What even IS osteopathy?!

For a long time now I have constantly been asked - "so what actually is osteopathy?", or "what's the difference between physio and osteo?" or "osteo... that's bones right?" or countless variations on this theme. Let me try and shed some light on our maybe mysterious profession.

confused otter

Or, if you haven't yet seen this entertaining otter video, click here.

Osteopaths know bodies. They know anatomy, physiology, how everything works and how everything's connected. They understand all of this in a scientific and practical way. Osteopaths complete a 5 year university degree and are registered and regulated by AHPRA in Australia. They must complete 25 hours of professional development every year. Whilst still a small profession, Osteopathy is one of the fastest growing health professions in Australia.

What can osteopaths help with?

Osteos can help with pain pretty much anywhere (feet, knees, the pelvis, arms, hands, heads, sinuses, jaw, ribs, you get the idea), but it's often not just about pain. Osteopaths have a distinct knack for looking at overall patterns in your body. From the first moments at uni we are taught to think and work this way. It is quite common for pain to be presenting in one place but for there to be an issue/imbalance/old strain/something happening somewhere else which might be why this nagging injury/pain doesn't go away. Sometimes this is why people get results from an osteopath where they haven't had as much success from other modalities. We've taken our blinkers off. 

What's the difference between osteo/physio/chiro?

There is definitely overlap when it comes to the manual therapies (osteo, physio, chiro, myo... someone should write a song about this...). We all have the same end game. We want to help people feel better! We treat injuries and educate people on management and prevention. We are all educated in the same topic - the human body. It's the techniques and approach that differs.

Even within these professions there can be a lot of variation in individual practitioner technique. So always make sure you speak with your practitioner if you don't feel like you're getting where you want to be, because they should be able to adjust some treatments or maybe even refer you to someone who might work better for you. As osteopaths we often work with other modalities (physios, myotherapists, exercise physiologists, naturopaths, dietitians, GPs) to provide the best care possible. I don't feel it's appropriate for me to delve too far into how each profession works because I am biased in my preference for Osteopathy. Here are the appropriate pages of their association websites for you to find out more: Physiotherapy, Chiropractic, Myotherapy, Exercise Physiology, Naturopathy. I do though always tell people, you have to find a practitioner that works for you

Within Osteopathy there are some large differences with how some practitioners work. Namely the use of craniosacral therapy. Cranial (or craniosacral) osteopathy involves further study beyond the university degree and not all osteopaths practice this way. It is a very gentle, subtle form of treatment attending to restrictions that may be felt on a deeper, cellular level. To see a practitioner that works this way, it is best to ask the clinic you are booking with as they will have specific practitioners who do this.

What will an osteopath do in a session?

Osteos, are great at seeing patterns and areas to strengthen or to free up. Treatments can be quite variable depending on who you are and what is being addressed. There will always be an initial assessment involving looking at how you stand, move, sit, and breathe. The treatment could then be a combination of massage, stretching, resistance work, HVLA (manipulation or cracking - HVLA is osteo speak for high-velocity-low-amplitude), trigger point work, dry needling, counterstrain (a very gentle release technique which encourages tissues into their position of ease), fascial treatment (see next paragraph), taping and of course education on positioning, movement, posture, and how your body is functioning. Treatment may be firm or gentle, depending on who you are and what is most effective for you.

Osteopaths assess and treat some more subtle yet important things about the body as well. Fascia is a good example. Fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds muscles and organs. It is there to support, stabilise, reduce friction and can come under tension as other connective tissue can. Osteopaths can provide treatment to reduce stress to areas of fascial tension which will then have a flow on effect to relieve pressure and tension to the rest of the musculoskeletal system. This can feel like stretching or soft tissue work with a slightly different focus. Osteopaths also think about how the musculoskeletal system may be affecting organs when treating. For example breathing dysfunctions are very common, and easily addressed with focus on treatment of the diaphragm, neck and thoracic spine. Digestion can be addressed with work through the lower back, diaphragm and pelvis.

Do I have to take my clothes off?

Certainly not if you don't want to. We will often ask you to take your top off (leaving your bra if wearing one on) so we can look more close at your spine and back, but if you're not comfortable with this it's definitely not essential. We can treat with pressure, stretching, manipulation and other techniques without having to massage if you would prefer. On the flip side, if you're comfortable then we may use cream to massage the area needed. 

Who usually sees an osteopath?

Osteopaths mostly work in private practice but can occasionally be found in community care settings or hospitals on patient request. The Australian osteopathy model is close to that in the UK, and quite different to the US model. We work with a huge range of people; sporting teams, athletes, active people, not-so-active people, women during pregnancy, children, people with injuries, those with niggling pain, people wanting to prevent injury or dysfunction, musicians, performers, the list goes on! Whilst our ability to help is vast, we also understand the limits to our scope of practice. If an osteopath finds reason, they will refer you back to your GP or other specialist for further assessment as, as much as we would like to, we can't help with everything.

How often do you need to see an osteopath?

This entirely depends on why you're seeing one. But, usually, After an initial 1-3 treatments to make change to any acute pain or injury, maybe one week apart, treatment will be spread out further with advice and education to allow you to manage yourself in between. So you might have an appointment two weeks in a row, then one in a fortnight, maybe another, then in a month, and if by this time you feel good, are confident with what your body needs and how to manage things, you can come as you need. Some people prefer to have monthly or six weekly sessions, and this is absolutely ok, and totally up to you. We will not say you need treatment when you don't, and we will make the plan clear from the get go.

I have a question!

Great! Please email us or leave a comment below with any questions you have. It's hard to cover everything because there's a lot and I know you probably need to take a breather by now. 

So thanks for reading, I hope this has cleared up some mystery behind what we do.

Oh and yes, 'osteo' does mean "related to the bones", but we work with everything in the body. Our skeleton provides the scaffolding and support for the rest of our systems, one system affecting the next and then the next. 

FRIDAY HACKS: Summertime foot pain? We have some TOE-tally good tips!

(audible groans at Rachel's terrible pun title. I regret nothing!)



So it seems that Melbourne has finally kicked into the summer weather this week in, March?? Better late than never we say. Unfortunately, this is also the time that Osteopaths tend to see a rise in people coming in with foot and lower limb pain. Think about the footwear you have been seen in over the last few months. Questionable? Bare feet? Living in your thongs? Prolonged walking and time in unsupportive footwear can lead to not only sore feet, but problems in your knees, hips and low back.

Here are a few tips to think about when summer time foot pain sets in:

Get some ankle support - Without a strap or support around your ankle, walking and running puts extra strain on the toes to grip onto the shoe and give you stability. We recommend trading out the thongs for a sandal with a strap if possible, or at least limit the time you are in the pluggers. Convenient? Yes. Helpful for your pain? Not so much.

Stretch out those calves - No matter what shoes you are in, they tend to be less supportive than the comfy runners and boots we can get away with in winter. Try and counteract this by making sure you stretch your calves and hamstrings whenever you get the chance. Take a look at the calf stretch and stretches with a foam roller here.

Foot pain first thing in th e morning? Get yourself a golf ball - A great easy stretch is to get a golf ball and use it to massage the bottom of your foot. Try this when you are sitting at home in the evening, or even keep one in your drawer for any easy stretch to do while at the desk. PRO TIP: Pop that sucker in the freezer for ten minutes to ice and massage your foot at the same time!

Of course, if your pain has progressed and is not alleviated by easy at home measures, it might be time for a end of summer tune-up at the Osteopath. Give us a call or head to the bookings page to make a time with one of us now!


- Rachel


Friday Osteo Life Hacks (feat. Towels?!)

A towel, it is said, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.

Before you try and say, 'But Rachel, I am not an interstellar hitchhiker or even a big nerd like yourself', hold up. A towel is still probably the most useful DIY tool that anyone can have, when it comes to good posture and helping out that niggling shoulder tension.

Let me explain.

When you do repetitive tasks with your hands in front of you (eg. computer work, driving, sick guitar solos) you tend to disrupt the balance between the muscles at the front of your body and the back. Over time, this drag to the front can start to cause pain and headaches as the body tries to compensate for the position it is in, particularly in the upper back and neck regions. Some call this 'desk disease', but really it applies to any job or task that pulls you forwards.

'HELP. THIS IS ME!' I hear you cry. I hear you. It is me too.

The answer to this kind of pattern is very logical. If you are being pulled forwards, we need to reset the balance and bring you back to your body's equilibrium. We need to stretch out the front and add some strength to the back. You should head along to your favourite local Osteopath (hi!) and get some help with movement, pain relief and strengthening exercises soon.

In the meantime, grab that towel!

Fold it in half, and then half again. Roll it up so it is now a firm cyclinder shape.


Place it in between your shoulder blades vertically, and lie on your back with your arms stretched out to the sides. Make sure you have a pillow under your head and your legs are comfortable with your knees up.

There you have it! Try giving this a go for 2-4 minutes at the end of the day, or following practice/work/driving. Maybe even chuck one in your gig bag and have a stretch after sound check.

If you have more questions, or are in need of more detailed advice, head along to our bookings page or give us a call on 03 9973 2434.

- Rachel

Sound Osteopathy


Sound Osteopathy is here! We are health providers who are here to give information, advice and one-on-one treatment to musicians, performing artists and of course anyone who needs help with their body.

Sports medicine is a huge industry. We want to assist in the development of performing arts medicine. We will try to do this by linking to interesting or informative articles, blogs, recordings, and by having our clinic that you can drop in to for an in person assessment and treatment.

Sound Osteopathy is situated in Fitzroy above the store Villain at 78 Johnston St, and next door to the Old Bar. Come in through the shop and go up the stairs to our lovely space.

Carmen, our osteopath, completed her Masters of Osteopathy in 2010 and will provide a thorough assessment, treatment and advice on your recovery, rehab, or how to improve and adjust your day to day habits to preform and feel your best. Each treatment is individually tailored and will consist of a variety of techniques including massage, manipulation, mobilisation and stretching, to affect joints, muscles, nerves, whatever connective tissue is in need of attention.

Carmen also works at Coburg Osteopathy & Health Services where you can visit her if our times or days don't suit your needs.

Have a look through the site and feel free to email us with any questions or comments you might have!

  - Sound Osteopathy -