Hong Kong has a high quality western medical facilities, long-established traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) clinics. And many different types of complementary and alternative therapies on offer. Where does Osteopathy fit in Hong Kong? How does it differ from these other options? First, let’s take a brief look at the development of osteopathy:
Osteopathy is a form of holistic manual therapy. It dates back to the 1870s before physiotherapy, chiropractic or many other modern therapies were around. It was founded and created by Andrew Taylor Still, an American medical doctor. He wanted to offer an alternative to the medicine that was being practised at the time after losing 3 of his children to spinal meningitis.
While our knowledge has vastly improved since those times, Osteopaths then, as they do now, have the same philosophy. They believe that for the body to be healthy and function at its best, all parts must be working harmoniously together. This includes the muscles, joints, ligaments, even the internal organs which can all affect biomechanics, blood flow and nerve supply. This was known as the Structure Govern Function principle. One of the core principles of Osteopathy.
Fast forward 140 years and we now find Osteopathy in all areas of the globe. In the UK there are around 5,000 Osteopaths (1). In Australia, Osteopathy has been one of the fastest-growing health professions in recent years(2). Compare those figures to Hong Kong and even Asia as a whole, and we find just a handful of practitioners in different clinics. But Hong Kong is following the global trend. The number of Osteopaths are continually increasing as more and more people realise the benefits and demand for it increases.
If differs from Traditional Chinese Medicine as it’s predominantly based on a Western understanding of anatomy and physiology. Osteopaths train intensively for 4 or 5 years, similar to medical degrees but with much more emphasis on musculoskeletal anatomy and diagnosis. It’s an alternative option to Physiotherapy which tends to be based more in hospital settings dealing with rehabilitation whether due to surgery or injury.
Osteopaths and Physiotherapists will have similar understanding and diagnoses of the problem but Osteopaths tend to be more ‘hands-on’ combining massage techniques, with stretching and articulation of the joints and high-velocity manipulation. Some Physiotherapists have post-graduate training in some of these techniques but often focus prescribing exercises and use of machines such as ultrasound. Both therapies often recommend exercise and lifestyle changes depending on the condition.
Osteopaths use gentle techniques designed to not only reduce muscle tension and joint restrictions. But to help with blood supply and lymphatic drainage. Because they use a range of techniques, treatments can be adapted to suit the individual making it safe for babies, mothers and the elderly.
While there are clearly a lot of similarities between the different therapies, Osteopathy fits into Hong Kong, in my mind, with its own clear identity. Osteopaths are a safe, effective hands on therapy option. It’s a profession which works alongside Western Medicine, but still has a holistic complementary approach to patient care.
Patients are happy with the level of care and the effectiveness especially for low back pain and neck pain, although people see Osteopaths for a whole range of musculoskeletal and health problems(3). With the growing issues of lower back pain in the workplace, the rising age of the population in developed cities, and more people taking up sports to balance the urban lifestyle, Osteopathy will be here to help people recover from their injuries, aches, and pains.