Are maintenance treatments helpful?

 In Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, Exercise Physio, Massage, Osteopathy

A wise woman once said to me the answer to any question is “it depends”.

I remember the moment at age 19, I collapsed onto a bench outside a hospital in Melbourne, x-ray in hand, crying and deflated. Test and scan after test after scan led to me being told by an Orthopedic surgeon I would need to “just learn to live with the pain” of severe sciatica and coccydynia (inflamed tailbone). Fast forward 20-something years and I no longer suffer as I once did. I have learned to live happily with occasional episodes of pain and discomfort because I attend to my body regularly.

A daily practice of yoga and a regular practice of ‘maintenance’ with body based treatments (including Osteopathy among other modalities) has given me much relief.

I recently read an article in which a young Osteopath criticised the practice of “maintenance” treatments. He argued that they were purely motivated by the need to make a living (ensuring ongoing custom) and not the best interest of the patient, who should learn to accept that some degree of pain, discomfort or ongoing dysfunction as simply part of being human. That’s a good point – learning to accept some pain might always be present can be helpful in having realistic expectations and being content with the life you are living.

So I understand his point of view… with a few if’s…

If self interest is indeed the motivation.

If dependency is created through a failure to support and empower the patient in their own healing and self care after or between treatments.

If false expectation of being 100% cured or pain free is created. Being pain free can happen, but it is not guaranteed as every person’s healing journey is different.

If the treatments are not seeming to give any benefit or make any difference to the patients experience.

However, to discourage patients from attending to the mild imbalances and blockages that, if unattended, can grow into large patterns of pain and dysfunction is to me irresponsible, unloving and uncaring.

A.T. Still – founder of Osteopathy and a medical doctor, likened the role of the Osteopath to that of a “human mechanic”. During an osteopathic treatment, the body is examined for areas of stress and strain, blockage or imbalance and manual techniques applied to make adjustments to these areas, helping the machine (a.k.a. body) to run smoothly again.

Health maintenance is already difficult. To discourage people from seeking the support they need to do this would be a shame I believe.

Healing doesn’t happen overnight or in one session. Healing is a journey and a practice. Healing happens in the small regular actions we take when we attend lovingly and caringly to the instrument of function and pleasure in our lives – our body. May the maintenance of your instrument bring you much joy for a long time to come – however you do it.

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