Home' LOTL : June 2005 Contents 45
DEBORAH SINGERMAN MEETS A
WOMAN WITH THE MAGIC TOUCH.
Betty McKew is passionate about
osteopathy. She is not alone. As well as
being "open, fantastic, flexible, people",
the osteopaths she knows are all true
advocates of this healthcare system.
"Osteopathy is rooted in its own
philosophy and focuses on total body
health," she says.
It was founded in the 1800s by American
army doctor Andrew Taylor Still whose
harrowing experience of epidemics and
the loss of his wife and three daughters to
the medicine of that time convinced him
to follow his belief, as Betty puts it, that
the "body is miraculous and contains all
the properties and abilities to heal itself.
You just need to be able to tune into that."
She is one of those fortunate people
whose work reflects her interests -- "in
the workings of the human body" -- and
study -- University of Western Sydney
Macarthur's Bachelor of Applied
Science in Human Bioscience majoring
in osteopathy followed by a Masters in
Osteopathy, from which she graduated
This form of holistic, drug free, manual
medicine treats and strengthens the
musculoskeletal system, and through this
affects the lymphatic, circulatory and
nervous system of the body, Betty says. It
is not scary -- in fact the opposite. "It is a
very thorough, gentle and safe form of
The initial treatment, which takes around
an hour (subsequent visits are shorter),
starts with a full medical history. "I tend
not to counsel people though there's a
really strong link between the body and
the emotions and often that sort of thing
comes up in treatment later on. Generally,
if you are stressed it helps the osteopath
understand what the physical body is
"If you are stuck behind an awful desk
and have a boss that upsets you, that
might be relevant, as might be doing a lot
of home renovating, or sleeping on the
floor because you are arguing with your
partner. But it's up to you how much you
want to disclose."
Then there is a physical examination of
the patient's specific problem -- and
around it as well. "If you have an ankle
problem don't be surprised if the
osteopath looks at your knee or lower
back as well."
If an osteopath requires more
information, they may refer patients to a
physician for tests or an X-ray. Or if the
problem is outside the osteopath's scope
(hormonal, immune or dietary related)
the osteopath will send you to someone
more appropriate -- a GP or naturopath,
acupuncturist or traditional Chinese
herbalist. "I'm a big fan of other
complementary health modalities."
Osteopathic treatment centres around that
"big word for osteopaths: palpating. To
palpate is to feel something with your
hands. That's the essence of what we do,"
Betty explains. This skill allows
osteopaths "to discern different qualities
of tissue, of health, to feel if something is
hard or soft or squishy, resilient, rough,
tight, if it's full of fluid or dry, or hot or
cold, or spongy."
Based on principles of self-healing and
interconnectedness of body parts,
osteopaths mix direct and indirect
techniques -- massage, manipulation,
lymphatic pumping -- depending on a
patient's comfort levels. They will also
suggest exercises, lifestyle, ergonomic
and nutritional advice, and breathing and
stress management techniques. "You have
to set realistic goals together."
Most of Betty's patients (aged from five
to 80s) work in offices and have either
chronic, ongoing pain or acute instances
such as a slipped disc. "Osteopathy can
also benefit conditions specific to
women, such as period pain, pelvic pain,
painful sex, incontinence, pregnancy."
Betty encourages lesbians to consider
osteopathy. "Obviously I find them more
stimulating and interesting," she laughs.
"Lesbians also are sometimes more
complex, layered women. Being a lesbian
is more important to some people's
identity than it is to others and it is
absolutely up to them if they want to tell
me they are lesbians.
"Osteopathy is based on mutual
communication between practitioner and
patient. It provides a nice, comfortable
environment. We live in this vast cerebral
world and it's important to come back
and connect to your body and to
understand cause and effect in your body
-- and osteopathy's an effective
For more information, visit
Osteopath Betty McKew
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