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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

Osteopathic Medicine for Health and Longevity

Oct 01, 2019 07:48PM ● By David Johnston

Most people desire to live a long life, especially if the quality of that life is healthy and vital. With our modern advancements in science and technology, particularly in the fields of osteopathy, nutrition, functional medicine and anti-aging medicine, we now know several things that can help a person avoid diseases of aging and have a better chance at maintaining their longevity. 

Osteopathic medicine was discovered in 1874 by Andrew Taylor Still, who was a frontier physician who realized how ineffective and dangerous medicine and surgery were in his day. By spending time in nature and studying anatomy in extreme detail, he realized how the body’s structure and function were related. Osteopathy treats the whole patient and addresses the underlying causes of pain and disease.  

The first osteopathic school was opened in 1892 in Kirkville, Missouri. Today there are 38 schools across the U.S., and more than 100,000 osteopathic physicians in practice, with many in rural and underserved areas. Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DOs) complete four years of medical school and additional residency training, like their MD colleagues. They are licensed to practice medicine and surgery in all 50 states. In addition, DOs receive extensive training in osteopathic and anatomical structural diagnosis and treatment. Some osteopaths practice a gentle hands-on treatment called OMT (Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment). This helps to align bones and soft tissues and allows nerve, arterial and lymphatic circulation to restore vitality and healing.

Osteopathic concepts are quite holistic in nature and emphasize the following principles:

• The human being is a dynamic unit of function

• The body possesses self-regulatory mechanisms, which are self-healing in nature

• Structure and function are interrelated at all levels

•Rational treatment is based on these principles

Cranial osteopathy is a more advanced healing technique that involves gentle palpation and movement of the bones of the skull, the brain, the dural and fascial membranes, the sacrum and the fluctuation and balance of the cerebrospinal fluid. This enables sutures between skull bones to be released and cranial nerves like the vagus, our major parasympathetic nerve—and in charge of the body’s relaxation response—to become more balanced.

Typically, an initial osteopathic visit may last 60 to 90 minutes and involves a detailed medical and structural history from birth to the present of injuries and lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, emotional stressors, supplements, therapeutic stretching and relaxation breathing techniques. Then, gentle head-to-toe, hands-on osteopathic treatment is performed to diagnose and treat imbalances in joint alignment, tissue texture changes and tenderness. The goal is to alleviate inflammation and tissue congestion, which is the cause of the pain. By releasing fascial tension along nerves and lymphatic vessels and opening up venous and arterial circulation, proper oxygen and nutrients are restored to the tissues, while waste products are removed. This rapidly speeds up healing, reducing pain, improving mobility and restoring normal function and well-being. Also, the very relaxing, cranial-sacral part of the treatment helps to balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic “fight-or-flight” nervous system, allowing old injuries, shock and trauma to be treated out of the anatomy very quickly.

Osteopathy can be described as “peeling the layers of the onion,” and it may take up to five or six visits for a patient to feel more significant relief for a pain condition that may have been present for more than 10 years. A classic example is an old injury, perhaps from childhood, like slipping and hitting the back of the head. There may have been a concussion and whiplash that healed in a few weeks. Then, maybe 10 years later, severe headaches and back pain suddenly surface. All the tests, MRIs and evaluations are inconclusive. The energetic imprint from the shock of the injury is still structurally stuck in the solar plexus, diaphragm and the sacral bone. The dural membranes in the head and tailbone area can hold onto those kinetic forces, blocking the normal flow of circulation in the body. Osteopaths can detect these subtle imbalances and treat them so the body can finally heal. 

Conditions treated with osteopathy include muscle and back pain, sports injuries, whiplash and neck pain, asthma, sinus disorders, carpal tunnel syndrome, migraines, menstrual pain, concussions, birth trauma, breastfeeding issues, colic and reflux in newborns. 

There are various therapies and healthy habits that work in conjunction with osteopathic treatment to aid in good health and vitality: 

Eat a Mediterranean diet: Focus on plant-based foods, nuts and seeds, and drink coffee or tea.

Exercise: Regular physical activity can extend your lifespan. Exercising more than 150 minutes per week is best, but even small amounts help.

Get enough sleep: About seven to eight hours a night is best; too little sleep may also promote inflammation and increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. These are all linked to a shortened lifespan.

Limit your alcohol intake: Heavy alcohol consumption is linked to liver, heart and pancreatic disease, as well as an overall increased risk of early death. However, moderate consumption is associated with a reduced likelihood of several diseases, as well as a 17 to 18 percent decrease in your risk of premature death. Wine is considered particularly beneficial due to its high content of polyphenol antioxidants.

Calorie restriction: The link between calorie intake and longevity currently generates a lot of interest. Animal studies suggest that a 10 to 50 percent reduction in normal calorie intake may increase maximum lifespan. What’s more, calorie restriction may help reduce excess body weight and belly fat, both of which are associated with shorter lifespans. 

Detoxification programs with high-quality supplements and herbs: These are part of a personalized approach to maintaining health. By helping to rid the body of harmful toxins and heavy metals, our overall inflammation and risk of disease decreases. Additionally, by balancing the gut and diagnosing food allergies, our immune system is balanced.

IV (intravenous) nutrition and hydration: Doctor-formulated, custom IV infusions like vitamin C, glutathione, and various amino acids, minerals and B vitamins allow 100 percent absorption of nutrients, boost the immune system, battle fatigue and stress, support anti-aging, improve sleep and overall health, aid muscle recovery, decrease inflammation and treat symptoms of chronic and acute illness.

Quite often, we use a combination of all of these therapies when helping someone improve their health. Since health and lifestyle choices vary from one person to the next, treatment approaches need to be tailored uniquely to each patient.

David Johnston, DO, is a board-certified osteopathic physician in neuromusculoskeletal medicine and osteopathic manipulative medicine, and a Diplomate with the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine. He holds additional certifications in cranial osteopathy and practices at The Osteopathic Wellness Center, in Ridgefield (203-438-9915) and at the Breiner Whole Body Health Center in Fairfield (203-371-0300). For more information, visit OsteopathicWellness.net and WholeBodyMed.com. See ads, pages 2 and 43.

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