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  • David Bennett

The Biodynamics of Osteopathy

There are a variety of treatment methods within the profession of Osteopathy - each adhering to the 3 primary Osteopathic principles of Wholeness ('The body is a unit'), Vitality that arises from Intergration ('Structure and function being reciprocally inter-related'), and Natural Self-Healing ('The body has a Self-healing and Self-regulating mechanism'). Osteopathic treatment methods are also described in terms of being either 'Structural' or 'Functional' - the difference between these are explained below.

A STRUCTURAL approach views the human body as a machine, and looks to achieve therapeutic change with gentle mechanical force: using the bones as leverage, to alter or influence all other tissues: muscles, joints, ligaments, fascia, nerves, organs and fluids of the body (hence the name 'Osteo' (bones)-pathy (feeling). Different body parts are created within nature, to resist compression, distraction and to perform a unique function - and this predetermines the nature of their structure. Nothing in the body exist without a reason. Any alteration in body structure away from this originally intended perfect design (generally as a result of trauma) will alter it's mechanical characteristics, and so also the way it functions. The body is an interconnected whole: so any movement lost in one region will either affect, or be accommodated for elsewhere. Treatments therefore aim to decompress any of those physical elements which have become abnormally tight: this in turn reduces the mechanical, circulatory and/or neurological strain placed upon other interrelated regions.

A FUNCTIONAL approach views the story behind the human machine - and looks to achieve change through cooperating with the body's own indwelling awareness and self-healing capacity. By way of examples: In the field of Neurology, it is understood that when a person has a limb amputated, awareness of a phantom limb still remains. Further in the field of Prosthetics, it is observed that amputees can effectively walk again, only when their phantom limb (function/body awareness) is still present and becomes integrated with a new artificial limb (structure/anatomy). A person's whole body will then trust that the artificial limb is exactly where they feel it to be . Further, in the field of Functional Neurology, experimental research using virtual reality (to deceive subjects into believing they are moving their painfully restricted necks in rotation far less than they actually are), find that subjects are able to achieve previously unthinkable increases in pain-free range of motion. This research indicates the importance of the phantom/awareness/functional aspect of the body - where body awareness can influence body structure, without any structural problem being present.

The FLUID BODY is an important aspect of Biodynamic Osteopathic treatment, and is perceived as an egg shaped field surrounding the physical body. The 'Fluid Body' as the name suggests, has characteristics similar to protoplasm (refer to the 'Video' section for details): which can change shape, position, tone, texture and hold an image or imprint of function: depending upon various environmental influences. Whereas the Physical Body is affected by the accumulation of physical trauma, the Fluid Body is affected by other environmental influences such as positive (expanding) feelings of love, safety and security, supportive home and work environments, time spent in nature, spiritual practice, or negative (constricting) effects of stress, shock, poor food choices, drugs, toxins, disease states and metabolic stress. A healthy and actively expanding Fluid Body (or Function) acts to support the physiology of the Physical Body (Structure). As an example, if someone experiences a stressful event that shakes their foundation in life, often the fluid body will retreat from their legs. That person will feel a sense of being ungrounded, with little sense of anything beneath their feet. Structure and function of the legs are no longer integrated, and the lower legs lose their natural vitality and lift. As a reaction to this ungroundedness, often a person's breathing diaphragm will tighten: the body's way of generating some compensatory stability - but this often results in the chest collapsing with restricted breathing, a subsequent reduction in fluid return to the heart via the lymph nodes, so increased congestion and decreased immunity, plus the possibility of back and neck pain or headaches though postural strain from a restricted chest - all the result of a single functional change in life. From a treatment point of view, the objective is to address the primary issue - that is to restore fluid body expansion, and then with gentle encouragement, the physical issues will easily resolve.

Deeper still beyond the structure and it's underlying function, is a CENTRAL STILLNESS through which the blueprint of a perfect body design emerges - a reminder of how the body was originally intended to be. It is this central orientation that brings stability, organisation, coordination and ultimately a self-generated therapeutic healing response. "Be Still and Know" ~ Dr William Sutherland DO (Founder of Cranial Osteopathy).


OSTEOPATHY is a functional approach to treatment which considers any mechanical distortions within the body structure, functional alterations to the Fluid Body and a deeper centralising stillness (Blueprint). This expanded methodology of Cranial Osteopathic treatment is taught by Dr James Jealous DO. Embryological development, growth to maturity, and also the body's self-healing and self-regulating capacity are all governed by the deeper intelligence contained within each and every person. A Biodynamic Cranial Osteopath will notice various regions of mechanical restriction within a patient's body, but will then look to find a central stillness within (or doorway to the person's greatest potential. . The body has a self-healing mechanism already at work, in the process of trying to resolve a dysfunction in structure or function, but having got lost or stuck in the process . It is therefore the body itself which guides the Osteopath in an unfolding treatment process: and so with gentle assistance, returns to the point of structure and function becoming interconnected as a whole, and Health expressing itself as natural movement with the tissues.

The CRANIAL RYTHMIC IMPULSE (CRI) can be perceived as movements within the body of a patient when Structure, Function/Fluid Body and Central Stillness are integrated. There are different rates of movement, each associated with different levels of Structure, Function (and the more subtle aspects of physiology). These same rhythms of life are expressed within protoplasm (the same substance contained within cells), and so within all living organisms - see the Video section above for an experimental demonstration of this.

During TREATMENT an Osteopath feels and listens to a patient's body, with the aim of cooperating with the natural self-healing capacity already at work within. When one finds a therapeutic process within, that has lost it's way, very little intervention is required to re-initiate a therapeutic change. When a patient is asked by friends or family to explain their experience of Biodynamic Cranial Osteopathy, they will invariably say "I don't quite understand how it works, since my Osteo doesn't seem to do much: but it just works for me!"

OSTEOPATHY was founded in the U.S. in 1876 by Dr Andrew Taylor Still, a doctor and army surgeon. Today, U.S. Osteopaths have the same legislative practice rights as medical practitioners. Throughout the U.S. both Modern Medical (Allopathic*) Hospitals - as in Australia, and Osteopathic Medical Hospitals, each provide a full range of health services - from acute trauma and emergency medicine, to all specialist fields. Osteopathy also has an original specialist interest in Manual Medicine, and the self-healing capacity of the human body. In Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. and throughout Europe, Osteopathy remain drug and surgery free - as it was originally intended to be..

* Allopathic means 'against disease'. Allopathic is the term used when referring to Modern Medicine: hospitals, specialists and GPs, whose treatments act directly against a disease process, with drugs, surgery etc. Osteopathic, means 'bone feeling'. Osteopathic ''feeling' manual treatments act to encourage the body's own self-healing capacity. Osteopathy is a complete medical system, that utilises the body's natural pharmacy within.

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