Frequently asked questions about osteopathy

Q. What is the difference between an osteopath and chiropractor?

A. The types of conditions that osteopaths and chiropractors treat are very similar. The main difference seems to be that osteopaths diagnose patients to have functional lesions; stiffness and immobility of joints, muscular spasm surrounding the joints causing pain, postural changes and irregular movements, whereas chiropractors tend to focus on positional lesions of the vertebrae ie, bones out of place. Therefore, you tend to find that chiropractors use mainly manipulation during treatments, whereas osteopaths also combine soft tissue and articulation of joints as well as manipulation.

Q. What is happening when an osteopath manipulates my back?

A. When an osteopath manipulates your back, you will hear a click. The click is due to the surfaces of the joint coming apart creating a potential vacuum. The aim of this is to separate the joint surfaces, which leads to increased movement between the bones that make up the joint, and causes the muscles surrounding the joint to relax. You may feel a little twisted and stretched as the Osteopath prepares you for manipulation but it does not cause pain.

Q. What is the best position to sleep in?

Side lying with knees slightly bent tends to be the best position to sleep in for most conditions, however it is important to make sure that the neck is well supported by having a correct pillow height. The head should remain in a straight line to the rest of your spine. Side lying however may irritate existing shoulder problems, in which case lying on your back may be more appropriate. Hip and pelvic problems may be strained when side lying, and many patients find it helps to place a pillow between the thighs as this reduces torsion through the pelvis. Sleeping on your front is generally not good as it causes your head to be rotated, so causing strain to the joints in your neck and if you also use a pillow, your neck will be rotated (bent backwards) which can aggravate neck problems. Lying on your stomach may also lead to lower back sagging-so increasingly concave bend (the lordosis) which can also result in low backache.

Q. How often should I do my exercises?

A. Specific exercises given to you by your Osteopath should be carried out at least once a day but ideally morning and evening. If you have very acute pain exercises should be carried out regularly through the day. Everyone should do some form of exercise at least three times per week, swimming is appropriate as it tends to be gentle on your joints reducing the effects of gravity, whilst strengthening heart and lung function. Walking also helps to maintain joint mobility and strengthen postural muscles. It is important to do some form of weight bearing exercise to maintain good bone density. At Thetford Osteopaths, we are very keen to give exercises to improve your posture, strengthen your back muscles and maintain suppleness of the body.

Q. What causes sciatica?

A. There are many causes of sciatica. The term sciatica describes irritation of the sciatic nerve and this may occur anywhere along the course of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve originates from the sacral plexus. The sciatic nerve may be trapped by a lumbar disc prolapse causing compression at the nerve root, or it may be compressed more peripherally by the piriformis, a muscle that lies deep in the buttock. It may occur after prolonged squatting, immobility, or fractures or dislocation of the hip joint. Osteopathic treatment involves identifying the cause and trying to release the pressure on the nerve by improving range of motion, relaxing soft tissues and taking the strain off the structures involved.

Q. What should I wear when I come for treatment?

A. You may be asked to undress down to your underwear depending on the area of your symptoms. Patients are welcome to wear shorts if they feel more comfortable. There are male and female practitioners available at the practice.

Q. How much does it cost for treatment?

A. Each treatment costs £39.00 for a 30 minute session. On your first consultation a full medical history will be taken with examination and treatment. Thereafter consultations are treatment based. Andrew Hamilton is a registered BUPA and PPP consultant and so if you have BUPA cover, and your General Practitioner or a Consultant refers you for treatment, the cost of treatment can be reclaimed. Many private health care insurance companies also cover the cost of osteopathic treatment.

Q. Do I need to speak to my doctor before coming for treatment?

A. Quite often your Doctor may refer you to come to see an Osteopath for treatment, however you can come of your own accord. We always write to your Doctor to inform them of your symptoms and our diagnosis, and we may refer you to see your Doctor if we feel further tests are required.

Q. What is a slipped disc?

A. The joints at the bottom of your spine or your neck are most often affected. In between the bony vertebra are discs, which are mainly made of fibrocartilage. There is an inner part called the nucleus pulposus, which is more jelly like in consistency and an outer part called the annulus fibrosus, which is the strong fibrocartilage to protect the inner nucleus pulposus. The purpose of the disc is to space the vertebrae apart whilst attaching them together. If there is some weakness in the outer annulus fibrosus, some of the gelatinous nucleus pulposus can protrude, this causes a bulging on the outside of the disc, which can then press on nerves exiting the spinal cord at that level. There are different degrees of severity ranging from a small protrusion to a severe prolapse when the nucleus pulposus pushes all through the annulus fibrosus. Naturally, the disc will heal through shrinkage and breakdown of the extruded disc material. However, in severe cases surgery may be required to fuse the joints at the base of the spine.

If you require further information about our osteopathy, give us a call today on

01842 750 650
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