Medical Musings, Health Hypotheses & Therapeutic Thoughts
How Often Should I Be Seeing My Osteopath? Or, Why Is It Important To Have Multiple Management Strategies?
In an ideal world, the answer to the first question is simple: Not often. However, unless you are a time-traveller from a future where humanity has eliminated want, disease, stress, and war, you probably don’t live in an ideal world.
(If you are a time-traveller from a utopian future, for the love of sanity tell us how we got there, and how you dealt with in-laws in particular - Just joking, Maria and Terry! I love you all)!
However, life is, always has been, and always will be full of challenges and stresses. There will always be things that get in the way of us living our ideal lives.
(If I had ten bucks for every time I’ve heard “I haven’t done my exercises as often as I’d have liked”, well, I’d only need to work one day a week, put it that way!)
This is normal. This is OK. When the rocks and shoals in life’s waters make it difficult to use our preferred management strategies (whether that be your home exercise program, a yoga class, going to the gym, swimming etc) it is important to have other options. That is why, we emphasise having multiple management strategies.
In fact, this is why we actually do not recommend that your practitioner be your first and only line of defence. What do you do if you are on holiday? Or if your osteopath is away? If you can't find a time that works with work? What happens if your osteopath breaks their arm while pursuing their exciting but ill-advised hobby of para-snowboarding? Who do you turn to when your therapist moves to another city?
We recommend that your osteopath is part of multiple investment strategies, and this is why we put such emphasis on self-management at Moreland Road Clinic Osteopathy.
Indeed, some management strategies are going to fit into your life better than coming to see your osteopath at every opportunity. Depending on your constraints (work, family, finances etc) and your interests (you might find jogging boring as hell, for example),
And then sometimes you have to make compromises... For example, my wife does not particularly enjoy jogging, but it requires no special equipment, there are no recurring fees, and you can start as soon as you leave your house (with appropriate warm-up, of course!), being back within 30mins. As she puts it, doing a class would mean being out of the house for longer, would cost more, and has to be done at the same time every week; whereas a jog can be fit in wherever. If you are time-poor, these are powerful arguments.
It might also be that the things you enjoy doing as a hobby or sport are contributing to your issues (looking at you, Aussie Rules!), but you don’t want to give them up. You then need something to help counteract that.
With an extended exercise session, your osteopath can discuss your lifestyle constraints and hobbies, and then tailor some management strategies that you can do straight away, yourself, at home, and with minimal equipment (we’ve probably given you some Theraband!). Even if you don’t particularly enjoy doing them, at least the option is there if your other strategies are precluded.
If I am self-managing my symptoms, do I even need to come in and see my osteopath?
It is certainly worth giving us a call if you have a flare-up of your symptoms. It might be that after a thorough assessment, we offer the sage advice that this just seems to the same old culprits causing trouble, and we need to stick to our strategies to calm down our “genius four year old” nervous systems. Or we may identify new factors that need to be addressed.
But if everything feels very familiar and there is nothing new or concerning (remember that you are the best expert on you and the best judge on what feels familiar), feel free to press on with your normal mobilisations, stretches, etc., and see if things settle after a few days. If you have any concerns at all though, please do see somebody to have those addressed.
Likewise, if you have a new issue, it is often worth having it assessed so that potentially sinister causes can be ruled out, and your management strategies formulated. While things are still acute, this will likely involve some manual treatment to help remove any barriers to tissue healing, while stopping our nervous system from overestimating the danger.
Once things have settled down a bit, the emphasis will be placed more and more on your other strategies, preferably ones more under your control.
What about "maintenance treatment"?
Maintenance treatment often defined as treatment where there are no actual presenting symptoms, sort of a ‘just in case’ or ‘keeping everything aligned’ type approach. And the benefits of “maintenance treatment” are hotly contested (it is very difficult to know - or test - whether or not someone who has not developed further issues would have done so had they not received the 'maintenance' treatments).
There are circumstances where the factors maintaining your issues are so entrenched and/or numerous that you cannot keep on top of everything yourself. In these instances your osteopath may suggest periodic, but as infrequent as possible, sessions to help keep everything on track.
The general suggestion at our clinic is that, if you receive your reminder text message and everything seems to be going well, respond to reschedule, and push it back by a number of weeks. That way your issues receive early and prompt intervention if required, but you do not attend unnecessary appointments.
It also helps to get around the “I’ve been meaning to book for ages, but haven’t gotten around to it” issue, which is of course also related to the problem of fitting in management strategies to already-busy lives.
So, how often should you see your osteopath? As the above highlights, it will depend on a number of factors.
An extended exercise session with your osteopath provides an opportunity to learn self-care strategies that fit in with your hobbies and life-constraints.