I hate this question...but completely understand why patients ask me...and do my very best to answer it honestly...or as honestly as I can. It goes with "is it better this week?" in the category of difficult questions.
As an osteopath I satisfice, that is to say I am not looking for perfection, I am looking to do enough to allow you to get back to normal activity with no, or minimal pain. I do that by finding dysfunction and working to resolve it...Or do I? To the osteopath your body isn't made up of discrete structures, joints, muscles etc which can be checked for dysfunction, repaired and ticked off, that would be lovely but that was of looking at things is completely at odds with the core principles of osteopathy.
Firstly, one of the principles states that "the body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing and health maintenance", or alternatively "the body is its own medicine cabinet". Now don't get me wrong,I don't believe that we understand how to unlock the body's potential to heal all insults and indeed I doubt that is possible but, I do believe that the treatment I give, is not really the cure, it is, merely removing impediments to the body curing itself. Realistically, sometimes that is as near a cure as makes no odds. If a structure is being held awkwardly and a technique releases it then to all intents and purposes it is a cure, but more often the process takes time and there are stages by which treatment allows more normal movement and then that normality of movement improves tissue health and in turn allows treatment to further increase normality of movement. This change occurs on many levels:
So, when someone asks whether it is better than last week, the only person who can answer that is them..really. I can point to improvements in movement and in tissue tone and texture, but only they can tell me whether they are nearer to achieving their goals and indeed, only they can identify those goals in the first place. How many sessions you need depends on your goals, your starting point, and how you respond to treatment, mentally as well as physically...as well as effective treatment of appropriate tissues.
As a rule of thumb, I expect to see significant improvement by 3 treatments (often sooner) but everyone is different, long-standing problems often take more treatment, often the patient gets a lot of benefit from the first few treatments but then the additional benefit from each treatment tapers off...but not always...and sometimes there are additional breakthroughs where significant improvement occurs after a period of relative plateau. The important thing is communication, I need to understand whether you are feeling benefit and I need to be honest about my best assessment of what can be achieved in the short and medium term and that puts you in control, of what you allow to be done to your body and how much time and money you are prepared to spend.
Damian is the principal osteopath at Vauxhall Village Osteopathy and Oval Osteopathy