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Whether she’s caring for Serena Williams on tour, or providing long-term care for patients through different stages of their lives, osteopath Michelle Funder told HealthTimes that she loves every facet of her work.

“Hands down, what I enjoy the most is helping people”, said Dr Funder, who practices in Melbourne and also serves as the President of Osteopathy Australia.

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“When people come back and say that they've been able to do something they haven't been able to for a while because their pain's reduced, their headache has disappeared, or their back pain's gone, then that is just the absolute highlight.”

“And it's a bit addictive too, I think”, she said.

At the heart of osteopathy is empowering people to build muscle, prevent injury, and ultimately use movement to help improve their health outcomes.

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“The reason I became an osteopath is that when I was a kid, I was really sporty and I used to get injured a lot", Dr Funder said.

“I spent a lot of time with osteopaths and physiotherapists helping me recover. And I just really loved the idea of working with people to help them feel better.”

“That was really the number one motivation for me, and I went straight from school into osteopathy.”

Dr Funder says that a typical day involves her treating anywhere between 8 and 12 clients at one of her clinics, plus also checking in and mentoring her team.

“I really like focusing on educating our community to help market the clinics to them, which allows us to support more people who are in need with their injuries.”

“With the clients I see, I can be working on anything from ankle sprains through to people who might be having severe headaches from stress and anxiety.”

“We help people with not only hands-on type therapy, but I also take people for private rehab classes in our pilates studio.”

“As an osteopath, the hands-on work involves massage, dry needling, soft tissue manipulation, using sports taping to help them and also prescribing exercises.”

“That's really the treatment style, but we do spend a lot of time doing the assessment, working out what the cause of that person's injury is, and how we can get the best management plan to get them to their goals.”

Osteopathy is not without its challenges, and Dr Funder says the most difficult part is trying to empower people to make changes to their lifestyles and behaviours.

“You can see someone for half an hour once or twice a week, but it’s really about empowering them to make changes in their lives, because the biggest way that people can help themselves and reduce their pain is to change the stuff they're doing outside of the clinic.”

“And that comes down to educating them on how to set up their desk, or how to increase their exercise, or have better sleeping habits.”

“The challenge is working with people to make these much bigger changes in their life, because it's not an instant thing. It’s not like popping a Panadol, where you can feel pain relief straight away. This is about trying to help people influence meaningful change in their life to improve their health outcomes."

One of the highlights of her career to date was treating Serena Williams when she was on tour.

“She'd rolled her ankle, and they thought they'd try and use an osteopath to help her. And it was quite a severe strain.”

“I saw Serena late one afternoon and then she played the next day and her ankle felt fine. And she was so happy.”

“So, she invited me to help treat her throughout her campaign and invited me into her box to watch her tournament that year. That was a real highlight.”
Dr Funder said that there are many other stories that stay with her.

“I've been practicing for 16 years, and there have been clients who either need to see me ongoingly to help them maintain their lifestyle, or people that I see and then I don't see again for 10 years."

“It's a total joy working with people to keep them doing what they love doing and not having to spend so much time seeing people like myself, or doctors, or other allied health practitioners.”

Dr Funder offered some advice for anyone thinking about a career in osteopathy.

“If you're considering becoming an osteopath, you should go and see an osteopath yourself, first and foremost.”

“Osteopathy Australia has a great website as well that you can have a read and learn more about what osteopathy does.”

“When it comes to skills, the most important one in health is really communication.”

“Being able to understand people and what they're trying to communicate to you is key", Dr Funder said.

“There's no cookie cutter approach to health. Every person is an individual, so you need to be able to listen and really understand and build rapport with clients to get the best outcomes."

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Charlotte Mitchell

Charlotte is a published journalist and editor, with 10 years of experience in developing high-quality content for national and international publications.

With an academic background in both science and communications, she specialises in medical and science writing. Charlotte is passionate about creating engaging, evidence-based content that equips the community with important information on issues around healthcare, medicine and research.

Over the years, she has partnered with organisations including the Medical Journal of Australia, Cancer Council NSW, Bupa, the Australasian Medical Publishing Company, Dementia Australia, MDA National, pharmaceutical companies, and state and federal government agencies, to produce high-impact news and clinical content  for different audiences.