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A Hands-on Approach to Healing by Barbara Gordon-Cohen

What is Osteopathy?

Andrew Taylor Still, a medical physician in the late 1800s, pioneered osteopathic medicine as a way to treat the entire patient instead of just addressing immediate symptoms. This study of the entire functioning of the human system has led to various means of diagnosis and treatment, including one of the most recognizable means of treatment: manipulation. A doctor of osteopathy, or D.O., uses this hands-on approach to assure the free motion of the body which allows the innate healing systems of the body to work unimpeded.

For example, breathing may be hindered if the ribs and/or diaphragm are not moving well. This hindrance could lead to the lymphatic drainage system not working well. When this occurs, healing is delayed. Dr. Still found that he could help influenza patients with daily manipulation to stimulate the body’s own healing system to release its healing resources.

By treating structure with osteopathy, function is corrected. For instance, when someone has bronchitis, there are lymphatic techniques that can move the mucus up and out of the body and balance the nervous system to decrease mucus and open the bronchial airways to the lungs. Healing can be further facilitated by pressing on Chapman’s reflexes, points located on the side of the breast bone, to balance the nervous and lymphatic drainage systems. By restoring all the diaphragms of the body to their proper position and functioning, bacteria and viruses can be eliminated from the body.

What is Cranial Osteopathy?

In 1939, William Garner Sutherland, an osteopathic physician, determined that there is a small motion between the skull and their sutures and that there is a movement in the body that happens in conjunction with this motion. This movement is crucial for the body’s healing system to work at its optimal level.

This is why a trauma to the head or body can impact health and the body’s proper function. One example is cranial trauma due to a difficult birth which can result in colic, chronic ear infections or delayed development. Traumas also can lead to headaches, joint pain, digestive disorders, menstrual disorders, back pain, repetitive stress injuries and other issues.

Ear infections are a common condition that can be treated with osteopathy. Ear infections may occur when the temporal bones are internally rotated causing accumulation of the fluid. Using cranial osteopathy and other lymphatic techniques in the head, neck and upper spine will facilitate healing by freeing up any restrictions.

What is the Difference between a Medical Doctor and a Doctor of Osteopathy?

A doctor of osteopathy has medical training just like a medical doctor but also learns how to diagnose and treat disorders with their hands, which is unique to the profession. An osteopath can diagnose and treat people using their hands. For instance, if someone comes in with back pain, a DO can use their hands instead of prescribing pills to help that patient. They can diagnose restrictions or asymmetry of the vertebrae, tissue texture changes or tenderness and then use various osteopathic modalities to free up restrictions in the fluids, tissue, fascia, bones and muscles. With muscle energy techniques, tender point techniques (counterstrain), adjustments and cranial and ligamentous techniques, osteopaths can remove restrictions. Osteopathy can facilitate the inherent capacity of the body to heal itself and it is not unheard of for a patient to experience pain relief after just one treatment.

Barbara Gordon-Cohen, D.O. is board certified in family medicine and neuromuscular medicine. Her office is on 4 Boar Court in Suffern. She can be reached by calling 354-4507 or visiting

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