Osteopathy is a challenging subject and it's not uncommon to feel a little overwhelmed at the start of your studies, but students often report 'eureka' moments where the things they are learning begin to fall into place. Second year student Ana Freitas talks us through her own eureka moment when her understanding of soft tissue changed...
"In my first year, we started with the practical classes right away. I was surprised and would keep questioning myself if I was ready to start technique. After all, I had just started and had no idea what I was doing.
Half a term passed and I did my first exam. I didn't think I was ready but surprisingly I passed. The techniques were starting to make sense but soft tissue was still a mystery to me. I started watching my tutors carefully to see if I could figure it out.
One of my tutors had a mantra: "if you don't feel it, you might as well not do it". Everybody knew that she was amazing at soft tissue. I would always put my heart and soul into her classes because if there were such thing as a soft tissue goddess that would have been her. She would always tell us to "feel the tissues" and "explore the range of motion".
No matter how hard I tried, all I could feel was my colleagues' skin and my arms shaking. Fun fact: new students always think soft tissue is about how hard you can squeeze someone's muscles. You can probably understand why we don't practice on real patients on our first year.
One Saturday evening I was at home, practicing on my mom. She was experiencing tiredness on her thighs and I was massaging her quadriceps (front of the thigh) while chatting to her.
Suddenly, I feel a funny movement on the palm of my hands.
"I feel much lighter now. What did you do?" asks my mom.
"Nothing different" I reply.
"You definitely did something, I felt it" she insists.
That confuses me. Her thighs feel less tense but I'm not sure what happened. I notice her relaxing every time I feel this movement. It's not the muscle moving and it doesn't feel like she is tensing up...
Then it hit me.
"Oh my god, Mom! That is your muscle relaxing!"
"How do you know?"
At that point I start explaining her about the muscle fibers and the difference between how her quadriceps feel before, during and after the massage.
That was my eureka moment.
It took me a whole year and three exams to finally understand.
Obviously I didn't know what to feel. I'd never soft tissued anyone before and my body didn't know what to look for. Of course it's not gonna make sense from the start.
But as you practice, you build your mental library of what a muscle is and what should it feel like. Its a natural process that takes time, patience and a huge lot of practice."