Is There An Osteopath In The House?

Featured in “The Osteopath” Magazine
February 2004

osteopathinthehouseI have been running an ‘in-house’ clinic at The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden for the past two years.  This osteopathic provision has been instigated by a particularly pro-active Occupational Health Advisor at The Opera House, and is made possible through partial funding by the Royal Opera Benevolent Fund.

Along with the provision of a general clinic, we have instigated a series of manual handling workshops aimed at increasing employees’ awareness of their use of the musculo-skeletal system and the interaction with their working environment.  Early indications suggest a reduction in manual handling injury within The House.

Supporting the artists behind-the-scenes are a large number of Royal Opera House employees working in areas such as set design, construction and assembly, scenery painting and props, stage management, sound, costume, wigs, make-up and lighting.  These jobs, coupled with a very demanding performance schedule, place varying demands on the musculo-skeletal system.

Our bodies reflect their use and become habituated to the daily tasks and postures we place upon them.  The great benefits of providing an on-site service are not only that the employees have prompt access to treatment but that it allows me, as a practitioner, to see my patients in the context of their working environment.

For example a visit to the wig-making department to observe the techniques provides a greater understanding of functional use, and therefore effective treatment and – importantly – management, to prevent recurrence of the problems.

Our manual handling workshops are not about showing people how to do their jobs – they are often specialists in their field with many years of experience.  Rather we endeavour to build awareness and illustrate the body’s ability to adapt to the forces placed upon it.  My emphasis has been to encourage body mobility and flexibility through posture awareness; simple, short insitu stretching techniques, tailored to the specific demands of the employees’ job are demonstrated and practiced.  With stretching, the maxim “little and often” is given high significance.

The osteopathic service is available to all employees.  The combination of prompt access to osteopathic treatment, advice on working posture, self-help and on-site stretching exercises has been very well received.  I believe this leads to greater ownership and awareness of health issues and a greater feeling on value in the workplace.

I wish to acknowledge the invaluable support from Ruby Grierson, Occupational Health Advisor, and The Royal Opera House Benevolent Fund.

By David J Knight.  BSc (Hons) Osteopathy, BSc (Hons) Medical Biochemistry, London