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What I Tried This Week: An Osteopath

Chiropractor and Patient

Chiropractor and Patient

I have had a lot of experience with specialists in my time as a runner. Massage therapists, naturopaths, physiotherapists, coaches, chiropractors and doctors have poked and prodded, stuck needles, stripped fascia and adjusted my alignment all in the name of making me a better and healthier athlete.

Recently, I was scanning a list of specialists and stopped at the word “osteopath.” I knew osteo meant bone but I needed to Google it to see what an osteopath did exactly. Considering I had just been diagnosed with a stress fracture, I figured any specialist somehow related to bones could be for me at this point, so I booked an appointment.

The original experience was not unlike any other specialist I’ve been to: I obediently filled out paperwork and shared my medical history. I showed where my key issues were and told what the problems were. I had a chat with the practitioner when I was admitted and he instructed me to lay on a massage table.
Before working on me, he used a tuning fork to establish the severity of the fracture in both of my tibias. To perform this, he placed a vibrating tuning fork on my tibia with the vibrations being translated to my bones. The level of pain I experience indicates the severity of the fracture. My left fracture was worse than my right, which was consistent with my bone scan results.

A key question in my mind was the difference between a chiropractor and an osteopath. Some quick reading showed that differences are subtle when it comes to their philosophies. The main distinction lies in the different techniques used to work on the bones.

From my experience, an osteopath is a hybrid between a massage therapist and a chiropractor. He focused on my alignment and worked on the surrounding muscles and tissues to allow proper movement. The appointment was longer than most of my chiropractor appointment. We spent a lot of time talking about what caused my injury and exercises to help strengthen my weak points.

I think the key question is whether or not I will return. The diplomatic answer is that, while I certainly see the importance of osteopaths, I am set to start marathon training next week as a healthy athlete and, in the interest of having time to properly train for Boston, probably not. This decision more lies in the fact that I am still having appointments with my coach and physiotherapist to ensure I make a healthy return from injury. In my experience, too many specialists in a recovery program can lead to frustration and confusion.

Wondering who should use an osteopath? I found it a gentle and noninvasive form of treatment, so if you struggle with pain in your back, neck or shoulder and experience other problems related to muscles and joints, it may be a specialist you want to give a try.

Ever tried an osteopath? What was your experience?