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Osteopathy and chiropractic

Osteopathy is based on the belief that the condition of the bones, joints and muscles is a major influence on total health and on healing in illness. Osteopaths aim to discover and correct disorders of posture, alignment of joints and muscle tension, using techniques such as massage, manipulation, relaxation and exercise programmes.

Chiropractic is based on similar beliefs and methods but concentrates on the spine and its surrounding muscles. Chiropractors use conventional diagnostic methods such as X-rays more than do osteopaths.

Osteopathy and chiropractic are complementary to orthopedics and physiotherapy. Most orthodox practitioners recognize their value in relieving symptoms due to stress, poor posture and disordered muscle co-ordination, but are sceptical of their ability to treat disorders of the internal organ systems such as digestion, reproduction and the heart. Most cannot accept the chiropractic belief that all health disorders stem from spinal disorders.

Self-help techniques

Other self-help techniques that are complementary to orthodox practices aim to relieve symptoms and promote health by teaching correct posture, exercise regimes and attitudes of mind. We can all benefit from these techniques. They have also been successful in relieving some symptoms resulting from stress.

The Alexander Technique This teaches correct posture and movement.

The Feldenkreis Method This method teaches us to move with maximum efficiency, minimum effort and optimal co-ordination.

Massage This is one of the oldest methods of soothing those tired, tense muscles.

Meditation This is a way of reaching a tranquil state to refresh the mind and relax the body.

Relaxation and breathing techniques These calm the body and mind.

T’ai chi and yoga These systems of gentle exercise combined with meditation aim to integrate the activities of the body and mind.

Whether you choose conventional or alternative practitioners or both, there are important things to look for in the professional/client relationship.

• You must have complete confidence in their competence.

• You must ‘hit it off and feel comfortably at ease together.

• They must answer your questions and explain all proposed investigations and treatments clearly.

• You must feel that all costs are justified.

• Watch out for overzealous or inflexible practitioners: those who think there’ only one remedy for all ills. There’s n universal panacea.

If you’re not satisfied, get a second opinion or change your practitioner. You mightn’t have much choice if you live a small town or remote area, but it’s generally worth travelling to find the best health care.