Sotheara Thach never expected to be so busy when he decided to open an osteopath clinic five years ago in Cambodia. Born and raised in France, Thach remembers spending most of his time studying sports therapy and finishing his masters in osteopathy before deciding to leave it all behind and join his father and brother in Phnom Penh.
“There was no osteopath, only one chiropractor,” Thach recalls. “I was the only Khmer osteopath, so I thought it was worth a try. I thought I’d only have french clients, but on my first year — there was only Khmer clients!”
Now at 33-years-old, Thach spends most of his working hours helping his Khmer patients in his office at the Natural Wellness Center located on the quiet street of Sothearos boulevard in Phnom Penh. Surrounded by plastic replicas of skulls, skeletons, and photos of his three-year-old daughter, Thach is content. His skills and his fluency in French, Khmer and English, helped him gain a foothold as the first osteopath in the Cambodia frontier. Although many patients confuse his practice with chiropractic, Thach is quick to teach them the difference.
WHAT IS OSTEOPATHY?
“Osteopathy — It is different than chiropractic,” Thatch stated. “It’s the same technique but not the same opinion.” Describing the chiropractic method as more focused on the spine and musculoskeletal system, while osteopathy extends the focus to the brain and nerves that go out the spine. Osteopathy is used to diagnose an individual’s well being by examining the skeleton, muscles, ligaments and tissues through using touch, physical manipulation, stretching and massages. These procedures can increase the joints movements, relieve tension, enhance blood flow, and strengthen tissues. Through this hands on approach, an osteopath can give advice to help your body heal or correct itself through posture and exercise in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle from recurring.
Treating an average of 20 to 35 patient a week, Thach treats everyone from elderly to even newborn babies. The most common complaint from patients have been about lower back pain, Thach claims. Some cases the pain is spread to the stomach. Using osteopath, Thach can make adjustments — unlocking the tension and working to keep the tension from returning. “If we just unlock the stomach or just focus on cracking the spine and not the stomach, it will lock again, Thach explains. “So we work to balance the stomach with the spine. For babies you cannot crack.”
Recommended by doctors on baby who have had difficult births, Thach sees about ten babies a month. A describes a softer technique for babies is used by working the tissue under the skin, loosening the tissues so it will reform better as the child develops. It is like scars, says Thach. The skin loses its elasticity and scar tissue can stiffen the joint. If the baby was born feet first, then there maybe problems with the foot. The tension from the birth is locked into the child and can caused the baby pain leading to no sleep. By loosening the tissue, the muscle can reform and develop properly. Adding that if tension is left untreated then brain will learn the tension, making it difficult to get rid of in the future.
CURING THE PAINS OF TENNIS AND HISTORY
With over two million people are in Phnom Penh, Thach hopes to spread the education about osteopathy. “I can speak Khmer and explain in Khmer, ” Thach explains. To him, taking care of the Cambodian people has become a point of pride.
Continuing to practice his skills in sports physical therapy, Thach had offered his services to the Cambodia Tennis Federation. The president of the federation of tennis invited Thach to help the team during the Davis Cup in Vietnam. “I told him I will follow you until the end,” beamed Thach. “I know what the players think, their body talks. I can feel their tension everyday when I treated them during the cup. They were born here, live here, try to do their best, and I can feel the tension in them, they are like wood inside and out.” Not only did the players have the pressure of representing the country on their shoulders and had to recover the nutrients their body lacked as children, but Thach believes that the scars from the Khmer Rouge had continue to haunt the surviving descendants. “The coach did not believe me until I told him to touch their shoulders — it’s like wood. During the match he pat one of the players on the back and was shocked by the tensed shoulder.”
“I have a lot elderly people who still remember the pain of working in the camps of the Khmer Rouge — the tension — they kept it since then! The don’t forget it so they keep inside,”Thach explained. Stating that emotion therapy is also an important part to the body’s recovery. Ï can take the bad energy out physically, but energy is something you cannot touch — it can be emotional.
HEALING WITH POSITIVITY
Recalling a water experiment by a Japanese scientist named Masaru Emoto, Thatch stated that both positive and negative words can have an influence on water’s structure. During his study of water, Emoto came to realize our emotional energy and vibrations can change the physical structure of water. Bad or good water crystals are formed differently by exposing two glasses of water to different positive or negative words, pictures, and music. Humans are 60 percent water, Thach noted. So positive words and encouragement can also change human molecule structure.
“It means I can talk to your body,” Thach explained. “Through emotion I can modify your cells by projecting positive thought.” Expanding his business to cupping — a traditional method used to drain bad blood from the body. Although Thach doesn’t apply it everywhere nor as extreme as some cuppers, he focused on trigger points of acupressure and adjusts the pressure to not harm the skin. The point of cupping is to unlock the muscles fibers. Although resting will temporary unlock the muscle, continuous tension will lock muscle in a complicated form. Breaking the fiber with accupressure and breaking the knot of muscle, Thach use cupping to take out the toxins. Once done, he massages the muscle to make the fibers straight, giving the body time to recover in proper form.
Thach plans to make Osteopathy big in Cambodia and hopes to one day open a school to train Cambodian people in the field. Looking towards the future of Cambodia’s health care, Thach knows that he has a difficult path ahead of him, but like his philosophy — he is keeping positive.