‘The work of the hands is the expression of the heart’ by Carolyn McGregor, Osteopath
Osteopathy is founded upon the wise application of the hands, with a deep knowledge of anatomy, dissection and physiology and the inherent wisdom of the body to heal itself.
History of Osteopathy:
Osteopathy was developed by American physician, Dr Andrew Taylor Still. He discovered Osteopathy in 1870 and it was formally taught from 1892 onwards. The first American School of Osteopathy was opened at Kirksville, Missouri on 30th October 1894.
Dr Still’s principles and practice of Osteopathy, as in his daily life, were based on a profound understanding of the creative work of God in man and nature. He described God as the ‘all knowing Architect’ and provided a philosophical system of medicine that recognised the source of the body’s ability to heal.
Dr Still created a system of natural healing which pioneered the use of techniques for treating the vascular system to enable health to return to the diseased part.
Dr Still realised that the health of the nervous system depended wholly on the arterial system. His work in treating arterial and venous circulation was matched by his understanding of the prime importance of the health of the lymphatic system wherein the ‘principle of life more abundantly dwells’. Such principles continue to form the basis of current Osteopathic technique and practice. By treating the lymph vessels of a diseased or injured part, Osteopathy promotes a more rapid healing response than by treating the injury alone.
Dr Still stressed the importance of healthy behaviours that supported the inherent wisdom of the body to heal and disavowed the use of injurious medicines or drugs.
‘I believe man made a mistake when he undertook to inject poisonous substances into the human system as a remedy for disease, instead of applying the laws of creation to that end’.
Osteopathy was brought to London in the 1930’s under Edward John Littlejohn, who opened the first British School of Osteopathy at Buckingham Gate, London.
The founding precept of Osteopathy is the knowledge of the inherent wisdom of the body to govern health. Through a sense of touch, ‘knowing the normal’ of healthy tissue function enables an Osteopath to recognise dysfunction and disease. Osteopaths are trained to detect tiny changes in the matrix of tissues, to be able to differentiate between the different layers of the body through a sense of touch and to recognise where there is disease or disturbance to the physiology of organs. This sense of touch or the ‘palpation skills’ of an Osteopath are refined through training to be able to detect the course of a single strand of human hair beneath twenty one layers of paper. Osteopaths are also trained as Primary Care practitioners and use a system of referral to other specialists including physicians according to the individual need of each person.
Osteopathy in the UK is one of the most vibrant and diverse professions of any in the world. There is much research and scientific endeavour, with a broad post graduate programme of teaching and research.
A Personal Account:
Osteopaths are trained in the very sensitive application of touch, learning to recognise states within the body often unseen by the eye which may indicate a disturbance from normal well being. Osteopathic techniques can bring about a return to normal body functioning and healthy physiology. The information learned through the wise palpation of the body permits accurate diagnosis, and is often more enlightening than even a detailed case analysis. I was reminded of this when I met Sam.
He was in his mid thirties, physically well and fit but reporting a lower back pain. His case history evinced nothing unusual in his health and after thorough Osteopathic examination and neurological testing I sat at his head, placing my hands gently beneath the skull. Within a few minutes I removed my hands and flushing scarlet as I did so, apologised that I had failed to ask the question that would have revealed his kidney condition. Rather than being met with anger, he hooted with laughter. He was used to visiting the Osteopath and remained unfazed as I explained my embarrassment. He asked me to explain what I had experienced through my hands.
Osteopathic palpation is accurate, extremely sensitive, is reproducible and others can be trained to perform these skills. It is a science and a craft.
Osteopaths are trained to palpate the different tissue layers within the body, during health and disease. We are trained in ‘knowing normal’, in understanding what healthy tissues feel like through accurate sense of touch. Just as we can all detect the difference between cotton, silk and wool by touch, and we understand that they have characteristic qualities that differentiate them, so Osteopaths are trained to detect small differences in cellular structures that make up the defining characteristic of every unique body tissue, whether it is nerve, lymph, blood vessel, tendon, ligament or bone.
Each body tissue arises from a particular cell within the embryo, imbuing it with a unique quality or characteristic, which with training, an Osteopath can learn to distinguish and recognise as having a ‘normal characteristic’ when in health. In time, Osteopaths build a ‘library’ of different tissue senses in their memory, which can be recalled at any given point. By the time I met Sam, I had just graduated, new in practice and needing to gain confidence.
From palpation, I established that Sam had experienced several high fevers as a small child. Every structure has a cellular ‘memory’ of events that have occurred to it throughout life. Rather like the rings of a tree which show the rainy winters and the long dry summers, so that each body structure imprints events that occur to it.
A cellular chronology, a history of time the person has lived through.
Osteopaths can learn to read this rather like reading a three dimensional book. High fever leaves an imprint within particular tissues, especially the membranes of the body which help compartmentalise and protect the body structures. The body has an intricate web of membrane called fascia that adheres and envelopes all body structures. It helps to provide a stabilising system for the entire body. Fascia enables an Osteopath to palpate the body wisely and learn from the information coming back into our hands. It can be likened to a three dimensional communication system where gentle touch can tune in and learn about body events – even if the person may no longer recall them. This information is wisely applied by the Osteopath for the healing of the person. It is a morally good act. Interestingly this information cannot be used in any other way. It is given by the body and humbly acknowledged by the Osteopath.
It is a reciprocal dance of humility and attentiveness, always listening at the deepest level, to the inner health of the person.
Sam’s fascia showed me that he had experienced high fever, his age when this occurred, and the number of times it had happened, rather like those tree rings.
It also showed me that something was missing. At first I didn’t believe myself, I thought I must have ‘mis-read the book’ so to speak. But the evidence was under my hands. Where I should have felt the left kidney was just a sort of gap. Not a real space, just an emptiness where a kidney should be. Palpation really is like having a three dimensional map of the body.
The palpatory findings, along with detailed case history and careful clinical examination form the back-bone of Osteopathic care.
These aspects shape the evaluative thinking and diagnostic rationale of the Osteopathic clinician. Triage and differential diagnosis, exclude other clinical conditions until the evaluation draws upon sufficient clinical evidence and experience to reach a working diagnosis and treatment plan.
Osteopathic care is carefully considered with full explanation to, and involvement of, the patient, as a patient partnership. ‘Your health in our hands’, but actually it is also you, the individual who is shaping the health care you receive. A co-partnering sharing approach between patient and Osteopath to attain the understanding of the Osteopathic treatment proposed; gaining consent and involvement in the manner of Osteopathic treatment to be initiated and the likely outcomes of the Osteopathic treatment plan. From initial symptom change, to recovery and time span of treatment, anticipated sensations and symptom change to resolution and the need for any further or ongoing Osteopathic treatment; alongside an understanding of how this is carefully reviewed and re-evaluated at each stage of treatment. Osteopaths provide advice for patient’s self-care and management of their presenting symptoms and condition which form part of this treatment plan, for a successful outcome reflected at each stage of the therapeutic and healing process.
Osteopaths complete four – five years full time training to attain a BSc in Osteopathy. Osteopaths undertake continual post graduate training to maintain and develop their knowledge, skills and performance.
Osteopaths adhere to their code of ethics, maintain practice standards to ensure safety and quality of practice and are regulated by the General Osteopathic Council.
To find out more about Osteopathy, please contact: Carolyn McGregor BSc(Ost.)., BA Div (Hons)., RSHom.,
For further reading about Osteopathy follow the Links Page at: www.carolynmcgregorosteopath.com
I began my training as a potter. It is what I wanted to be. I loved the quiet intensity of shaping clay, the rigours of firing technique. I learnt to burnish and polish the unglazed surface of clay, learning also the integrity of the materials I was using and how clay needed to be handled. I began digging my own clays, mixing it with other materials to form slips and glazes. Quietly and steadily through this experience I came to realise that I needed to work with my hands. The steady pace of creating work from clay had an inner dynamic through which I understood the deepest aspects of myself.
Tragedy has traced its way through aspects of my life. Aged seventeen and following a road accident I switched from Art School to Osteopathic training. Here I learnt through five years of rigorous training the complexity and wisdom of the human body. From dissection, anatomy and physiology came greater understanding of the architecture of the human body. From the writings of Dr Andrew Taylor Still the founder of Osteopathy, I learned to blend the contemporary medicine I was being taught with an inherent healing ability. The writing of Dr Still and that of other Osteopathic teachers like Dr William Garner Sutherland, the founder of cranial Osteopathy, reminded me to constantly listen to my inner intuitive wisdom and that of my patients. With my patients, I witnessed under my hands, the inner ability of the human body to heal. Nothing more remarkable than the testimony of patients was needed to deepen my resolve to become a better craftsman Osteopath.
A different clay, but requiring the same quiet attention to detail. To observe the signs and symptoms that each person expresses, and the willingness to listen to each story as it is written on the body. In this way I too have been shaped as subtly as clay itself.
I have now been in full time Osteopathic practice for twenty-five years. I strive for effective means of cure with honesty, integrity, simplicity and truthfulness. I learn from my patients. They have always been my best teachers.
It was my patients who suggested that I should train as a Homoeopath. They could see as I could not, just how much I loved Homoeopathy. I had seen in clinical practice Homoeopathy providing an efficacy of cure in conditions hard to treat. It is hard enough to be a good Osteopath and I was unsure if I could do justice to two disciplines. But for the last ten years I have happily combined them in daily practice.
This has brought with it a renewed determination to seek cure for conditions which previously would have eluded me. And a need for greater simplicity in my daily life.
I had matured as an Osteopath, become a Homoeopath and I knew I needed to make some changes. I love mountains, wild places, coastal paths, cliffs and rock climbing.
I am learning to travel by sea kayak.
For the past nine years, my practice set in the heart of Newlyn, homed in a small former fisherman’s cottage, close to the sea. It was an amazing opportunity and provided a peaceful place for patients to receive my work.
As the winter gales arrived in Cornwall last year I renewed my search for a new home for my practice. Wishing to stay in Newlyn, for the village has been the closest thing to home I know – a place of nurture and friendship, practicality and livelihood, the fishing, and many small businesses. A ‘proper working village’.
Last year I had the opportunity of moving my practice Newlyn’s Trinity Centre.
An amazing purpose built, fully disabled access building dovetailing the needs of the village and serving as Newlyn’s Methodist chapel. It is a busy community centre providing project space for dance, pilates, exercise classes, professional touring repertory theatre and music venue combined with peaceful space for a counselling service; the Children’s Centre and my Osteopathic and Homoeopathic practice.
A hive of activity and yet a tranquil place for my practice.
My first practice in East Sussex was housed in a converted cow shed. Albeit 18th century and with huge oaken beams supporting the gables. On a friends small holding on the edge of the Sussex weald. No amenities to speak of yet people loved it. A place of peace, with rolling hills and fields of sheep, horses and chickens.
People and places create in me the biggest changes. With it comes the strength and tenacity to maintain a quiet place within from which the source of healing comes.
I am searching for a home to house the new practice from which I can live and work, cherishing our beautiful and varied rural landscape, so that I can express to the best of my ability the healing made possible through the practice of Osteopathy and Homoeopathy. A friend once said to me ‘The work of the hands is the expression of the heart’. It is the truest thing I know.
To contact Carolyn for Osteopathy, Homoeopathy – ‘Healing The Whole Person’ at The Trinity Centre, 25 Chywoone Hill, Newlyn, Penzance, TR18 5AR
M: 07766330489 E: firstname.lastname@example.org