Osteopathy is one of ten regulated healthcare professions in Australia. Osteopaths must be registered with the Osteopathy Board of Australia and patients can check their osteopath’s registration online. Training to be an osteopath in Australia requires the successful completion of a five-year full-time university degree.

Osteopathy, also known as osteopathic medicine, was founded by Dr Andrew Taylor Still, an American physician in the 19th century. Osteopathic philosophy gives a holistic approach to health and stresses the importance of the musculoskeletal system in a person’s health and well-being. The aim of treatment is to support the body’s self-healing capacity. 

Osteopathy can treat a range of disorders

Osteopaths can manage a range of conditions including:

  • Neck and back pain

  • Arthritis

  • Sciatica

  • Headaches

  • Vertigo

  • Repetitive strain and overuse injuries

  • Pregnancy-related discomfort

  • Tendonitis

  • Sports injuries.

Because osteopaths believe that there may be a musculoskeletal link in many conditions, osteopathy may also help with a wider range of disorders. 

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Biomechanics and osteopathy

The study of ‘biomechanics’ – how each part of the musculoskeletal system interacts with and influences every other part – is central to osteopathy. Any joint or muscle injury must be treated as part of the whole body, since other parts of the musculoskeletal system will also be affected. For example, an ankle injury may mean that the patient limps and favours the other foot. Over time, this imbalance can lead to other injuries, such as soreness in the other ankle, knee or hip, or perhaps back pain. 

Your osteopath can devise a strategy of treatment that takes your whole musculoskeletal system into account. Attention is also given to other systems of the body – such as the circulatory, nervous and lymphatic systems – since these all play significant roles in the healing process. 

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Hands-on osteopathic treatment

An osteopath focuses on your whole body, including the soft tissues (such as muscles, ligaments and tendons), the spine and nervous system, and may use a variety of different hands-on methods, including:

  • Spinal manipulation

  • Soft tissue massage techniques

  • Articulation – gentle rhythmic joint movements

  • Stretching muscles and joint capsules

  • Muscle energy techniques – encouraging muscles to work against resistance

  • Visceral manipulation – gentle movement of the abdominal and pelvic areas.

As osteopathic techniques include a gentle approach, they can be suitable for many people, from the newborn to the older person, and for those with complex medical problems.

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Lifestyle and environmental factors

Although osteopathy is best known as a form of hands-on medicine, osteopaths may also refer you on to other healthcare providers, and are able to offer advice on injury prevention, pain management and rehabilitation programs.

Osteopathy encourages you to take responsibility for your own long-term health and wellbeing, and can help you find out which lifestyle and environmental factors may be contributing to your condition. These may include poor posture, stress or the need for ergonomic furniture.

An osteopath may work out a range of treatments, including individual exercise routines, relaxation techniques or body awareness sessions, which show you how to move your body in gentler ways. 

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Special considerations

In some disorders – such as prolapsed discs, joint infections or bone disease – manipulation may not be appropriate. Your osteopath will ask you about your medical history so they can treat you in the context of your overall health. 

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Where to get help

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Things to remember

  • The study of ‘biomechanics’ – how each part of the musculoskeletal system works with and influences every other part – is central to osteopathy.

  • An osteopath may work out a range of treatments, including individual exercise routines, relaxation techniques or body awareness sessions, which show you how to move your body in gentler ways.

  • According to the osteopathic philosophy, when the body’s musculoskeletal system is not properly aligned, it inhibits circulatory, lymphatic or nervous system function and therefore reduces the body’s ability to heal itself.


Sleep!  For many, an elusive thing that is often not making a large enough appearance through the week, for others it comes easily … for most it is rarely prioritised and is put to one side for that extra half hour of Netflix, that late night phone call, or just bumbling about because of an active mind after a demanding day.

Many hours of study and research have gone into sleep – sleep quality, sleep length, the effects of sleep deprivation, this list goes on.  Out of this, it is still very difficult to treat people with lasting sleep disturbances, however there are some clear guidelines about why we might want to begin re-prioritising our sleep health, and how we can help ourselves to get better quality sleep when our head hits the pillow.

Below are some interesting pointers to the why’s and how’s of sleep – you may be a tired new parent, or a late-working accountant who to some extent is not able to fully control the reasons they are not getting their regular rest hours.  Even if this is you, or a near match, there is often small things that can help to make the most of what we can get.  Remember, more important than the quantity of sleep in hours, is the quality of sleep – meaning what happens within us when we are sleeping.

5 things you may not know that sleep is important for

  • Weight loss via fat loss (what?! Yes!)

  • Recovery and repair

  • Mental agility, focus and performance at work

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Long term health

5 tips to help your sleep quality

  • Turn off your screens at least two hours before bed – this includes kindle on the tablet, games on the mobile phone, texts, internet browsing … the lot.  Why? – the blue light from screens is the worst culprit for ruining a good restful sleep.

  • Keep your bed as a sleep space, not a work space. – your osteopath will give you ‘the look’ anyway if you reveal that you have been doing all your assignments, reports, and admin on the laptop whilst sitting on your bed … not good for your spine, not good for your aching muscles, not good for your eyes, not good for your concentration … and not good for getting to sleep once you get back into bed to attempt some shut-eye.  This includes watching television in bed.

  • Get a routine rolling! – our bodies looove routine, we are a creature of cycles – hormonal cycles, blood pressure cycles, and yes, sleep-wake cycles.  Having a regular routine before bed helps to align your physiological state with your wish to sleep. This can be as simple as a calming hot drink an hour before bed; a gentle movement routine if you are enjoying your yoga or other type of practise; reading (not on a screen!) for a set amount of time – the list really is endless of what you could incorporate into your (short or long) evening routine.

  • Support your thinking-mind to switch off – the power of lists.  Busy lives are aligned with busy minds, and thoughts of things to do and not to forget have a habit of fighting for attention and disturbing sleep.  Try keeping a notebook next to your bed and, perhaps as part of rolling out an evening routine, try writing a list of things of things to set down out of your mind, with the comfort that having written them down in your list you will be able to come back to them at a more realistic time.  Even if you wake up during the night and think of yet another pressing thing, writing this down can help you to get back to sleep. (meditation has also been shown to improve sleep quality, lower stress and improve cognition over time – it can help to reduce that ‘mental chatter’)

  • Is what you eat helping or hindering you? – As a rule, independent of your chosen way to eat, certain foods will not help your sleep life.  Caffeine disturbs your normal sleep cycle meaning that even if you think you sleep normal hours after that post-prandial coffee, you will not get the benefits of a full night’s sleep.  Caffeine even six hours before sleep can make you lose up to an hour of sleep quality even if you are asleep.  Have a caffeine curfew, I recommend stopping having caffeine at least eight hours before bed.  Other things to think about are MSG, as well as getting enough of the ‘goodies’ such as potassium, magnesium, etc.

Look out on our City Osteopathy blog for more information coming about how to support healthy sleep, as well as lots of top information on many other interesting and worthwhile topics!

Dr Nia May Osteopath Melbourne

Categories: Uncategorized

Patients beliefs about their Low Back Pain. , Osteopath, delves deeper into the science behind pain…

In today’s society, lower back pain is often described as a result of issues built up over time with a direct cause. Sometimes this can be the case, however it’s the way we interpret our back pain and the pain science behind it that has recently come into a more prominent view point.

Louis Giffords Mature Organism Model via NOIjam.com

Have I lost you yet?

Well to break things down a little, the word ‘pain science’ can be described as “ The nervous system’s processing of their injury, in conjunction with various psychosocial aspects, determines their pain experience”. (Louw et al., 2011) The way I look at pain science myself, is the way we interpret our own pain. It can be the way we recognise it and then construct it in our mind, which then determines the way our body reacts to it, as seen above.

For example you will notice that every time you have a sore back, you won’t bend down as it tends to hurt. However over time your brain has associated this action with pain and interprets it as harmful to the body. So you don’t perform that movement to the best of your ability, which in turn develops a feedback loop.

It is crazy how many times people describe their back pain as being caused by a slipped disc or weak core. They have been conditioned to think that these are the issues that have caused their back pain. It might play a factor however its the health professionals that influence them into thinking they need constant treatment in order to feel better.


I’m bursting the bubble and telling you that back pain is normal thing! It is how we manage your back pain that makes the difference.

What are you trying to get at then?

A systematic literature review of MRI findings on people with spinal related changes in their back WITHOUT SYMPTOMS by Brinjikje, W., Luetmer, P.H., Comstock, B., et al. found that:

  1. The study suggests that imaging findings of degenerative changes, such as disk degeneration, disk signal loss etc are generally part of the normal ageing process rather than pathologic processes requiring intervention.

  2. That >50% of asymptomatic individuals 30–39 years of age have disk degeneration, height loss, or bulging. This suggests that even in young adults, degenerative changes may be incidental and not causally related to presenting symptoms.

  3. The results from this systematic review strongly suggest that when degenerative spine findings are incidentally seen (ie, as part of imaging for an indication other than pain or an incidental disk herniation at a level other than where a patient’s pain localises), these findings should be considered as normal age-related changes rather than pathologic processes.

So what can we do about it?

My advice is to first stop worrying about the pain and look at how we can address it. Look at the the factors that may be affecting it and how can we have control over it. This allows you to gain a better understanding of what is actually going on.

I understand it may hurt and play up from time to time, however the way we view our pain will help toward healing it. This combined with proper management and treatment, staying healthy and stretching are all very important. As osteopaths we can get you to the point of feeling comfortable about your pain and hopefully get you feeling better sooner rather than later!

Dr Matthew Franz Osteopath at City Osteopathy


Brinjikji, W., Luetmer, P., Comstock, B., Bresnahan, B., Chen, L., Deyo, R., Halabi, S., Turner, J., Avins, A., James, K., Wald, J., Kallmes, D. and Jarvik, J. (2014). Systematic Literature Review of Imaging Features of Spinal Degeneration in Asymptomatic Populations. American Journal of Neuroradiology, 36(4), pp.811-816.

Louw, A., Diener, I., Butler, D. and Puentedura, E. (2011). The Effect of Neuroscience Education on Pain, Disability, Anxiety, and Stress in Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 92(12), pp.2041-2056.

Categories: City OsteopathyHealth TipsUncategorized


on March 20, 2019 · 0 Comments

Work, Life Balance.

Not much said about this of late we have noticed. We agree its a bit of a ‘wanky’ term, but the inherent message is a good one.

One of our clinic directors at City Osteopathy, Melbourne Osteopath Dr Shane Heslophas just had a 9 day adventure holiday in NZ mountain bike riding in the wild west coast region of the South Coast. No mobiles, no roads, only helicopter extraction via sat phone if you muck up. SUPERB!! About 10-12 people were seen each day, either MTB riders or trampers. Most over 60, most semi retired. Most common comment? WORK IS OVERRATED!!

We love our work, but too many of us work too much and don’t value the important things. Check out ‘The Old Ghost Road’ MTB trail, its amazing!!


Categories: Osteopath Melbourne

What can an Osteopath Located Near Me Do for My Well Being?

on February 28, 2019 · 0 Comments


The demand for the services of chiropractors and osteopaths has been steadily rising in recent years. Although both disciplines are focused on improving physical well being through pain relief, their approaches are vastly different from one another.

In this article, we will discuss some of the similarities and differences between osteopathy and chiropractic medicine. Learning more about osteopathy and chiropractic medicine will help you decide on which professional to see, thus saving you money and providing you with the right set of treatments for long-term benefits.

First, we look at the similarities,

  • Chiropractors and osteopaths in Melbourne both treat musculoskeletal pain and discomfort.

  • Practitioners are required to acquire relevant qualifications in order for them to be  certified as competent in providing treatment to patients. Professionals in both fields are also required to undergo continuous training to provide first-class care to patients.

Is osteopathic manipulation the same as chiropractic?

As you can see, osteopaths and chiropractors both aim to provide relief to patients suffering from different musculoskeletal conditions. Understanding what sets them apart will help you in painting a clear picture of which treatment is best suited for your case:

  • Chiropractors can render relief from pain and discomfort by joint adjustments and manipulation of the spinal column as well as limbs. They often believe that the cause of pain is due to joint subluxations.

  • Osteopathy also relies on manual manipulation, but combine this with a huge amount of soft tissue mobilisation and gentle techniques aiming to reduce soft tissue tension which can impact onto joint health, we believe this allows our treatment to have longer standing effects. Our goal is to restore structural alignment and to reduce soft tissue tension to alleviate pain and enhance overall function of the musculoskeletal system.

  • Chiropractic treatment generally provides for shorter treatment times than Osteopathic treatment.  Longer treatment times allows your Osteopath to delve deeper into your problem and understand better your psycho emotional situation, your pain situation and to undertake more gentle, calm treatment options.

Now that you have some basic knowledge about the two disciplines, we hope that it will help you make a decision on whether osteopathy is the right treatment for you.


If you wish to know more or set up an appointment with us, you may reach us on 03 9663 5450.

Categories: Melbourne Osteopathy

Where to Find the Best Migraine Treatment in Melbourne?

on February 21, 2019 · 0 Comments


Migraines and headaches are some of the most debilitating conditions a human being can encounter. Almost 15% of the Australian population suffer from these medical conditions which result in low productivity, reduced sense of wellbeing and lots and lots of pain.

There are many treatment options available for getting rid of migraines and headaches. The field of osteopathy has its own treatment system that aims to alleviate migraine symptoms both in terms of intensity and frequency. In fact, osteopathy delivers a holistic and natural  option to treating migraines.

Osteopaths are chronic migraine experts

Spinal Manipulative Therapy  is one of the techniques of osteopathy that aims to treat the cause of headaches and migraine attacks, namely that related to your neck and spine. According to research, osteopathy can alleviate pain and discomfort caused by acute headache attacks and cervicogenic headaches.

The following osteopathy-based treatments can render good outcomes for patients:

To eliminate the pain and discomfort associated with a majority of headaches, hands-on manipulation techniques include:

  • Sub Occipital muscle decompression is an excellent intervention for migraine headaches. This technique involves the use of fingertips to stretch out the paraspinal tissues located at the base of the occiput.

  • Myofascial unwinding is an osteopathic solution that manually unwinds the fascia and tissues that interconnect into your neck, back and occiput.

  • The spasms caused by tension headaches can be significantly reduced through cervical massage of the paraspinal soft tissues.

Research has suggested manual therapy can be effective with chronic migraine and headache problems treated with manipulation and gentle muscular release techniques and may well have greater efficacy as popular headache medications which really only treat the symptoms, not the cause.  Although the effectiveness of manipulative treatments is less popular than the use of traditional headache medication, people are now leaning towards osteopathy for headache and migraine relief to avoid side-effects and for long-term cost effectiveness.

Pregnancy is an amazing experience – both experiencing it or watching someone go through it. The body undergoes such transformational changes which include hormonal changes and of course lots of postural changes to accommodate for the growing size of the baby in the abdomen and pelvis. This in turn may cause strain on the lower back, hips and pelvic muscles and joints. But sometimes with all those changes comes some pain…

Commonly in pregnancy, due to these changes, women will experience sciatica.

Sciatica refers to irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is a very large nerve that is made up of a bundle of nerve fibres that come from the lower back. These spinal nerves join up together in the gluteal (buttock) region, and then continues down the back of the thigh and into the lower leg as the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve supplies both motor (movement) and sensory (feeling and sensation) to the thigh, leg and foot.

When the sciatic nerve is irritated during pregnancy it can give rise to many symptoms that may include a few or all of the following:

  • Aching or sharp pain in the back, buttock, thigh, and/or leg and/or foot,

  • Pins and needles in the thigh, and/or leg and/or foot,

  • Hot, shooting pain in the buttock, thigh, lower leg, foot,

  • Pain while sitting, driving, and/or walking,

  • Muscle weakness in the leg and/or foot

  • Increase in pain when sneezing, coughing, lifting and twisting the body

  • IF you experience weakness or you are not able to control bladder or bowel function – go straight to your closest emergency department as IMMEDIATE medical attention is required

If sciatica is a new experience for you in pregnancy, it is most likely going to resolve within 2-12 weeks after you have given birth. If the sciatica has been caused by postural related changes as well as un underlying condition such as disc bulges, joint or disc degeneration or spinal nerve irritation then it may take a little longer to resolve and further investigation, treatment and rehabilitation may be required. Discussion with your Osteopath, obstetrician and health care practitioners will advise on YOUR case and best management plans!

Natural solutions for managing sciatica during and after pregnancy may include:

  • Osteopathic treatment

    This includes:

    • Massage

    • Joint mobilisation

    • Joint articulation

    • Muscle energy techniques

    • Dry needling

    • Myofascial release

    • Muscle strength program for lower and upper back, hips, pelvic muscles, legs and feet

  • Use of Heat and/or Ice

  • Bracing of Sacroiliac Joints, Pubic Symphysis, Lumbar Spine (Lower back) and Thoracic spine (Mid-Upper back)

  • Postural tape of sacroiliac joints, hips, lower and mid/upper back

  • Use of a lumbar support cushion when sitting and driving to support your lower back

  • Wearing shoes that have a lot of support, and minimal or NO heels!

  • Sleep side-lying with pillow between the knees and a small pillow or rolled up towel under the baby bump for support in bed

  • Don’t lift anything heavy

  • When bending, watch your posture, and make sure your “core” muscles and pelvic floor muscles are activated

  • Gentle exercise including strengthening exercises for the upper, mid and lower back, pelvis, legs and feet and stretching exercises

  • Water therapy such as swimming, kicking, walking, hydrotherapy classes for pregnancy or just even floating in the water may help ease pressure on the sciatic nerve.

So make sure, no matter what stage of pregnancy you are in, or even after you have given birth, that if you are experiencing sciatica or sciatica type symptoms you seek osteopathic, medical or professional advice from your health care provider. This will allow for quicker healing and better management for your overall care.

This blog post is an educational tool only. It is not a replacement for medical advice from a registered and qualified doctor or health professional.

Any other questions not answered here? Get in touch!

Do you suffer from ongoing neck pain?

Lately we have seen an increase in neck pain patients coming into our clinic. Injuries that might be causing neck pain could be a bulging disc, pinched nerves in the neck, muscle and ligament strains, arthritis, joint sprains, and whiplash. Acute or chronic neck pain may often be associated with a sedentary job or lifestyle.

In today’s society, many people spend numerous hours sitting per day. An average day could involve driving or taking the train 2 hours a day, sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day, and then coming home and sitting at the dinner table and couch for another 2 hours. Add that all up and some people could be sitting up to 12 hours a day. Therefore some people can literally spend half a day sitting!

A scary thought according to Chau et al (2013, p. 9-10) was that “every hour of daily sitting was associated with a 2% increase in all-cause mortality risk. Notably this association increased to 5% for those sitting more than 7 hours a day!”

Long periods of sitting may contribute to poor posture. This in turn can contribute to postural strains of ligaments, muscles, and joints of the neck, back and shoulders – resulting in acute or chronic neck pain. A postural strain is when a tissue of the body needs to hold a posture against gravity for an extended period of time thus leading it to become strained. It is similar to holding a 10kg weight above your head for 10 minutes and at the 9 minute mark you may feel as though it’s a 50kg weight. A postural strain is gradual and occurs over time.

So why is it important to break up the sedentary time? Healy et al (2008, p.5) observed that “participants who had mostly uninterrupted sedentary time (i.e. sat for prolonged periods of time) had a poorer cardiometabolic health profile (waist circumference, triglycerides, and blood glucose levels) compared to those who had more frequent breaks in their sedentary time.” So not only can breaking up sitting time reduce postural strain on your neck but it can also have better health outcomes for your cardiometabolic health profile.

So how do you reduce your sitting time or improve your sitting posture? One solution we recommend is using a sit to stand desk. It will allow you to alternate between sitting and standing posture during the day potentially leading to decreased postural strain on your neck. You could aim to alternate between sitting and standing every hour and incorporate stretches in between especially for your neck, shoulders, and back.

Another important aspect is to sit with correct posture. An ergonomic assessment may be necessary to ascertain whether your chair, desk, and computer are set up optimally for you to maintain optimal posture. Correct ergonomics may not only decrease your chances of experiencing neck pain but also your chances of acquiring other injuries such as repetitive strain syndromes including carpal tunnel and tendonitis in the elbow and wrist. In addition, good work ergonomics means you will be more comfortable whilst working, less fatigued, and therefore more productive!

Exercise and movement is great way to reverse some of the effects of a sedentary job. Some benefits of exercise may include weight loss, increased strength of muscles, joints and bone, increased circulation, boosting your mood, and help with sleep. Exercising can be as simple as going for a 1km walk. A 1km walk may not seem like much but it is a great way to stimulate inactive muscles and joints that have been sedentary at a desk.

One benefit of exercising that really stands out is strengthening ligaments, muscles, joints, and bones. Since neck pain may be caused from chronic postural strains it makes sense to strengthen the connective tissues that help maintain good posture whilst sitting or working. At St Kilda Osteopathy, we will also help guide and support you to perform the correct exercises to help strengthen the joints and muscles causing your pain.

A review of the literature suggests that manual therapy and exercise can help with neck pain. According to Miller et al (2010, p.351) it is suggested that the “combination of manual therapy and exercise produces greater improvements in pain, function, quality of life, and patient satisfaction when compared to manipulation or mobilisation (manual therapy) alone for chronic neck pain.” So, if you aren’t getting the results you desire for your chronic neck pain from manual therapy alone, you should also consider strength and rehabilitation exercises to aid in your recovery.

Osteopaths may help decrease your chronic pain by first assessing your neck and surrounding structures, such as your shoulders, thoracic, and lumbar spine, and diagnose the issue causing you pain and discomfort. Once we have identified target areas to focus treatment on, we then use a range of “hands on” techniques including soft tissue massage, joint articulation, joint manipulation, stretching, and dry needling.

Treatment will usually include some take home exercises – these may be foam rolling exercises and neck and chest stretches, or even just breathing correctly. We also advise on supplements, creams, strapping, heat, ice, and activities to avoid which may reduce your pain and speed up your recovery process.

In summary, the following steps may help decrease your chronic neck pain. Seeking out a manual therapy practitioner, such as an Osteopath, decreasing the amount of time you spend sitting during the day, increasing the amount of time you spend exercising per week, and having an ergonomic assessment performed at your work place or at home.


Did you know that everybody has curves in their back? We actually have three distinct and purposeful curves – and they’re perfectly normal. In fact, this curvature is necessary as they provide shock absorption and allow mobility in all different ways in our spine. The curves are found in the neck (cervical spine), the mid back (thoracic spine), and the lower back (lumbar spine). These curves must bend in three planes; side bent (coronal plane), flexed forwards and backwards (sagittal plane) and rotated (transverse plane).


Scoliosis is a Greek work meaning curved or bent and we often hear it at St Kilda Osteopathy!!  Scoliosis is a descriptive word use to explain curvatures in the spine that differ from the three natural curves.

Scoliosis occurs most frequently in females, in fact it’s four times more likely to occur in females. As much as 2.5% of the population present with a scoliosis, however only .25% require interventional treatment. This is proof that scoliosis is, in the most part, a condition in which you can still maintain a very functional and active life without limitations. In most cases, scoliosis is dependent on growth. As a consequence of this, most initial scoliosis cases present during adolescence.

Scoliosis can have many causes, though 80% of them are idiopathic. Idiopathic is when a disease or condition is self limiting, spontaneous and often have an unknown cause.

There are three main types of idiopathic scoliosis and these are categorized by age.

  • Infantile Idiopathic Scoliosis: Before a child is two. 90% of these rare curves spontaneously resolve

  • Juvenile Idiopathic Scoliosis: Aged 2-10

  • Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis: The most common type occurring in early adolescents.

A curvature found with an early onset, below the age of five, has a greater risk of having a major impact on health if left untreated. The difficulty of treating a scoliosis with an early onset is controlling the curve without impacting the growth of the spine or other vital organs. A misshapen spine can affect the development of the heart and lungs leading to potential complications later in life.  Therefore early management, monitoring, X-rays, manual therapy, muscle strength work and medical intervention, is recommended.

Scoliosis can also occur in adults, but is less frequent, and is mainly caused by degeneration. If there is degeneration of the inter-vertebral discs or facets joints found in the spine, this can cause uneven loading of the spine itself. Due to the uneven loading on the joints of the spine, it can continue to cause asymmetrical (uneven) growth and degeneration of the spine, muscle spasm, weakness and pain, and therefore lead to further progression of the curve. This form of scoliosis starts to occur later in life or may be due to an adolescent scoliosis (often with poor muscle strength and fitness of the individual).

Other forms of structural scoliosis can be:

  • Congenital; Spinal malformation at birth

  • Neuromuscular; this is frequently seen in patients with spina bifida or cerebral palsy.

  • Paralytic; caused by paralysis of spinal muscles on one side.

There is also anther type of scoliosis which is often caused by a muscle spasm or leg length discrepancy. It is described as a functional scoliosis. Unlike the other types of structural scoliosis, a functional scoliosis may be reversed.

Diagnosis of your scoliosis can often be done by pure observation of the spine and body.

  • One shoulder or hip looks higher than the other,

  • The head does not look centered over the body,

  • One shoulder blade sticks out more than the other,

  • The waistline is flat on one side, or the ribs look higher on one side when bending forward at the waist, ie, a rib hump is noted when in flexion

If the above signs are notes and is significant, an X-Ray may be recommended.

An X-Ray is performed to give a clear visual of the bone structure, curve, development and possible progression if several X-Ray’s are taken over a period of time to watch the development or improvement of the scoliosis. With this picture we can clearly measure the curves and the angles giving us a guide to help monitor any changes over time.


Scoliosis signs are often first noticed by others. They might comment on their clothes fitting unevenly or notice a sideways curve in their spine.   Approximately 10% of idiopathic scoliosis cases have a curve that progresses beyond mild and needs medical treatment.

Some of these more severe or intense symptoms may include:

  • Trouble breathing:

A severe change in the spine and rib cage can tighten the function available to the lungs. This may be more apparent on exercise or exertion.

  • Restricted range of motion:

Curvatures in the spine can increase rigidity, reducing the flexibility, mobility and active and passive movement of the spine.

  • Changes in gait or walking:

The body will compensate for the spinal changes by moving differently to offload or decrease any potential pain in the spine. This may cause the hips and pelvis start to change how they move and muscle tightness to accommodate the spinal curves, leading to a change in the way you walk. All these compensations occur for your body to stay erect and maintain balance, and use minimal energy and avoid pain.

  • Pain.

Musculature and connective tissues can become prone to fatigued and muscle spasms resulting in pain

Other risks associated can include:

  • Cardiovascular problems:

Similarly to compensations to our lung function and respiratory system, the heart can be placed under stress due to  a change and decrease in the space available. This can cause complications to the hearts ability to pump blood. This is apparent in the most sever cases of scoliosis.

  • Lower self-esteem:

This can be a significant factor for those with a spinal deformity that are more visible and can lead to psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

Although manual therapy such as Osteopathy will not “correct” or reverse a structural scoliosis it can assist with associated compensations, promote optimal joint and muscle function and help strengthen the spine and surrounding tissues with prescribed exercises.

With a vast array of techniques, osteopaths will work with the muscles, ligaments, fascia (all the connective tissues) and with the joints.

Your Osteopath will be able to:

  • Relieve over worked or fatigued muscles

  • Mobilize restricted joints, not just around the spine and connecting ribs, but other areas that are compensating for the scoliosis. This can include the hips, knees, feet, shoulder blade region, neck and shoulders!

  • Activate and retrain muscles and the way we function

  • Decrease stresses and strains placed around surrounding supporting structures of the scoliosis

  • Educate on breathing and stretching techniques to help improve spinal, rib and diaphragm mobility and function that allows conscious awareness to decrease strain of the scoliosis.

By looking at your whole body, not just the isolated curvature, your Osteopath will work with your function in all different ranges and planes of motion. This will involve addressing movements performed on a daily basis such as lifting, pushing, walking, sitting, driving and even breathing.

Your Osteopath will also be able to discuss other options of treatment that you may find beneficial.


The Schroth method is an exercise-based program designed to realign and lengthen the spine. Each exercise is individualized to “correct” the spinal curvature, or do the opposite to your scoliosis. Once in this position, deep breathing is performed. This is based on improving lung capacity, spinal and rib mobility as well as diaphragm function. As you exhale, muscle tension assists with stabilization of this position.

Other types of medical surgical treatment which would occur under specialist orthopaedic care and referral from a GP can include:

  • Bracing or casting. Used before skeletal maturity to assist with spinal correction.

  • Growing rods/Harrington Rods. This surgical procedure is used when other methods have failed. Rods are inserted under the skin, attaching to anchors, to act as an internal splint and are most commonly inserted once growing has ceased.

Your Osteopaths approach to treating your scoliosis may differ from other allied health practitioners. If you present with backpain due to your scoliosis, your Osteopath may look and treat surrounding areas. This may include your diaphragm (a muscular dome which sits underneath your rib cage), your hip flexors, your neck and even as far as your feet. This is due to structural connections formed by different tissues – everything really is connected.

If you’re requiring further guidance, support and musculoskeletal care with your scoliosis, please contact your GP, paediatrician or us to help and advise in further care, management and understanding.

Dr. Catriona Bauld
B.Sci (Clin.Sci), M.H.S.(Osteo) 

Member of Osteopathy Australia




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