If you've never been to an Osteopath, you may well be wondering what do they actually do?

On the most basic level, an Osteopath helps people manage pain and health problems by moving and manipulating the body through stretching and massage to help muscles, bones and joints work in harmony again.

But in reality, an Osteopath actually does so much more.

So to find out what it's really all about, we sent complete newbie Eleanor (pictured here) to an osteopathy appointment and asked her to report back on what goes on...

Eleanor Bruce

What's An Osteopathy Appointment Like?

As someone who’s never been to an Osteopath before, I honestly had no idea what to expect.

I was vaguely aware that they did something to do with the spine (though I now know that’s just a very small part of it), but otherwise I was clueless.

jon meadows

To set the scene, the osteopathy room at Meadows Wellbeing is light and airy, with a treatment table in the middle, a desk with two chairs and a computer, and a cast of a spine tucked in the corner. It was like a more inviting version of a doctor’s office and I felt at ease right away.

The session started by going through the patient form I’d completed prior to my appointment, which meant that my Osteopath- Jon – already had a rough idea about why I was there. But, as Jon explained to me, it’s still important to go through your health history before getting started, just in case there’s anything important to know. So, for the first little while we spoke about my health, hobbies, occupation, and general lifestyle. What I loved was that Jon explained why he was asking each question, so it never felt like he was just being nosy!

He also made a point to address one of my biggest questions – do you need to remove clothing for treatment? Generally this is unnecessary as long as the Osteopath can access the relevant body parts quite easily, but sometimes the removal of your t-shirt/top might be needed sometimes. This will always be discussed with you in advance and your comfort is the top priority.

Getting Started With the Physical Stuff

With that covered, the first thing Jon did was an assessment of my spine, hips, knees, and reflex. Jon had no problem pinpointing my biggest areas of discomfort, and was spot on with many of his conclusions about my lifestyle etc. It was really quite amazing how quickly he honed in on the biggest trouble areas for me.

Problems identified, Jon got to work on stretching, massaging and generally easing a lot of the tension on my back and shoulders. Most of the treatment was very subtle, some of it was more noticeable – at one point he used his body weight to ease a particularly tight spot in my back – but none of it was ever painful. In fact it was quite an odd sensation to describe, it sometimes verged on uncomfortable, but also felt really good at the same time.

I think the great thing about going to an Osteopath is that they can manipulate your muscles and joints in a way you often can’t do yourself. And for me, having even just that brief spell of treatment made my neck and back feel instantly looser and more comfortable.

What Might You Feel After Your Treatment?

When I asked what kind of results people experience after a session, Jon said some people feel immediately better and report far less pain in their problem areas. Some people feel sore because the treatments can be quite intense on the muscles, but after the soreness eases, they report much more freedom of movement and comfort in their body. Other people also report having emotional reactions. As Jon explained, many people store a lot of emotions, stress, and tension in the body, and when that is released on a physical level, it can also be a release on an emotional level.

I know I store a lot of stress in my body. But honestly I hadn’t realised it was quite as much until after my session. The night after my treatment I slept better than I had in years, and I think that’s because some of that stress and tension had been physically removed from my body!

The Emotional Side Of Osteopathy

Something I hadn’t expected from the session was the focus on me and my overall wellbeing. Jon wasn’t just interested in my physical health, he was also really eager to discuss my mental wellbeing.

What osteopaths appreciate and acknowledge, perhaps more than some medical professionals, is the intricate connection between the mind and the body. At the time I just assumed Jon was being polite by asking about whether I like my job, and what I do to unwind, but now I realise that this is all part of the osteopathy process and is vital in helping osteopaths recommend the best treatment options.

Osteopathy Is A Partnership

Unlike a visit to a doctor, or other health professional, it was clear to me that I was an active part of the process. At no point did I feel like Jon was just telling me what to do, and I felt like I could ask questions or raise concerns at any time.

For me, I think this was the most important take-away. Good osteopathy treatment is a partnership between you and your osteopath, and you are given complete control over your experience. For example, Jon advised me that I’d likely need more sessions to really resolve my troubles – hardly surprising, I can’t expect 30 years of stress and bad posture to be sorted in one go! But he also said that it was totally up to me whether I came back or not. And he gave me some exercises to do at home to help in the meantime.

Even after one session I felt really comfortable with the process, and my whole body felt the benefits of Jon’s handiwork. And ultimately, it was nice attending a treatment and feeling like I really was the most important person in the room.