Acupuncture involves the insertion of sterile, single-use, very thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body. A key component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain. Increasingly, it is being used for overall wellness, including stress management.
Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force — known as chi or qi (chee) — believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance.
In contrast, many Western practitioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. Some believe that this stimulation boosts your body's natural painkillers.
Acupuncture is used mainly to relieve discomfort associated with a variety of diseases and conditions, including:
Source: Mayo Clinic
Osteopathy is manual therapy designed to help the systems and structures of the human body function better. According to the Canadian Federation of Osteopaths (CFO), osteopathy’s goal is to help the body find balance to promote self-healing.
“Osteopathy is really holistic,” says Nga Luu, an osteopathic manual practitioner with Inner Peace Osteopathy in Toronto. “We don’t treat symptoms but find the root cause of the dysfunction and use manipulations to allow the body to self-heal. We use a lot of palpation.” Palpation means using your hands to check the body to find the source of problems like pain.
Despite it’s popularity, there’s still a lot of confusion about what osteopathy is —and how it works.
Manual osteopathic practitioners are not medical doctors and their training may vary. They are often members of a group in their province with benchmarks about the training they should have. Ontario’s association, for example, uses benchmarks from the World Health Organization (WHO). These include knowing about systems of the body, how to pinpoint problems and create treatment plans, and supervised training.
“We can’t give any medical diagnosis,” explains Luu. “We can say: 'You have fluid in the joint, restricting proper range of motion'."
Luu says the body is a dynamic unit of function, which means she treats patients holistically as individuals. Body, mind and spirit. Structure and function are interrelated, meaning if the body is out of alignment, the body will not function well. Osteopathy aims to help the body self-heal, according to the Canadian Federation of Osteopaths (CFO).
Osteopathic practitioners look for changes in your body. For example, any changes to the texture of your tissue in your body or restricted range of motion. They put them back into alignment using a variety of techniques. These include using myofascial (muscle) release, or craniosacral, which releases tension in the body. One of the main differences between osteopathy and chiropractic is how they do spinal manipulations. When a chiropractor realigns your spine, you may hear a “popping” sound. In osteopathy, they don’t use the same approach, which is known as high-velocity, low-amplitude manipulation.
Osteopathy mostly offers help with issues related to joints, bones and muscles, according to Luu. For example:
Speak with your doctor before seeking treatment, especially if you are pregnant. Osteopathic manual practitioners develop a treatment plan based on each patient’s specific needs.
At the first osteopathy appointment, you’ll review your health history and give your consent for treatment, Luu says. Surprised by the long list of questions? Don’t be alarmed. Since osteopathy uses a holistic approach, it’s perfectly normal for the practitioner to gather detailed knowledge about your health.
Your practitioner will then give you an osteopathic assessment by feeling different parts of your body. After noting any problem areas, they will treat them using their hands. Your osteopathic manual practitioner may focus on a part of your body that’s far removed from the area that hurts. That’s because the aim of osteopathy is to balance how various systems of the body interact. To do so, they treat their patients using their hands. The goal is to remove any obstructions that are interfering with the proper function of the body.
“Each patient will feel differently after their osteopathic treatment,” says Luu. “Some may feel sore within 24 or 48 hours as their body tries to stabilize.” But she says most patients feel more relaxed, lighter, freer, less restricted and with less pain. Luu says osteopathic treatment can also lead to a deeper, more relaxed sleep, better mood and more energy.
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