Osteopathic Principles: A Four Part Series

Often we are asked what advantages and aspects of Osteopathy excite and drive our practice. Living in a world and healthcare structure of our modern times leads to large amounts of overlap between professions, especially the allied health sector with modalities such as Osteopathy, Physiotherapy and Chiropractic. Due to our interconnected world the tools that we use to influence our patients are quite often very similar and there is much inter professional learning that takes place. I personally think that this has an overall net positive effects towards the public as it means that there are more avenues to improved recovery from injury and greater opportunities to improve the way in which your body works.

So what is it that helps to differentiate Osteopathy from the other allied health providers?

Osteopathic thought revolves around the belief and importance of harmony between the human bodies Structure (Anatomy) and Function (Physiology).

There are four underlying principles of Osteopathy that as practitioners we use as a compass to drive our thought towards treatment for an individual. These are not binding aspects of what we do, however they help steer us in the right direction.

  1. The body is a functional unit. An integrated unit of mind, body, and spirit.
  2. The body possesses self regulatory mechanisms, having the inherent capacity to defend, repair, and remodel itself
  3. Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated
  4. Rational therapy is based on consideration of the first three principles

Over the next four weeks we will delve into each of the basic principles.

THE BODY IS A FUNCTIONAL UNIT: An integrated unit of mind, body and spirit.

Osteopath Spotswood |Osteopath Newport | Osteopath Williamstown | Osteopath Altona | Osteopath Altona North | Osteopath Yarraville | Osteopath Seddon | Osteopath Kingsville | Osteoapath Brooklyn | Osteopath Williamstown North | Osteopath Footscray | Osteopath South Kingsville

Sometimes we need to put all the pieces together to get the best results.

The first principle serves to address the overarching approach to treating an individual. It is folly to address an individuals complaint without looking to work with all aspects that may influence the ability of an individual to improve and recover from an injury process.

If we look at low back pain as an injury, there are factors that influence the ability for return to pre-injury state that sit outside of the resolution of mechanical injury. Back pain of at least moderate intensity occurs to between 10%-15% of adult individuals every year. 90% of those cases are fully resolved within 3 months. That leaves us with 10% who for one reason or another do not heal within a timeframe that would normally be associated with the healing times of those tissues. In some individuals there are underlying aspects that limit recovery that are not specifically tied to the anatomy, and hence we must look to influence the mind to drive healing as well (Andersson, 1999).

There can be a multitude of barriers to recovery and as Osteopaths we look to address those barriers to foster a holistic healing environment that works on the anatomy and address issues that may be interfering or limiting recovery. Often there is fear that the injury will reoccur and so by learning to move through a range that was recently painful can be difficult as the brain has memory of the pain that it experienced and often will try to guard the area with muscles. By overcoming these hurdles we can then move forward with restrengthening and retraining aiming to return you to a state that is stronger, healthier and easier than prior to the injury occurring.

Our treatment goals involve your input and contribution to the wellbeing process, which may include exercises or improvements to some of your regular activities, all with the goal of making you move better and resulting in being less prone to injury.


  • G.B.J. Andersson ‘Epidemiological features of chronic low-back pain’, Lancet, 354 (1999), pp. 581–585

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