Principles of Osteopathy and the seated posture? Tom Smith Health

Principles of Osteopathy and the seated posture?  Tom Smith Health

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Do the Principles of Osteopathy relate to the seated posture? 0Posted on: 05-7-2012 by: admin

Osteopathy, founded by Andrew Taylor Still, had a philosophy that was based on the health of the individual as a whole [1] rather than just the symptoms. It was reported by Parsons et al that the earliest writings interpreted by Still showed that he had outlined four principles as guides of Osteopathy. [2] He outlined that the body is a unit and that structure governs function. The rule of the artery reigns supreme and the body possesses self-regulatory and seK-healing mechanisms. These principles, over time have evolved and are updated annually by the Educational Council of Osteopathic Principles (ECOP) and the American Association of Osteopathic Medicine. [3] The updated principles state that the human being is a dynamic unit of function and the structure, as well as its function is interrelated. The body also possesses self-regulatory mechanisms that are self-healing in nature and that treatment by the Osteopath is based on these principles.

The seated posture is one of the most universally used in the present day workplace. It has advantages such as reduced energy consumption throughout manual based tasks, [4] however prolonged sitting in one position is a risk factor in low back pain.[5] Historically, it has been reported by Licciardone JC et al that the most common reason for visits to an Osteopath was low back pain. [6] One of the principles outlined the ECOP is that the body possess self-regulatory healing mechanisms. During prolonged seated posture, the body can accumulate microtrauma within the tissues.Throughout sleep, our body should be able to repair the damage caused due to the stimulation of anabolic growth and repair hormones.[7] If however the accumulation over exceeds the rate of repair, the Osteopath may coach the person how to effectively sit correctly with good posture to avoid further injury.

According to Wallden the most underestimated physical stressor is gravity, [8] the ideal skeletal alignment involves minimal amount of stress and is economical in energy expenditure. [9] The seated posture according to Chaffin can be divided into anterior, middle and posterior posture depending on the task of the chair. [10] In anterior posture where the line of gravity falls anterior to the lumbar spine can cause either flexion of the lumbar spine or extension. [11] Lumbar and Thoracic kyphosis which is concomitant with forward head posture can increase weight in the cervical extensors relative to the head.[12] This faulty head posture on the torso can lead to a myriad of issues such as compression of nerve roots, irritation of the cervical facet joints, fatigue in cervical extensors and the extra-ocular muscles leading to ischemia and trigger point development.[13] This shows how the structure governs function and how the body works as a unit in an attempt to bring about homeostasis to keep the eyes in line with the horizon.

Other examples of how structure governs function can be seen in how poor postural patterns can effect respiration. [14][15] Lung volume has been shown to be effected by changes in posture, particularly when affected by gravity. [16] Dysfunctional breathing patterns created by an upper cross syndrome (as seen in a sloughed seated posture) can create a mild alkalosis, an increase in acid in the blood and the impairment of thought processes. [17] The change in biochemistry and mental/emotional states can be seen as a disruption in homeostasis and is something an Osteopath will take into consideration when treating a patient.

[1] Parsons J, Marcer N. Osteopathy, Models of Diagnosis, Treatment and Practice. 2006 Elsevier Limited. ISBN 978 0 443 07395 3

[3] Chila A. Foundations of Osteopathic Medicine. 3rd Ed 2011 Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. ISBN-13: 978-0-7817-6671-5

[4] McGill S. Low Back Disorders. Human Kinetics; 2 edition 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0736066921

[5] Malcom H et al. Occupational Low Back Pain: Assessment, Treatment and Prevention. 1991 Mosby-Year Book, Inc. ISBN 0-8016-6252-4

[6] Licciardone JC, Brimhall AK, King LN. Osteopathic manipulative treatment for low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2005 Aug 4;6:43. Accessed 24/04/12 Available at

[7] Chatiow L et al, Naturopathic Physical Medicine. Elsevier Limited, 2008. ISBN 978-0-443-10390-2

[9] Kendal F et al. Muscles Testing and Function with Posture and Pain. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins 5th Ed 2005. ISBN 0-7817-4780-5

[10] Chaffin D, Andersson G, Bernard M. Occupational Biomechanics. Wiley-Blackwell; 3rd Ed 1999. ISBN-13: 978-0471246978

[12] Chek P, (1994) Posture and craniofacial pain. In: A chiropractic approach to head pain. Editor: Curl D. Publisher: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

[14] Barnas GM, Green MD, Mackenzie CF, Fletcher SJ, Campbell DN, Runcie C, Broderick GE. Effect of posture on lung and regional chest wall mechanics. Anesthesiology. 1993 Feb;78(2):251-9. Accessed 25/04/12 Available at

[15] WADE OL, GILSON JC. The effect of posture on diaphragmatic movement and vital capacity in normal subjects with a note on spirometry as an aid in determining radiological chest volumes. Thorax. 1951 Jun;6(2):103-26. Accessed 25/04/12 Available at

[16] Kera T, Maruyama H. The effect of posture on respiratory activity of the abdominal muscles. J Physiol Anthropol Appl Human Sci. 2005 Jul;24(4):259-65. Accessed 25/04/12 Available at

[17] Chatiow L, Bradley D, Gilbert C. Multidisciplinary Approaches to Breathing Pattern Disorders. 2002 Churchill Livingstone. ISBN 0-443-0753-9

Categories: Health, Musculoskeletal Tags: Back Pain, ergonomics, osteopath, osteopathy, Posture, seated posture, spine

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