I’m not aware of any standard pathway from leaving school to becoming an osteopath, but if there is one, I’m fairly confident that the route I took doesn’t even come close!
When I left school in the late 70’s, like many of my friends, I went to work underground at Calverton Colliery. I started as an apprentice Electrician and left 15 years later as Assistant Electrical Engineer. This was around the time of the first home computers and before long I had converted from Electrical Engineer to Software Engineer, which is really weird as I hated computers back then and I still don’t like them today!
People who remember me from my days as ‘Windy Miller’ playing on the wing for Southwell City in the 1980’s will probably tell you I was always injured. This is only partly true, but for many years I did visit Roy Willett, a retired railway worker, who, without any formal medical qualifications that I’m aware of, could work miracles with a handful of rubbing oil and a grip of steel. When Roy passed away it inspired me to become an osteopath, although at the time, if I’m honest, I set out to become a physio!
As I developed as a manual therapist, following up an early Massage course with Diplomas in Sports Injuries and Manipulative Therapy, I became drawn to the holistic philosophy of osteopathy.
I think what makes osteopath’s unique is there willingness to listen to what a patient has to say about ‘their problem’. To identify the root cause, whether this is related to their work, their hobby, their sport or their past medical history, takes time but is really important if you’re to be successful in treating that patient at that time.
I try to tailor all my treatments to each individual patient. When it comes to manual therapy, one cap never has, and never will, fit all. I see patients of all ages from young children to the very old and my approach to treatment has to change accordingly.
For me personally, the hardest part of being a healthcare professional coming from an engineering background is accepting the ‘grey areas’. In engineering everything is black and white, a 0 or a 1. In health and disease, nothing is ever black and white. Pain is a great example of this. The level of pain seldom corresponds with the severity of injury or the extent of tissue damage. Pain is more to do with a person’s state of mind at the time; their mood, their anxiety levels, their past experiences and their beliefs.
People often ask if I wish I’d changed profession earlier and the answer is simply, no. I love the diversity of being an osteopath, no two days are ever the same, and there is no better feeling than someone saying ‘I’m feeling much better thank you’. But I also have fond memories of my time as a miner. I’m still good friends with the people I met when I started work almost 40 years ago and I wouldn’t change that for the world. I also think that maturity has made me a better osteopath today than the osteopath I would have been in my 20s.
One thing has never changed throughout my life and that’s my love of football. Eighteen months ago I was invited to spend the day with the Physio’s at Notts County FC and have been a regular member of their Sports Medicine Team ever since.
I hope you have enjoyed reading the story of my journey from a football mad coal miner in the 1980’s to a football mad osteopath in Southwell today.