Osteopathy can treat respiratory function via the musculoskeletal system. In acute and chronic disease we change the way we breathe to deal with the problem, especially with chronic (long term) issues where these changes become adaptations over a period of time. The system develops “bad habits” and over-relies on areas, often resulting in pain.
Osteopathy works on the areas directly related to breathing, so the diaphragm muscle, ribcage and associated muscles, are commonly effected. The ribs and diaphragm attach to the spine, so often this area is strained and can become symptomatic. A good example of this would be in the case of a persistent cough. Very commonly we will place greater emphasis on what are termed the accessory muscles of breathing. We have to when there is a disease process, it’s a coping mechanism. There are several muscles we utilise more, for example those that travel up into the neck from the upper ribs – scalenes, and those that travel across the chest and attach to the ribs – pectoralis minor.
Poor breathing mechanics can alter an individual’s posture, so an Osteopath would look at a whole individual to assess the areas effected and work accordingly.
The types of respiratory problems that very commonly present to Osteopaths are asthma, bronchitis, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), people who are very stressed, and the common cough and cold. Obviously there is a need in some of these instances for appropriate medication to be given, and for the patient to be monitored by their GP. An Osteopath won’t cure these conditions, but Osteopathy may help when people struggle to manage their symptoms.