Ask an Osteopath

We ask health and wellness professionals the same six questions we always ask. This week, TWO DOULAS talks to osteopath Heather Barton.

Osteopath Heather BartonHeather Barton, BSc., CAT(C), D.O. is an osteopath and an athletic therapist with over twelve years’ clinical experience. She works at both the Spinal Mouvement St-Joseph clinic in Mile End and at the Axio Health clinic in downtown Montreal. When not working, you can find her hanging out with her delightful family, organizing her kids’ science club or trying out some new dance or yoga moves.

How would you describe your job in just one sentence?

I combine osteopathic manual therapy with home exercises to help get all the pieces of the body moving happily together again.

What made you want to be an osteopath?

After retiring from professional ballet with an injury, I studied biology and exercise science at Concordia University, but never thought I’d find a career for which I felt as much passion as I had had for dancing until I found osteopathy. It lets me combine my love of anatomy and the beautiful dynamic architecture of the human body with the human spirit. People are just so darned interesting.

How can new or expectant parents benefit from your services?

Going through pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period is like undertaking a slow-motion triathlon. Huge amounts of physical adaptation are required of the body and each person has their own unique history of injuries, illnesses and other impacts that can affect how well the body adapts at each stage. Osteopathy helps the pregnant and postpartum body adjust more easily, relieving or avoiding common aches and pains such as sciatica, pubic symphysis pain and carpal tunnel syndrome. During delivery, when every millimetre of mobility counts, is not the time to suddenly remember your old snowboarding coccyx fracture!

What happens at your first meeting with a new or expectant parent?

The big questions for me are: “Who is this person, what’s really going on with their body, and what tools do I have to help them?” To answer this, we first take a thorough look at your health history, your activities and habits and then go through a physical exam, evaluating how well all the moving pieces of your body are working together. Once I have an understanding of what the key causes of the dysfunction are, we can begin manual therapy treatment. I always like to include a few home exercises to specifically reinforce what we’ve worked on in clinic.

At the Spinal Mouvement clinic I’m lucky enough to be part of a multidisciplinary team of osteopaths, acupuncturists, massage therapists and trainers who combine efforts with our perinatal patients to come up with the best treatment plan for each person. For example, a woman may come to see me with shoulder pain after a month of being at home with a new baby. I will happily see her first for a treatment or two but then what often will help her most is to go see Marie-Eve Corriveau, the lovely kinesiologist and perinatal yoga instructor who runs our training centre, for either a home exercise program or post-natal group classes. Collaborating with other therapists is usually very beneficial for the patient, and fun for me because I learn a lot from working with other practitioners.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about your field?  

That osteopathy is something esoteric. We do like to look at the person as globally as possible, but the manual therapy techniques are based on anatomy, physiology and biomechanics.

What do you love most about working with new and expectant parents?

Becoming a mother was the most transformational event of my life. It’s an honour to play a small role during this special time in women’s lives, helping them experience it with as much joy as possible.

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