17 March 2021
Osteopaths are qualified to help with some issues with digestion.
We don't treat the condition. We look at the person as a whole in order to find the root causes of their symptoms. This can be particularly useful for symptoms that don't fall neatly into a diagnosis.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is technically a condition of exclusion. This means that it can only be diagnosed when other conditions have been ruled out. This might be done through a combination of the case history, blood tests, and imaging or biopsy. IBS is considered a functional disease as opposed to structural: symptoms will be present without other physical findings.
Researchers have found promising links between manipulation of spinal joints (clicking backs) and IBS symptoms. One theory is that because the nerves that supply the digestive system leave the spinal cord at these levels, manipulation of the neighbouring joints can have an effect on the local area. At the more gentle end of the scale, some patients with IBS find that local work to the abdomen helps to manage their symptoms.
Visceral Osteopathy is a form of osteopathy focusing on treating the organs themselves. The organs of digestion are generally relatively well placed for this, as access is not restricted by the ribcage or thick layers of muscle. Some people report good results for constipation from manual therapy.
Acid reflux is the result of a weak sphincter at the top of the stomach. This allows the leakage of stomach acid and other contents into the oesophagus. Symptoms may be limited to chest pain and heartburn, or may be as significant as vomiting.
Although your osteopath cannot directly treat an underactive sphincter, they may be able to help with the body's backup: the diaphragm. Research shows that the diaphragm acts as an "anti-reflux barrier" when behaving properly. The diaphragm is essentially a large sheet of muscle that creates a barrier between the thorax and abdomen. There is a space in its centre for vessels and other structures to pass through. The stomach sits just below, so the diaphragm encompasses the area around the base of the oesophagus.
Your osteopath can feel the tension around the front and sides of the diaphragm where it attaches just under your ribs. Like any other muscle, they can work to stretch and relax it if necessary. You can build on this with exercises to do at home if appropriate. We may also be able to help address the reflux itself to some extent. There may be triggers for each episode, such as overeating, fizzy drinks, or certain foods. We have the luxury of time and may be able to help you identify these factors.
If you suffer from issues of digestion like these, you can make an appointment online now to see if we can help.