The word holistic is one that is widely used amongst many forms of therapy and is frequently misused, as well as misunderstood. All too often, when we use this word as osteopaths, we come across a sceptical look from patients as they conjure images of some type of faith healer, chanting prayers whilst surrounded by clouds of incense! This isn’t quite what we are referring to.
Holism is a core osteopathic principle, centred on the notion that “the body is a unit”. Therefore, our approach to health takes the view that the cause of pain in one particular area may not originate from that specific location, its roots may not even stem from a physical origin. Health is multi-factorial (i.e. health is affected by many factors) and it is the role of the osteopath to remember this when dealing with each individual patient.
This diagram below represents some of the factors that contribute to health. It is a simple view of something which is infinitely more complicated.
To take a truly holistic view, these areas can be further broken down. When patients come to see us with shoulder pain, they often get confused as to why we start assessing their pelvis or foot mechanics, but it isn’t possible to get a full understanding of how the shoulder is affected without taking a step back to take a look at the ‘whole’’ of the person, including their health history, posture, gait, and so on.
In the same manner that osteopathy is ‘holistic’ in examining a patient, it is equally holistic in the forms of treatment that it employs to help steer its patients’ health back onto the right path. “Holistic treatment” involves physical therapy, combined with exercise, lifestyle changes (shoes, bags, seated ergonomics, learning how to lean over and carry etc.), dietary advice, or simply acting as a counsellor to the patient to ease health concerns.
Marcus and I are ‘holistic’ osteopaths, our practice is called Bridge to Health, and we are based in Uxbridge, West London.