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Bellingham Osteopathic Center

Frequently Asked Questions

Our Practice FAQ’s

Does your office accept insurance?

We participate as specialists with all of the major insurance companies in the State of Washington. We are currently contracted with these insurance companies and are considered a Preferred Provider.  We have adjusted cash rates to be affordable for patients, and also accept all major credit cards as well as payment plans.

Do you accept Medicare, Medicaid or Workman’s Compensation?

We do accept Medicare, and do not accept Medicaid or Workman’s Compensation at this time.

Do you treat motor vehicle accident related injuries? How is insurance billed for these injuries?

We treat motor vehicle accidents, and will accept payment from your insurance company, who can then pursue compensation from the insurance company at fault, if that is necessary. We do not get involved in third party disputes, but will assist our patients as needed for compensation and most importantly, for resolution of their injuries.

Do you treat sports-related injuries?

Osteopathic Manipulation, Balancing Acupuncture and Homeopathy are all very helpful in the resolution of sports injuries, often with rapid results. Osteopathic manipulation treats the cause of the injury, both the anatomic and physiologic basis of the injury, and this process is improved with acupuncture and homeopathy as indicated.

Can you be my primary care physician?

No. Our practice is listed as a sub-specialty practice due to our training, and we are devoted to the use of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment in the management of the full spectrum of your healthcare concerns. We are happy to coordinate with your primary care physician for a comprehensive and coordinated treatment program, so that all of your treatment needs can be met.

Are there educational opportunities at your office?

We are active in the study and teaching of Osteopathy and welcome senior medical students and residents who have demonstrated initiative in understanding and practicing the principles and practices of traditional Osteopathic Practice through advanced study and coursework. We allow two to fours weeks with a rotation, so please contact our office if you are interested.

How do I fill out any necessary medical and legal forms prior to my treatment?

The necessary patient forms, including forms that require a signature are included in our new patient packet. These can be downloaded prior to your appointment, filled out and then brought with you to your appointment. You may also show up 30 minutes prior to your appointment in order to fill these forms out prior to seeing Dr. Swan or Dr. Stanley.

General FAQ’s

What is an Osteopathic Physician and what type of training do they receive?

DO’s are fully licensed physicians in all fifty states. They practice the full spectrum of Medical and Surgical specialties. Their training includes the completion of four years of Osteopathic Medical School, covering the same standard training in the basic sciences and clinical medicine as if found in an MD medical education program. In addition, DO medical students complete a minimum of 500 hours of training and study in functional anatomy and manual medicine. Those Osteopathic Physicians who specialize in Manual Medicine, or Osteopathic Manipulation, complete a residency and/or over 3,000 hours in Manipulation.

What is a Classically trained Homeopathic Physician and what type of training do they receive?

There are a number Classical Homeopathic Colleges in the United States. They require an active license to practice medicine or nursing, although there are some colleges that accept students with any active healthcare-related license. Most colleges are four year programs with a significant clinical curriculum, usually related to whatever specialty the practitioner is trained in.

There is also active post-graduate education courses around the world, as new remedies and an increased understanding of current remedies is constantly occurring. The training programs includes an in-depth study of each individual remedy, of which there are over 3500 currently. Training also includes specifics in interviewing and evaluating patients for the specific remedy that their constitution would most benefit from, know as the ‘similimum’.

What is the training involved for a Physician licensed in Medical Acupuncture and how do they treat patients?

Medical Acupuncture can be performed by a licensed physician, MD or DO, who has also successfully completed the coursework, academically and clinically in a post-graduate program. Medical Acupuncture is generally used in conjunction with the specialty of the physician involved, whether an MD in family medicine, or in Dr. Swan’s specialty, Osteopathic Manipulation. This is a different approach than someone who has received a OMD, or Doctorate in Oriental Medicine, where the license is not a full medical license, but all aspects of Oriental Medicine, including acupuncture and Chinese herbalism, are practiced.

How does the Balance Method of Acupuncture differ from other forms of Acupuncture?

The Balance Method, which is a very ancient form of Traditional Acupuncture, is a method that involves the study of the acupuncture points and meridians as they relate to finding yin/yang balance within the patient. The translation of the Balance Method is ‘stand pole, see shadow”, meaning the symptoms should be alleviated as soon as the needles are placed. This method has been defined and taught in the United States by Richard Tefu Tan, OMD.

What is Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM)?

There are a number of different names for Osteopathic Manipulation in the Osteopathic profession. These include Osteopathic Principles and Practice (OPP), Osteopathic Diagnosis and Treatment (ODT), and Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT). These all refer to the different manual modalities used in applying the principles of OMM. The term Neuromuscular Medicine (NMM) refers to the Osteopathic Board which certifies DO’s in OMM. After Osteopathic Medical school, the DO can pursue Internship and Residency training in any of the medical or surgical specialties, as well as in Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine. OMM involves the use of palpation and manual treatment for a broad-spectrum of healthcare issues. One of the underlying principles involved is that as the structure of the body approaches its normal, healthy state of balance and motion, it will also approach its optimal ability to function normally as well. OMM addresses restrictions in all of the tissues, fluids, organs, and physiologic systems of the body. There are many different modalities of OMM, all following Osteopathic Principles. They range from very subtle, to more direct, but all are performed in alignment with the inherent healing mechanism present in the patient. Whatever techniques are used, we are looking for the Health within our patients, and and always apply treatment respecting your comfort and the needs of your situation.

What disease, traumas and conditions does Osteopathic Manipulation treat?

Osteopathic Treatment can address and often completely resolve the full spectrum of health issues of you and your family. This includes all forms of pain (headaches, TMJ problems, back and spinal pain, joint issues, pelvic and sacral pain syndromes, abdominal pain and others), scoliosis, chronic ear infection, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s, high blood pressure, depression, asthma, and all issues related to the care of pregnant women, newborns, and children. Osteopathic Treatment can be instrumental in helping patients achieve and maintain their optimal state of healing. We often recommend that patients receive a ‘tuneup’ treatment quarterly, to maintain optimal physiologic health. Osteopathic Physicians that specialize in OMM, unlike their MD counterparts, often live and practice Osteopathy into their 80’s and 90’s, a testimony to the power of regular Osteopathic treatment and a healthy lifestyle.

What is Cranial Osteopathy?

Cranial Osteopathy was discovered by William Garner Sutherland, DO, a student of Andrew Taylor Still, MD. The key concept is the understanding that there is, within each person, a presence he called the ‘Breath of Life’, with contains a potent Intelligence and guides the living anatomy and physiology of the patient. Treatment in this approach involves gentle palpation of the entire body, especially the brain and spinal cord. The goal is to free areas of restricted motion within the body, down to the cellular level, to allow this innate healing presence to express its ‘unerring Potency’.

What is Biodynamics?

The Biodynamic view of Osteopathy in the Cranial Field was developed by James Jealous, DO. This model is based upon the principles of embryology, where Dr. Jealous found that the forces of growth and development, as well as those of healing, originated in the forces of embryologic development. This allows the experienced Osteopath to more easily recognize and cooperate with the living Mechanism and its intention in the moment.

What traumas or conditions can the Balance Method of Acupuncture treat?

The Balance Method of Acupuncture is extremely useful for all conditions and traumas that have any element of pain involved. In our practice, it is combined with Osteopathic Manipulation for more rapid and complete resolution of symptoms and their root cause. This combination of treatments is excellent for the treatment of migraines, tension headaches, neck and low back pain, sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic knee and ankle pain, tailbone and hip pain, as well as many other pain-related conditions.

What traumas or conditions can Classical Homeopathy treat?

In our practice, Classical Homeopathy is often combined with Osteopathic Treatment and Lifestyle counseling. These modalities can work together synergistically, and the correct Homeopathic remedy can support and accelerate the Healing process for the entire physiology of the patient. Homeopathy works very well with broader complaints and conditions, such as fatigue, depression, anxiety, or chronic pain symptoms.

What is the difference between a DO and an MD?

Osteopathic training includes the study of all branches of medicine and surgery that are part of an MD’s training, as well as a minimum of 500 hours of additional training in manual diagnosis and treatment. Today, there are more than 60,000 Osteopathic physicians in the United States. They have practices covering the entire range of specialties, including emergency medicine, neurosurgery, cardiology, gastroenterology, psychiatry and many others. For those Osteopathic physicians who choose to specialize in Osteopathic Manipulation and Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine, there are specific residencies and advanced training offered by the Osteopathic profession.

What is the difference between a DO and a DC (chiropractor)?

The primary difference between and Osteopathic physician and a chiropractor are their levels of training and the scope of their practice. A chiropractor is not a licensed physician and has not completed residency training in a hospital. The scope of chiropractic practice is defined by statute as “including the diagnosing and locating of misaligned or displaced vertebrae and through manual manipulation and adjustment of the spine and other skeletal structures, treating disorders of the human body. The practice of chiropractic does not include the use of drugs or surgery, or the practice of osteopathy, obstetrics, or any other branch of medicine.” Chiropractic care is concerned with normalizing the alignment of the spine to influence the relationship between the spinal column and the nervous system. Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine is based upon the principle that the human body possesses self healing and regulating mechanisms that are the source of healing, and therefore addresses the entire cause of disease in the patient.

What is the difference between Cranial Osteopathy and Craniosacral Therapy?

The most signifiant difference between the practice of Osteopathy in the Cranial field and Craniosacral therapy is the education and level of training of the practitioner. William Garner Sutherland, DO introduced the Cranial Concept to his fellow physicians in 1929, after over twenty years of research and clinical treatment. He saw Cranial Osteopathy as a modality of diagnosis and treatment to be provided by trained, licensed physicians as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. It is comprehensive, complex medical treatment, and not merely a therapy. Craniosacral therapy (CST) is described as a “light touch therapy” that can be provided by a practitioner or lay person with as little as eight days of training by the Upledger Institute.

Treatment FAQ’s

Can Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine treat the health issues of infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly?

Osteopathic treatment is gentle, safe, and most importantly, effective. It is appropriate for all patients, including children, the elderly, patients with debilitating illnesses, and those who have suffered significant trauma, including recent surgery.

What can be expected during and after my initial and followup appointments?

Initial visits can last up to one hour and followup visits generally last around thirty minutes, although they may be longer if acupuncture is involved. After a thorough history is obtained, the patient receives an Osteopathic structural and functional examination. The patient is then usually treated lying on their back, or occasionally in a seated position. We make accommodations so that the patient is as comfortable as possible.

What happens during Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment?

Treatment involves a gentle application of the physician’s hands to the body. This serves to diagnosis and then treat areas of restricted motion and physiology. Generally, patients experience a deep state of relaxation during treatment, and often for hours afterward. Since Osteopathy is an integrated, holistic science that recognizes the inter-relatedness of all body structures and systems, it may be necessary to contact areas of your body that have not been associated directly with pain or symptoms. This is always done gently, and with any necessary communication for your comfort and understanding.

What happens if Balancing Acupuncture is involved in a treatment process?

If Balancing Acupuncture is a part of your treatment process, the needles will be placed while you are lying in a relaxed position on your back. You may receive an Osteopathic treatment as part of this process, or it may be separate. The acupuncture or extremely small, yet very sharp needles, that are placed in locations between the knees and toes, and elbows and fingers. There are generally eight needles placed for any given treatment. There can be some sensation of warmth, electricity or mild pain associated with needle placement that tends to dissipate within a few minutes. The needles remain in place for twenty to thirty minutes, depending on what is necessary for an optimal treatment response.

What happens if Classical Homeopathy is involved in a treatment process?

If Dr. Stanley determines that Classical Homeopathy would be helpful in your treatment process, she will have you fill out a Homeopathic evaluation form to bring to your next treatment session. This will be discussed with you, often over the next few Osteopathic treatment sessions, and a specific Homeopathic remedy will be determined. This remedy is given orally, often at the conclusion of a treatment, and at times there will be a daily oral dose of the same remedy in a lower potency, if that is indicated to support your care. There are usually gentle, positive changes associated with Homeopathic treatment, much like Osteopathic Manipulation, with symptoms decreasing and overall wellness improving over time. Sometimes, there can be a slight worsening of symptoms over the few days following the homeopathic dose, which is also called a ‘healing response or crisis’. This is a considered a very positive response to treatment and indicates that the appropriate remedy has been found and is resolving deep-seated issues.

What should I expect after a treatment? Can there be noticeable effects?

Typically, patients feel very relaxed and peaceful after a treatment. Occasionally, patients experience a day or two of fatigue or soreness after a treatment. This is normal and can indicate that the treatment process is continuing in a positive direction. These symptoms typically are mild and require only rest, increased fluids and ice or heat as appropriate.

What should I do or not do after a treatment?

Osteopathic treatments, Acupuncture and Homeopathy all work very deeply with the anatomic and physiologic core of the dynamic mechanism of healing within the patient. This requires a significant amount of the metabolic energy of the patient, and therefore it is wise to only do supportive activities for the next few days after a treatment. These include rest, increased fluids, relaxation and meditation, stretching or yoga classes and nourishing, simple nutrition. Please avoid increased stress, compression activity or overexertion or mental strain.

Do you recommend any therapeutic exercises or movement?

There are many appropriate exercise programs related to the healing process. These are very individual, and will be discussed with you during your treatment process. There are also specific exercises related to anatomic and physiologic conditions or issues that will be explained and reviewed with you after treatment.

Do you discuss nutrition or recommend the use of natural botanics or supplements?

Proper nutrition is an essential element in helping our systems reach their full potential in growth and development, as well as in healing. We will discuss how nutrition relates to your specific complaints, if there are other supplements or botanics that we feel would be helpful in supporting your recovery, and whether any other referrals are indicated.

Are there any contraindications to Osteopathic Treatment, Acupuncture or Classical Homeopathy?

There are no specific contraindications to any of the modalities practiced at Bellingham Osteopathic Center. There may be particular techniques that are not appropriate for specific individuals based upon their condition or their preferences. Even patients with serious illnesses or structural instabilities can be treated effectively and safely.