. The aim is to remove any barriers that may inhibit recovery, helping your body to heal itself. Osteopathy is a very safe, gentle method of treatment. Depending on what the pre-existing condition is, treatment can usually still be carried out. Osteopaths do not believe that they are directly treating the disease or dysfunction, but more the individual as a whole. This can have very beneficial outcomes with certain conditions. However, in some cases it may not be appropriate to treat. For example, if you think you may be suffering from a relapse of a certain condition such as Rheumatoid or Psoriatic arthritis, treatment may aggravate symptoms. It is best to call in advance if you are unsure whether your condition may a contraindication to treatment.
What happens during treatment?
A diverse range of techniques may be used during treatment such as joint manipulation, massage, stretches and where appropriate, acupucture, to improve the function of a particular area, and the body as a whole. All treatment will be explained before and throughout the sessions and your permission will always be obtained before treatment commences so you will have a chance to ask questions and discuss any aspects of the diagnosis or treatment that you feel you do not understand or are not happy with. If you do not want a certain technique to be performed or method of treatment such as acupuncture or manipulation for example, you will never be persuaded to have it done. You will always be in control of your treatment.
What happens after the initial consultation?
After your first treatment, subsequent appointments normally last up to 30 minutes or so. This allows enough time for a discussion about how your symptoms have progressed, treatment and advice on exercises etc. Any longer than this and it can be too much on the body, which may lead to adverse reactions such as prolonged soreness after treatment for example. In some cases, treatment may not need to last 30 minutes, it very much depends on your condition and at which point the desired change has been detected.
After treatment it is typical to experience some degree of soreness or fatigue. This is normally a very good sign however, showing that things are shifting in the right direction. Your Osteopath will explain this during the treatment session and advise methods of reducing any soreness should you experience it!
How many sessions will I need?
This can vary from patient to patient. Recovery time can depend on the diagnosis and the response of the individual to a particular treatment. We always reassess at each treatment session and explain any findings to you. However, as a very general rule we normally expect to see a change within 3 to 6 treatment sessions. It may take longer than this, or you may not even need 3 treatments! However, at every step of the process we will be honest with you as to how many sessions you may need. You will never be asked to return for treatment if it is unlikely to benefit the condition or if you have recovered.
In the long term, some individuals find they benefit from having a general ‘MOT’ or ‘maintenance’ treatment every 3 to 4 months to ensure the body is in its optimum state. This promotes the philosophy that prevention is better than cure, and it may reduce the development of certain conditions or injuries. It may also mean that you see an Osteopath 3 to 4 times a year as opposed to having to have a set of treatments in one go to treat a problem.