At the Osteopathic Health Centre Chester we can help you recover from a host of conditions including; low back pain, neck pain, sports injuries, arthritis and muscle spasms.

We are conveniently placed for visitors coming to us from all parts of; Cheshire, Wirral, Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales, Chester, Christleton, Tattenhall, Tarporley, Malpas, Kelsall, Helsby, Frodsham, Hawarden, Great Sutton, Ellesmere Port, Queensferry, Hawarden, Flint, Wrexham.

What can you feel?

 

As osteopaths we rely on our highly developed sense of touch to help us diagnose the conditions which cause patients to have symptoms. This skill of palpation is our trademark and we use it in combination with our medical knowledge, detailed case history taking and observational skills to examine, diagnose and then treat patients.

 

So, it’s always good to know that a patient is interested in what I’m feeling when I run my fingers along their spine and muscles because if they understand what is happening in their bodies then it is easier for them to manage their back/neck problems better.

 

But my heart also sinks a little when I am asked this question as I know how difficult it is to find the right words to convey a sense of the tissue quality which I am feeling.

 

Are you able to describe in words the difference between what a piece of cottonwool feels like compared to a piece of sponge? ‘It’s cottonwooly’? ‘It’s spongey’??? Or how an elastic band feels when it’s lost its elasticity? Or the difference between the feeling of a soft leather handbag and an imitation plastic one? It’s really tricky! I guess it’s a bit like the difficulties a wine tasting journalist has in describing the bouquet of a particular Merlot or Chardonnay.

 

We osteopaths spend years refining our palpation and interpreting what we feel in terms of medical conditions. We need to be able to feel why a joint is stiff. Is it because it doesn’t get enough stretching, or is there a facet lock (ie the muscles around it have tightened up so much that the joint is ‘locked’) or is osteoarthritis present or, even, does the joint feel unusual/anomalous? The same is true of muscles and connective tissue. It’s not just ‘this muscle is tight’ but what sort of tightness is it? And even ‘how long does it feel as though it has been this tight?’

 

I know it can seem amazing to patients how much detail we are able to pick up. Sometimes we get a strong sense from our palpation that a heavy fall onto one hip, probably occurring some years ago, has left an imprint in the body which now underlies a recent painful sacroiliac joint. Our fingertips may have stored a similar sensation in our memory bank from treating a previous patient with history of a fall. Once we have established the cause of a patient’s problem then it is easier to get positive tissue changes and help the body to recover.

 

It is extraordinary that the plasticity of the brain allows the human race to develop and diversify its talents in the way that it does. There is the musically trained mind of a conductor whose ears can pick up the subtleties of one violinist being slightly off key or the chef who can tell whether a complex sauce has lemon juice and cinnamon rather than orange juice and clove mixed in with all the other flavours. We all develop very specific skills which we usually take for granted. Just watch children learning to do up buttons or tie their shoe laces.

 

Years ago when a patient asked me how I could feel so much with my fingers I asked her whether, when she emptied her vending machines, she was able to tell how much money was there. She replied ‘Oh yes, to the nearest 50pence!’