Osteopathy – a general plan that is tolerant of our ignorance

One of my patients needed written clarification of the things we discussed at our first meeting. She writes:

Could please tell me again what your working hypothesis is of what is happening in my body to cause my symptoms? Also, what is your approach for treating this?

In my reply, as premises to the comments specific to her case, I made the following points:

  1. We don’t know everything (nor even a small part) about the way the body works, so we need an approach which is tolerant of our ignorance.
  2. In osteopathy, the working hypothesis is not as important as the general plan. The general plan says: “Be faithful to osteopathic principles and treat the patterns you find.” The beauty of this is that it allows you to do useful work even if your working hypothesis may actually be wrong.
  3. Especially in chronic cases, chasing a single, clear “cause” is a wild goose chase. It is much more realistic and useful to think in terms of a network of multiple, reciprocal influences, each of which contributes to the maintenance of the whole (dysfunctional) system.
  4. The more you focus on detail, the less you appreciate the basic general patterns.
  5. As an osteopath I approach all problems in the same way (see number 2 above). The most important principle for the osteopath is to reduce at least one general kind of stress and strain from the body (the mechanical kind), so that the whole organism, unloaded a little, frees up some of its resources for healing.