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May 2017
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The term massage generally refers to manual treatment which mainly focuses on the muscular component and which serves to loosen contractions, drain, stimulate circulation and so on. During osteopathic treatment, a massage is used as a preparatory phase before performing more specific, articulator treatment (mobilisation of joints) and vertebrae repositioning of two bone caps that have posture and/or post-traumatic problems. In terms of osteopathic treatment, the term massage must refer more correctly to visceral manipulations that, together with fascial and cranio-sacral treatments, are particular to osteopathy.

The internal walls of the abdomen and our organs are covered in ‘sheets’, that is, thin lubricating films that slip over one another and let our organs move. These two sheets can join firmly together at certain points creating ligaments, which serve to connect organs to each other or suspend them on the inner walls of the body, therefore they have a suspension function. However they also contain blood vessels and nerves destined for various organs. Consequently, a loss of mobility, a change to the sliding of the two sheets or reciprocal movement of two organs will disrupt both the vascularisation and innervation of the area in question.
Another very important factor is provided by the thoracic diaphragm, the dome that separates the abdominal cavity from the thoracic cavity, because, through breathing and the alternating movements of rising and lowering the abdomen, it carries out a continuous massage on these slippery sheets. When we are in good shape and everything  is working as well as possible, we cannot detect any problems, we feel light and very healthy. However, quite often this sophisticated mechanism does not work as it should and some small, temporary modifications can occur which, in turn and over time, can become chronic and create serious problems, forcing us to take action: this is called osteopathic dysfunction, which is defined as ‘the reduction or loss of sliding between organs which, as a consequence, leads on to a deficiency or stagnation in the blood supply and disturbance in innervation.’ The functioning of the organ also changes, slowing down and causing digestion difficulties, a swollen abdomen, slower hepatic functions, headaches and exhaustion.

These problems can be caused by simple changes of posture and bad positions that we assume every day at work or home such as: being seated for many hours at a desk or in front of a computer or always turning to one side to answer the telephone without ever getting up or stretching out sore muscles; forcing our feet into unsuitable and uncomfortable shoes, possibly with high heels, just because they are in fashion; and wearing clothes that are tight and stop us from breathing properly. Different postures change the positioning of our organs and, by being seated or bending over, we hinder the reciprocal movements of the organs and therefore the correct functioning and rising and lowering of the diaphragm. For those who work on their feet, ptosi could occur if they do not breathe properly because of the weight of the organs, since they will move downwards causing the abdomen to protrude, which not only looks bad but also causes functional damage.

Naturally, since our organs are connected to our skeletons via ligaments, an obvious consequence is that the posture gets worse and so muscles contract as if they are undergoing a lot of work so as to try and keep us balanced. Even if we only notice a bit of annoying tension to begin with, over time we will experience very bad backache and this can become chronic  and will eventually accompany us all day, every day. The signals our bodies send us are very important and must not be underestimated so that we do not cause ourselves more harm by over-using and squashing the vertebral disks.
Good every day habits are, therefore, very important; for instance, do not stay seated in the same position for too long, stand up every now and then and lengthen and stretch yourself out and wear comfortable shoes which your feet can actually fit into, with suitable heels and with big enough ends for your toes. For those who work standing up and place one foot on a step, which is where most of their weight is put, moving about, doing free weight exercise and stretching or going for a walk every day are all very helpful ideas. Everyone knows these simple rules dictated by common sense, but chaotic and busy lives often stop us from putting them into practice.

One way to improve the situation is with osteopathic treatment, which is completely manual, fully respective of our bodies, delicate, non-invasive and suitable for everyone, from children to the elderly. After a careful postural and energy assessment of the patient’s problems, both on a musculoskeletal and vascular level, the osteopath will decide on the most suitable treatment, which is personalised, by identifying the starting point that caused the problems reported to him/her by the patient.
Many problems can be dealt with by remembering that the pain felt is not normally caused by a problem in that painful area, but rather in a place quite far from it. Treatment can begin with muscular relaxation, joint treatment and repositioning by performing gentle massage movements on the ‘sheets’ in order to re-establish correct interactions between organs and their reciprocal movements, with the aim of restoring optimum levels of vascularisation and innervation. All of these actions are pleasant and relaxing and an annoying backache could even disappear after treating the affected organ, which may not have been giving off any apparent signals, and tired and fatigued people may feel better after some simple handling of the liver.
Osteopathy is becoming ever more relevant because it can work by starting from different points to deal with the same problem. General backache or stomach ache does not exist in osteopathy because the problem is considered to be unique to the unique patient who is experiencing a problem that involves his/her entire body both on a psycho-physical and energy level.

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