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Back to the Future – An Osteopathic Answer to the Healthcare Crisis?

by Jonathan Lawrence(more info)

listed in craniosacral therapy, originally published in issue 258 - November 2019


The genius of modern medicine is dealing with acute and traumatic conditions. It is life saving and restorative. However medicine is in crisis. The cost of healthcare is enormous and with ageing populations and increasing levels of chronic disease these systems are creaking. Why is this the case? There are a number of factors including lifestyle and iatrogenic factors.

With regard to lifestyle there is no doubt that in modern society we are living in a manner that does not suit our biological design. We do not move enough. Being seated in a car or in an office for hours on end can contribute to many health issues.[1] We spend too much time in artificial conditions and expose ourselves to lighting that does not comprise a full range of visible frequencies but also flicker[2] at various rates. As has been expressed this makes modern living for many equivalent to living in constant twilight and disrupts our circadian rhythms and in particular the mitochondria[3] disturbance of which is associated with many chronic conditions. This also contributes to awry sleep patterns.[4]

Other EMF radiation such from cell towers and Wi-Fi are increasingly thought to be toxic as well, this of course is disputed by mostly industry-funded studies. Processed foods such as ready meals, takeaways, food contaminated with pesticides and food grown on nutrient poor soils, carbohydrate snacks and sugary sodas contribute to diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity. All of these conditions are exponentially increasing.[5[ Zach Bush sees degradation of the human microbiome and chronic disease as linked.[6]

The Role of Healthcare Professionals

Healthcare professions from doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists nurses and complementary practitioners of all kinds can help to address lifestyle factors informing and encouraging patients to make sensible informed decisions. Even better by encouraging good lifestyle choices before problems arise through education. Simple exercise regimes that take very little time and can be done anywhere.


Hand Position Address the Lower Abdominal Fascia

Fig. 1 Hand Position Address the Lower Abdominal Fascia


How Osteopathic Philosophy can Contribute

The essential idea behind osteopathy is that ‘structure governs function’, If the structure is not right function breaks down and disease results. For example if men sit down for many hours each day then over a period of time pressure on the pelvic floor can lead to local congestion, inflammation and damage and disease of the prostate gland.[7]

Michael (name changed) 55 years of age contacted me for just such an issue. As well as low back pain he suffered mild urinary incontinence,[8] urinary frequency, nocturia and erectile dysfunction. He was overweight and he had been told he had slightly raised blood sugar. His prostate was enlarged and his PSA test was elevated. His blood pressure was sufficient for his doctor to suggest medication which he refused.

His consultant suggested regular checkups to see whether the condition deteriorated.

The plus factors were that he was not on any other medication, he had been offered statins but he was reluctant as a friend had suffered with muscle pains. He preferred to see whether anything that could be offered naturally would help in the first instance.

He suffered mild IBS. He was a rep for a company that required him to spend many hours in the car each week. He snacked on industrially produced sandwiches and fizzy drinks only having a good quality meal a few times a week.

Not many people think to consult an osteopath about this condition but he had come via word-of-mouth from a satisfied patient. He was highly motivated to get better.

As well as taking a broad case history I looked at risk factors relating to his condition. These included, lifestyle, diet and psychological state and history of trauma. The latter included a fall onto the base of the spine, ice skating and a minor whiplash.

Examination included attention to mechanical and neurological factors that could contribute to his condition. Highlights were a torsion pattern in the sacrum and cranial base, with a resulting functional scoliosis. The transition points between spinal curves were all under strain with a related ‘sway back’ posture. In addition he had difficulty touching his toes.

Initial treatments were aimed at correcting the craniosacral system by adjustments the cranial base and pelvis. Some of this I felt was due to the history of trauma. Structurally the transition points were addressed as well as the sacro-iliac joints. This work ensured that the nerve supply to the prostate and pelvic floor would be optimized. In particular the autonomic supply; the sympathetic nerves from the upper lumbar nerve roots and the parasympathetic supply from the sacral outflow.

Adjustments were done to the fascial attachments of the pelvic floor (Fig1).

The second part of the treatment involved stimulating the lymphatic drainage via manual lymph pumps.[9] Some of these are simple enough to teach to  partners to do. Interestingly he developed a soreness under the right lower rib cage in the area of the liver along with a flu-like feeling initially. We supposed that this was a processing of released toxins, a common experience.


The Prostate Gland in Situ (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Fig. 2 The Prostate Gland in Situ (Courtesy Wikipedia)


At the same time he was asked to do exercises that stimulated the body,[10] and stretched the pelvic floor including squatting. Squatting is something we lose the ability to do in the Western World at quite an early age, yet being in this position has many health benefits especially in relation to the lower abdomen.[11]

As can be seen in Fig. 2 the prostate is ensconced between the bladder and rectum with little room. This makes it vulnerable to poor mechanics such poor seating. Chronic constipation and poor blood supply can lead to congestion. Similarly the presence of visceral fat in this area is another mechanical factor but also one that will lead to low grade inflammation. These factors taken together will in all likelihood contribute to the tendency of this organ to increase in size with ageing.

Positon For Pelvic Floor Inhibition

Fig. 3 Positon For Pelvic Floor Inhibition


A useful technique in this condition in called “Inhibition of the Pelvic Floor” (Fig. 3) in which the thumbs of the operator are pushing up in to the pelvic floor just medial to the ischial tuberosities, the sit bones. This is done with pressure applied on the in breath and maintained on the out breath. The degree of pressure is enough to relax the tissues. If a contraction is felt then pressure is eased. After about 10 breaths the pelvic floor is stretched and congestion reduced.

This can be taught to the patient who can do this is in a sitting position bilaterally or lying on the side unilaterally. Loose fitting clothing is necessary.

In order to address other factors Michael embarked on a low carbohydrate diet with supplements and probiotics prescribed by a nutritional therapist.

After 3 months all the symptoms had improved and he had lost a significant amount of weight, his urine flow and frequency improved as had the erectile dysfunction. In addition he had more energy and was contemplating changing his job to one that better suited his new healthier mind set.

I have come across patients in similar states of health who are looking for quick fixes and who very often end up in a downward spiral of medications with multiple side-effects, operations and deteriorating functionality. Not only do they do themselves no favours but they also add more stress to an overburdened healthcare system.

There are many equivalent instances of how taking responsibility for one’s health and addressing this holistically can be of huge benefit not least in women who have equal issues with the pelvic floor. And of course it’s not just this area of the body that suffers from our modern malaise.

One further benefit from addressing our health in this way is that good for the environment. Less consumption of industrial foods, less consumption of pharmaceuticals and better mental and social health.

Osteopathy has much to contribute in this area but there are many excellent approaches in complementary medicine and by continuing to build bridges between these philosophies and conventional medicine and with more and more ‘satisfied customers’ there is light at the end of the tunnel.




  1. Professor/Dr Brian Rothbart said..

    Excellent article!

    Function follows form is an obvious truth, but unfortunately is ignored by so many allopathic physicians. Hopefully, with the persistence of so many dedicated alternative healthcare providers this will change.

    Professor Rothbart

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About Jonathan Lawrence

Jonathan Lawrence BA DO Cert Ed, following 4 years teaching Environmental Science, trained at the European School of Osteopathy graduating in 1985. Jonathan has been practising Osteopathy in private practice for 25 years, treating patients of all ages – from babies to the elderly. Having lectured to audiences ranging from small technique classes to presenting at the 2008 Advancing Osteopathy Conference, he established Turning Point Training in order to bring high quality and affordable professional courses in Craniosacral and positional release techniques to practitioners trained in conventional or complementary medicine. He may be contacted on Tel: 01769 579004;  

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