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What is Holistic Healthcare?

What is Holistic Healthcare?

The term ‘holistic’ is bandied around a lot in healthcare, so what do we really mean when we say that osteopathy is a holistic manual therapy?


The concept of ‘holism’ was first coined by Jan Smuts in his book ‘Holism and Evolution’ in 1926. It is the theory that all parts of a whole are intimately connected and cannot exist or be understood without reference to the whole.  


Within healthcare, a holistic treatment and management approach acknowledges that a myriad of biological, social and psychological factors culminate in a patients physical and mental health. We call this the biopsychosocial approach to health. Biological factors include things like physical health, prior injuries, genetics, age and sex. Social considerations include your work, work-life balance, social and family support dynamics. Last but not least, psychological factors include emotional wellness, coping mechanisms, beliefs and expectations.  

Our aim as osteopaths is to put all the biopsychosocial puzzle pieces together to best understand the whole picture of your health. As musculoskeletal therapists our focus is to treat and assess the physical body, but we also take into consideration all these other factors and provide lifestyle recommendations related to diet, exercise, work, work-life balance, stress management and sleep, to help you achieve sustainable health outcomes.


Going for a hike with friends is my favourite way to exercise, socialise, quiet my thoughts and calm my nervous system. I find that it’s a great circuit breaker from the day-to-day and demands me to focus on the here and now, and just worry about where my foot is going to land next!  

Have a think about which activities you most enjoy that address your physical, social and mental wellbeing, and try to make space for them in the coming weeks and months.  

Written by Dr. Chris Reilly (Osteopath)

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