In other Body Balance Health & Physiotherapy news we would like to welcome Conor O’Flynn to the team!
Conor is a manual osteopath who was born and raised in Wallaceburg, Ontario. He studied Kinesiology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, earning a Bachelor of Arts. While studying at Laurier, Conor developed worked as a personal trainer and varsity strength coach for the university, discovering the need for an integrated fitness and therapy model.
After university, Conor earned a diploma in manual osteopathic practice (DOMP) from the National Academy of Osteopathy in North York. He returned to Waterloo and provided osteopathic therapy in both physiotherapy and alternative medicine clinics.
Conor’s therapeutic work focuses on musculoskeletal issues of all kinds. He uses manual (hands on) therapy techniques to restore balance and integrity to the body, removing the barriers to healing and recovery. He works hard to keep his techniques and practice up to date with current pain science and manual methods.
Conor is passionate about exercise, and bridging the gap between therapy and fitness. He prefers to gear his therapy towards an active recovery, placing the patient in control of their recovery process and transitioning to a healthy, vibrant life.
A lifelong athlete, Conor is a nationally qualified powerlifter. He’s competed at the national level in both muay thai kickboxing and grappling competitions. He is a prolific writer and is always looking to improve his fitness and therapy services.
Osteopathy and Chronic Pain
Osteopathy is an old therapy, going into its 144th year as a health practice in 2018. Though this might be viewed as a drawback – deeper roots to keep the profession stuck in the mud – it can actually work the opposite way. The long history provides perspective and allows for the old to be viewed on a spectrum with the new.
In the case of osteopathy, this means that the field has changed and will change dramatically. As it should. The original practice still makes up a large amount of what is considered osteopathic work today; manual therapy applied in an effort to achieve favourable outcomes and avoid more invasive interventions.
Viewed in this broad lens, the field is wide open to adapting to pain science as it changes and new evidence emerges. A 2016 article by Williams and Craig – titled “Updating the definition of pain” – provides many insights to apply as we move forward with manual practice.
Williams and Craig provide the following definition of pain, “Pain is a distressing experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage with sensory, emotional, cognitive and social components”(Williams and Craig, 2016). The incredibly important assertion that pain is an experience is a good start. That this experience may involve actual OR potential tissue damage is equally important.
In the case that actual tissue damage has triggered a nociceptive experience, osteopathy can provide manual care that seeks to parse, relieve, and re-integrate the areas in question. The goal is to remove obstructions to recovery and factors that feed into nociception, allowing the individual to once again feel like an integrated and functional unit.
In the case that there is only potential damage or perceived damage, osteopathic therapy can still be useful. A manual approach can be used to begin to restore confidence in an area of the body, provide novel stimuli which may interfere with nociception, and lay the groundwork for changing perception of the area through more active means, like exercise.
Through manual work and simultaneous discussion and education of the patient, the therapist can change both the objective expressions and the subjective perceptions which may contribute to the sensation of pain. We can guide the patient through the common narratives that often contribute to pain becoming or remaining chronic.
My own osteopathic work has been largely directed at realigning a patient’s focus as they navigate a painful experience. Often the instinct is to focus on the painful sensation and the things that one cannot do as a result of the pain. In my interactions with patients, I can help direct their attention toward doing what is necessary to improve toward a more functional state.
As pain experiences become chronic, the link between actual tissue damage and perceived pain weakens (Juch et Al, 2017). It’s important that the patient is able to form a therapeutic alliance with a practitioner they can trust. It’s more important that this practitioner helps to guide perception towards function and acceptance of pain itself rather than suggesting that a simple hands-on technique can “fix” the pain.
Manual Osteopaths are not among the professions allowed to perform diagnostics in Ontario. While at first this seems like a shortcoming, it does in fact put Manual Osteopaths in an interesting and unique position.
Rather than focusing on the diagnosis process and finding a label for the painful input, osteopathy is free to parse out the connection between tissue and pain that so many patients can get stuck on. Moreover, we can work on accepting conditions however they may currently present and set specific and meaningful goals with the patient.
This goal setting may not fit any other criteria beyond the patient, but that won’t matter. We can choose tasks that are meaningful to the patient, or on changing experiences currently affected by pain. This may be something personal and difficult to quantify in the clinic,but it may provide the patient with a tangible goal that they truly desire. This allows for the patient to feel a little empowerment, and in doing so removes reliance on the practitioner in question.
Osteopathic therapy is manual therapy. Manual Osteopaths work with their hands. Among the guiding principles of the practice, though, is removing obstacles that prevent healing. My hands may not be able to stimulate healing themselves, but they are more than capable of helping a patient feel better and liberating tissues to allow for better movement and experiences.
Through manual work, shared goals, working with acceptance and perspective, and forming an empowering therapeutic relationship with the patient, manual osteopathy is a useful tool in the treatment of chronic pain.
Williams AC, Craig KD. Updating the definition of pain. Pain. 2016; 157(11):2420-2423.
Juch JNS, Maas ET, Ostelo RWJG. Effect of Radiofrequency Denervation on Pain Intensity Among Patients With Chronic Low Back Pain: The Mint Randomized Clinical Trials. JAMA. 2017; 318(1):68-81.