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  • Writer's pictureJay Danto

The Body, Mind, and Spirit in Osteopathic Practice

The Body, Mind, and Spirit concept is a core component to Osteopathic Principles & Practices (#OPP). As an Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine (#NMM) specialist I am well suited to treat people's bodies for dysfunction of joint, muscle, soft tissue, or nerve origin. These dysfunctions most often manifest as pain or disease. When I use Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (#OMT) to treat these dysfunctions my goal is not to cure a person from pain or disease, but to optimize their body to be its best self. While that might sound like a cop-out, it would be very arrogant for me to presume that I "cure" anything. I help a person's body function at its the best of my ability and they "cure" themselves. This is how all medical approaches work at their root level. For instance, a physician may prescribe a medication that kills or helps kill a bacteria, but the different systems of the body act synergistically to restore itself at a cellular level from the damage done by the infection.

In my practice, when treating the body I often prescribe a small exercise prescription to reinforce the treatment that I perform in the clinic and empower a person with the ability to treat themselves. My greatest success is not from patients returning for continued treatment of chronic pains, but from them graduating from my practice to recruit new people for me to help or from their return months to years later for a "touch-up" or to address something new. So addressing the body is really an important part of my practice, regardless of whether it is through OMT, Medical Acupuncture, or a lifestyle modification like Yoga, stretching, muscle balancing exercises, core strengthening or something else.

In addressing the mind I work on a minimum of two levels. First, there is an indirect effect of using OMT to address a patient's musculoskeletal dysfunctions. When you restore a person's pain-free motion or alleviate their pain in any way and they are able to do more of what they LOVE, then this has the additional benefit of removing a psychological burden of either the pain or the limitation of one's lifestyle. When I had pain in my late 30's and I could not even walk a mile, it was a blow to my enjoyment of my life. And, when that pain went away and I could run, play basketball, play with my kids, and be "normal" I felt a heaviness leave my psyche. When I followed up with a 70-year-old patient last week who told me of their ability to do more around their house and fill their day with things they enjoyed doing, I knew that they were happier. Studies have shown that the alleviation of chronic pain reduces depression, and I am grateful to witness this regularly in my patients.

The second way that I work on a patient's psyche is through a more direct route. I talk to them using the principles of Positive Psychology and/or give them some growth oriented homework. Towards this end, I wrote a book called "Your Guided Journey to a Happier Life: A Journaling Experience." I bring this up not to sell books, but to show my commitment to working with patients to improve their psychological state of wellbeing. In the course of an office visit with a 20-40 minute portion devoted to treating a patient's physical body we chat about our lives. The stories I share about my own life are done so with the goal of influencing my patient's in a positive direction. The stories my patients share with me fall upon nonjudgemental and accepting ears seeking to guide them towards experiencing their lives through a positive lens. People usually leave our office feeling better physically and either emotionally unburdened or happier.

Spirituality in my osteopathic practice is through multiple levels. This includes a belief in a higher power. I neither assign nor remove from this Life-giving/Life-sustaining power a Judeo-Christrian identity. I accept it because I have experienced it through my osteopathic practice and through all of my life experiences. On another level I accept and respect my patient's spiritual beliefs regardless of whether I share them. Through this level of acceptance my patient's may count on my support in helping them on both their spiritual and their healing journey because these journeys are intertwined. Using Osteopathy to allow one's inner expression of a higher-power to help them heal by removing dysfunctions that act as impediments to their Healing/Spiritual journey this allows a person to be more aligned with one's own spirituality.

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