I have come on the forum to ask advice about something I need some clarification on.
I have seen an Osteopath for the first time recently to do with low back pain. Had my 2nd session last week. He is a very well respected Osteopath who has been practising for many years and has a very good reputation, has even worked alongside local GP's. In light of that, part of me thinks my concerns are probably (hopefully) unfounded. However, after the 2nd section I have been left feeling confused and slightly violated.
The techniques used in the first session seemed somewhat unusual, but he explained what he was trying to achieve when I asked, and it made good sense, so I went along with it. Indeed the next day my symptoms were remarkably better, about 70% better much to my amazement. So far so good.
However, the second session has left me wondering whether his techniques are genuine osteopathy techniques.... He asked me to lay on the couch. First he cradled my head in his hands and did some subtle movements. No problem there. I could understand what he was doing and why and was completely fine with that. However, he then slid one hand under my right shoulder and with his left arm, leaned round my neck and rested his whole forearm and hand on my upper chest, his fingertips reaching my upper breasts. He leaned his chin on my right shoulder and rested the weight of his head there, staring down over my body. No pre-warning about touching me this way, no explanation, no asking my consent. He maintained this position for about 5 minutes (it felt a lot longer), twitching his fingers slightly every so often, and his hand seemed to be edging slowly downwards. The whole thing made me feel very tense and uneasy, wondering what the hell was going on. In the end I pushed his hand away and told him bluntly to stop, saying I didn't like what he was doing! I expected him to apologise, or at least show some recognition of my distress, but all he said was "Well, I'd finished doing that anyway!". When I asked him what he'd been doing, he said something along the lines that he was trying to loosen up my ribs as they're connected to the spine. The area he was touching was my sternum/clavicle, not my ribs, though, so this explanation didn't quite gel.
Then he said he needed to reach to touch my lower back. I expected him to ask me to turn on my tummy, or else reach under from the side. But no. He told me to lift my bottom off the couch. He then slid his arm up between my legs in order that his hand was on my lower back. The other arm was under my buttock, with his hand on my back. He again maintains this position for about 5 minutes, not doing anything, not saying anything, with his eyes closed some of the time.. He would just twitch his hands occasionally and sometimes his whole body would twitch (like what happens when you're dreaming and jolt awake suddenly).Then he said "That'll do for now", and that was it! If he needed to reach my back - why would this have to necessitate reaching his arm up between my legs? I wasn't at all happy with this.
The whole thing left me feeling very uneasy and disturbed. I am now very confused. Half of me is rationalising that this man has been a professional, successful and well recommended osteopath for many years and it just would not make sense for him to do something inappropriate to me, and risk his reputation/career etc. This part of me is thinking I am being too jumpy, too sensitive, too suspicious. Also, as it appeared to work so well the first time (unless that was just coincidence) I think I am probably just being stupid and should put aside my concerns and be glad it is working so well.
However, I have had all sorts of doctors and health professionals touch me and examine me in various ways over the years, - but never, ever have I had someone touch me like this so intimately without a) first explaining what they are planning on doing and why, and - more importantly - b) first asking my consent, making totally sure I am ok with it. Also, I just felt very uneasy about the techniques he used.
The trouble is - how do I know if the technique he is using is an acceptable osteopathic technique or whether what is happening is inappropriate? This is why I need to check with other people who know about osteopathy - to ask your advice. I am meant to be going back for a 3rd session, but am not sure what to do at present. My plan of action is to first of all suss out from other osteopathy-experienced people whether or the osteopath's techniques are genuine. If so, and if the treatment continues to work well, then I'll put my unease down to experience or poor communication and go along for the 3rd session. Though next time I will ask him to explain in advance of starting what he intends to do and why, so I at least have the chance to decide if I'm happy with it. Does that sound sensible?
If you were tempted to go back, I would take a chaperone with you, to be in the room. I have osteopath friends, and have had the treatment myself countless times over the years, and have never ever been touched in the manner you describe.
Personally, I would not go back.
My father visited an osteopath (during the 60's) who was supposed to be well-respected - had certificates all over his clinic walls etc, but when my father had parted with hundreds of pounds and needed to resort to using a stick after 10 sessions with this man, a bit of investigation found that he had never obtained any form of training - instead he had bought certificates from a printing company in yellow pages, and written in his own details!
It sounds like very standard cranio-sacral work, which a quite a lot of osteos do. It's a shame he didn't explain it more, even if it was only 'this won't feel like I am doing much work but you should notice a difference'. Since you said you were happy with the subtle movements cradling your head, it sounds like he might've explained that bit the first time, and as this was more of what he considered the same style of work he didn't explain it again.
When I asked him what he'd been doing, he said something along the lines that he was trying to loosen up my ribs as they're connected to the spine. The area he was touching was my sternum/clavicle, not my ribs, though, so this explanation didn't quite gel.
The ribs attach to the sternum, it's quite a common technique with one hand on the back where the ribs attach at the spine and the other hand at the other end of the rib at the sternum and work the connections.
Did you find the treatment improved things for you? Did you go back? Hopefully you asked and he explained things a bit better for the 3rd treatment.
I agree with Cola: these sound like standard cranio-sacral holds. (I am a remedial massage therapist rather than an osteopath, and was taught these techniques on a myofascial release course.) However I am surprised that the osteopath didn't take more care in explaining what he was doing, particularly with regard to the sacral hold, where it would have been more discreet to slide his hand under the client's waist and then hold the sacrum, rather than approach the sacrum by sliding his hand between the client's legs and under her buttocks.
It doesn't sound like he was doing just a sacral hold, it sounds like a sacral lunber gap which is not that easy with both hands coming under the back from the side. Sacral hold with only one hand under the body is not as effective from the side, but is more socially acceptable, the gapping technique it's much more important to have the direction correct. These techniques are usually done through clothing.
It sounds like he explained it all the first treatment and didn't feel the need to repeat it for the second treatment. The problem is most people just go 'uh ha, ok' without really understanding what is explained (eg that the ribs attach to the sternum). Therapists all too often think the client understands what they are explaining. I do think that approaching the sacrum from between the legs needs much more explanation and checking in while it is being done than the average hand placement, it's a reasonably confronting approach for most people. A brief mention at the start of the first treatment of 'I will possibly be holding your skull and sacrum during the treatment' means nothing when the time comes for 'just lift your hip up'.
Location: Clinics in Stevenage, Home vistis in Enfield
I’m an osteopath and it sounds like the practitioner that you saw was a “Cranial Osteopath”. He should have informed you about what he was going to do, so a phone call to him to explain the situation may help (to remind him about the importance of communication). I personally do not think that osteopaths should practice “Cranial Osteopathy” under the banner of “Osteopathy” as the two methods are very very different.
I'm not an osteopath so I can't comment on whether his procedure was appropriate or not, but I have seen a couple over the years. I would say if you feel uncomfortable, don't go back. You will feel stressed about the procedure and so any benefit would be lost because you are so tense. It won't matter how good he is, you need to be able to relax to allow the treatments to work well and long-term.
I saw one male osteopath who my mum recommended to me and where she feels fine with him, I felt extremely uneasy, no matter how good he is (and his reputation is high) he wasn't going to be able to help me because I would tense up when I entered the room for treatment. I have since seen a female osteopath who I feel much happier with.
I feel that if you can relax with a professional (especially one who gets sooo close to you like an osteopath does) then the treatment is so much more effective.