Osteopathy

The intention of this entry (and any further ones, I may post like it) is to report to you conclusions drawn from the research I’ve been doing.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading and listening to podcasts and learning many new things I wish to share.

I’ve decided to deliver it in bite-sized chunks so you can quickly digest it.  Then if  you’re really interested you can find references and links below where you can read in more detail.

I hope to do more little posts like this one (however the procrastination bug is strong!).  I chose Ostopathy as my first investigation, as I’ve been receiving osteopathic treatments for some time now.  In my own experience I’ve found it better than Chiropractic (which in my opinion is a sham, but I will leave that one for another post).  The biggest difference is about 40 minutes.  A chiropractic session will typically last 5 or 6 minutes, whereas an Osteopathic treatment will last 40-45 minutes.  The other major difference I found is that a Chiropractor will try to convince you that you need a number of treatments over a very long period of time.
The chiropractor I saw also used kinesiology as a diagnostic tool, which I now know is a croc.  I can’t believe I didn’t pick up on that one straight away.

Australian Osteopaths spend 5 years at Uni.  They typically get a Bachelor of Science.  Many American Osteopaths also get a Medical degree.  While they are highly educated, I can’t seem to find any references to evidence suggesting that Osteopathic treatment is effective.  The Australian Ostopathic Association says,

“It is a common misconception that Osteopathic theories have not been scientifically validated. In fact there exists a great deal of research which not only provides a physiological basis for Osteopathic concepts and techniques, but also provides statistical data on outcomes. Reports have shown not only a consistent level of successful outcome, but also a high degree of patient satisfaction.”

They do not however reference any of this ‘great deal of research’.  I emailed them to see if they can point me toward the research they mention. I was surprised to receive a reply a few days later.  They suggested I should contact Science Direct or the International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine.  Science Direct turns out to be a database you need to subscribe to in order to access their journal articles.  The IJOM link that was sent to me describes the journal, and the links to the articles take you to Science Direct where you are then asked to purchase the article.   I also find it dubious that they only referenced their own journal.

Rose Shapiro, in her book  Suckers: How Alternitave Medicine Makes Fools of Us All, states;

“… but make enquires beyond reports of customer satisfaction and there is minimal evidence to show that spinal manipulation is any better at alleviating back pain than gentle exercise.”

Shapiro cites reviews of current research that conclude that there was no evidence to suggest that spinal manipulation was an effective intervention of any condition. (osteo & chiro)

The Australian Ostopathic Association answers the question;

“What’s the difference between osteopaths, chiropractors and physiotherapists? – It’s not the role of any health professional to try to define what another health care professional is, and what they do.”

Who says?  I find that answer extremely unsatisfying and evasive.

Dr. Stephen Barrett from Quackwatch says;

“Today, except for additional emphasis on musculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment, the scope of osteopathy [in the U.S.] is identical to that of medicine. The percentage of practitioners who use osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) and the extent to which they use it have been falling steadily.”

As far as I can tell Rose Shapiro is a journalist, I can’t find much more info on her (which is not to say she doesn’t know what she is talking about).  Dr. Barrett is an MD and you can find his full CV if you click on his name above.

Dr. Barrett has some words of advice;

“If you wish to select an osteopathic physician as your primary-care provider, your best bet is to seek one who: (a) has undergone residency training at a medical hospital; (b) does not assert that osteopaths have a unique philosophy or that manipulation offers general health benefits; (c) either does not use manipulation or uses it primarily to treat back pain; and (d) does not practice cranial therapy.”

It seems to be agreed by all the sites I visited that cranial therapy is the dodgiest part of Osteopathy.  Not all Osteopaths practice it.  If you click here, Dr. Ben Goldacre explains more about cranial therapy.

My verdict?  It’s managed to free up some stiff joints I’ve had, I’ve not had any adverse reactions from it.  They’ve never tried to tell me I  must commit to a long term treatment regime.  I’ve been going because I have a slightly bulging disc in the base of my spine, and to undo the damage I do to myself at the gym.  My current osteopath has also given me good advice on stretches to do after a workout that help prevent pain.  I have no doubt whatsover that she absolutely believes in what she is doing.  She is moving interstate soon, so I have to decide if I want to see someone else, or if I want to quit.

I decided to investigate Physiothereapy to see if that was a better option.  I had always assumed it was Evidence Based Medicine, but after discovering other things weren’t I wanted to make sure.  I couldn’t find any artlicles trying to debunk physiotherapy, like I did for Ostopathy and Chiropractic.  I’ve read the curriculum at various Universities for it.  As a lay-person that wasn’t very helpful.  I emailed Dr. Rachael Dunlop who very kindly replied right away.  She confirmed what I thought I knew, that physiotherapists are legitimate health practioners.

I’m tempted to go into more detail, but in the interest of keeping this a ‘bite-sized’ chunk, I’ll close here.  Please feel free to comment, ask questions, refute anything I’ve said (with evidence, of course), or just say hi.


References:

http://www.badscience.net/2004/09/cranial-osteopathy/
http://www.quackwatch.org/04ConsumerEducation/QA/osteo.html
http://www.osteopathic.com.au/index.php/about_osteopathy

Shapiro, Rose. Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All. Harvill Secker, 2008

http://www.sciencedirect.com/ or

http://www.info.sciencedirect.com/using/

International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine (IJOM)

http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home/705245/description

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