Bahrain has Dr Lana Peters to credit for introducing the science of osteopathy to its people.
Behnaz Sanjana caught up with this pioneer to learn more about how she started off and where she’s heading to.
When Dr Lana Peters stepped onto the shores of Bahrain as a fresh graduate in 1986, she had great hopes for the future of osteopathy on the island. She was confident Bahrain would take to the branch of medicine that she felt so passionately about. After all, she knew the country well; it had been her home since she was 11 years old, till she took off for the UK to study further.
“Osteopathy, at the time, was generally unheard of and definitely not licensed in Bahrain,” says Dr Peters. “One of the orthopaedic surgeons of the BDF Hospital, who knew all about osteopathy, asked me to work at the Isa Town Sports Centre.” After five years of consulting in osteopathy in Bahrain, life’s course took her to Australia by which time she was a mother of two little boys.
She had a successful stint in Australia, where she ran two practices simultaneously. But the year 2006 was a turning point. “I lost my husband very suddenly. I had my family there and my practice was booming, but nothing had the same meaning. I felt the need to move out of my comfort zone,” she reminisces.
To find her purpose, she decided to reconnect with the Gulf island she’d built many memories on. “I had met my husband in Bahrain, my children were born here and my own formative years were spent here. So I returned with a mission. It was very important for me to formally introduce osteopathy to Bahrain’s population, and I just knew I would be the one to achieve it. I was familiar with the ways of Bahrain and had tremendous faith in its people and culture. It was my unfinished business,” she says.
In spite of all the support and guidance she had along the way, obtaining a licence to practice osteopathy was an uphill task. “The National Health Regulatory Authority did not exist at the time and it took me time to convince the concerned ministry about the importance of providing my practice to the population. Licensing was important to protect my profession, as well as patients, by bringing in more responsibility and accountability. And besides, why should Bahrainis go to Dubai for osteopathic treatments when they could be available right here?”
In the six years it took to get osteopathy recognised as a respected branch of mainstream medicine, more and more individuals went to her with their niggles, coming away happy and healed. Seeing the tremendous potential that osteopathy had in the Kingdom made her resolve to license it even stronger.
Speaking of her practice, Dr Peters says, “Osteopathy is not fringe medicine; it is allied healthcare. In countries like Australia, osteopaths work alongside doctors of mainstream medicine and are very much part of the healthcare system covered by the government.
“Osteopathy has been around since the 1800s, and its principle is that the structure governs the function. If the structure of an entity is compromised by anything, it is going to affect its function. So, osteopathy is a manual medicine which involves adjustment of the spine and the joints, while looking at the whole picture. The spine is all-important; the nervous system exits from the spine and every nerve impacts the organ and muscle it is associated with.”
Dr Peters established Back on the Move Osteopathy in Bahrain, the centre that runs her busy practice. Her goal to introduce Middle Easterners to this therapy has been fulfilled. “Patients know of me by word of mouth. Eighty per cent of my patients are Bahraini and I get people from Saudi, Doha and Kuwait as well,” she says.
The centre treats people with a host of conditions: from headaches, back and joint pains to asthmatic problems. “Osteopathy looks at the whole picture; all parts make one. You cannot look at the foot without looking at the knee, hip and the back – it is all related. My hands and visual observations are diagnostic tools in relation to working with soft tissue and muscles to identify problems affecting the spine and the rest of the body, and then I make adjustments wherever necessary,” she says.
In keeping with the various requirements of patients, Dr Peters plans to bring on board more osteopaths, massage therapists, nutritionists, acupuncturists and podiatrists to make Back on the Move a one-stop shop for health improvement. “I aim to integrate other modalities to offer a holistic approach to health, in keeping with the fundamentals of osteopathy. Bahrain is a progressive society and has embraced it beautifully. I am prepared to offer it more; it is such a pleasure to be here,” she says with ambition.