Osteopathy is a branch of medicine that puts a strong emphasis on the musculoskeletal system (which is the body's interconnected system of muscles, bones and nerves) and the effect it has on diseases, other medical conditions as well as overall health. Developed in 1874 by physician Andrew Taylor Still, the practice uses a variety of non-invasive, drug-free therapies that focus on the massage and manipulation of the body. Osteopathy---which in the U.S. is not a mainstream medical approach---has several advantages and disadvantages in comparison to more orthodox medical techniques.
One of the advantages of osteopathy is that it can be used to treat a wide array of disease and conditions. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center at umm.edu, osteopathy has been scientifically proven to relieve pain associated with neck and back problems. In addition, there are strong indications that osteopathy is effective against depression, asthma, tennis elbow, ankle injuries, menstrual pain, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and pain associated with recovering from surgical procedures.
In addition to being a multifunctional medical practice, osteopathy is also well known for its preventive qualities. According to rueckenbuch.de, undergoing regular osteopathic procedures such as massages can help prevent future diseases and other bodily disturbances. Osteopathy can also help prevent light pain or other minor problems from escalating into more serious, chronic and/or widespread conditions.
Another benefit of osteopathy is that it typically poses little risk of producing negative interactions with other medications and treatments. This makes make it an excellent supplemental treatment, which doctors, physical therapists and other medical practitioners often prescribe in addition to more mainstream, primary treatments, such as surgeries and painkillers or other drugs. According to rueckenbuch.de, osteopathy is also particularly useful in cases where traditional treatments have exhausted their effectiveness, which is typically the result of extensive, frequent periods of use.
While osteopathy can be used to treat a number of different conditions, it does have its limitations. According to umm.edu, there are several conditions that you should not treat with osteopathy, including ligament damage, joint and bone infections, rheumatoid arthritis of the neck, bone cancer and dislocated or broken bones. In addition, you should avoid osteopathy if you are taking blood-thinning or anticoagulant medications like warfarin or aspirin, and if you have recently undergone a surgical procedure involving your joints.
The majority of osteopathy side effects are temporary, and---according to umm.edu---typically last no longer than a day. These include headaches, fatigue and increase in pain or soreness. Other complications, which are much more rare, include damage to the spinal chord and strokes.
Rate of Recovery
While many mainstream medical approaches, such as surgeries and pain medications, are known for their fast-acting relief, the time it takes osteopathy to prove effective is variable. According to betterback.co.uk, the time it takes osteopathy to work depends on a number of factors including age, overall health and the particular disease or condition being treated.
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