I have to admit – I didn’t really know the difference between an osteo, a physio and a chiro. I knew they all did stuff with muscles and backs and knees; injuries and dodgy joints etc. But honesty, I just lumped them all in together.
I’d been to a physiotherapist once way back when I ran a marathon and predictably stuffed up my knee. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to stay away from anything quite so strenuous – with the exception of actually pushing two humans out of me – I’ve been mostly sticking to pushing a pram or carrying a toddler for my workout.
Now they are no longer babies – and I can no longer blame them for the baby weight – I’ve started getting back into life on the exercise train. A bit of yoga, swimming, trying to surf and play tennis means that everything now hurts.
I’m on the wrong side of 35 and feel old. Old and creaky and sore. Cue much complaining and googling to find the cure. This is where Laura Walsh comes in.
Laura is an Osteopath – Dr Laura, as I like to call her – is the owner of Quay Osteo in Torquay – which I now like to think of as my hub of healing.
I’ve googled the differences between what an Osteopath does (to save you the clicks) and what a physiotherapist or a chiropractor would do and it’s basically to do with seeing the body as a whole rather than focussing on an injury (physio) or on just the spine and joints (chiro).
So, after figuring out it wasn’t an injury as such just more of an old lady feeling in my back and hips I made an appointment with Laura.
It started with a load of questions which I didn’t realise had anything to do with working out how to fix me. My answers to Laura’s questions led her to link me breastfeeding my two kids in a certain position and recently having all four wisdom teeth out to the pain in my upper back. I’d literally never thought about it but it totally makes sense.
After massage, dry needling, manipulation and some more lovely rubbing Laura sent me away with a rubber band to do some exercises. I felt much lighter (not on the scales unfortunately – she’s not an actual magician!) and have really, honestly and truly been doing to exercises. I’m looking forward to my next appointment already.
How would you describe your business?
Quay Osteo is a local, pro-active, allied health clinic. We offer osteopathy and massage therapy consultations. I opened the clinic 4 years ago after working in Melbourne for nearly 10 years. My motivation was to create a space where clients feel completely cared for and that provides inspiration and support for them to reach their optimal health.
In Australia, the term “health care” gets used frequently. Yet, more often than not, patients present with a disease or dis-ease process in play, which means that practitioners are working towards fixing a disease and resolving (or masking) symptoms.
My focus is on providing our clients with the education to understand the absolute importance of their health, and that seeking support in maintaining their vitality is the key. There is a huge difference between “being well” and “not being sick”. When our car isn’t running well, we can buy new parts or a new vehicle. When it comes to our health, this luxury isn’t available. We have to value and care for what we have.
Is it different from your original vision?
The basic intention of my original vision is still in place, but the longer I work in the area of musculoskeletal health, the more importance I place on mental and emotional wellbeing overall.
My original vision includes having a thriving multi-disciplinary practice where practitioners can brainstorm how to achieve the best outcomes for clients, behind the scenes. I’m still working towards building the complete team that I envisage.
What is the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
I’m really good at thinking big picture and setting large, inspiring long-term goals. But I can struggle and become overwhelmed in breaking those big goals down into an achievable plan, or knowing the order to do them.
I’ve often heard Oprah say, “slow down, get real quiet. Focus on what is the next right step”. I also believe that everyone is doing the best they can with what they’ve got, so when things don’t fall my way or I come up against challenges, it’s not personal. You can never know the depth of what’s happening for another person, behind the scenes.
What’s the best piece of career advice you could give?
For young people just getting started on their career path: follow your curiosity.
I think it can feel overwhelming to make the “right” decision and to know what you want to do and where you want to go with your work. Being advised to follow your passion can feel like pressure to even know what you’re passionate about! Instead, if you stay curious and keep learning, a path opens in front of you and the all the dots join when you look back with hindsight.
For those with more life experience: work smarter not harder. I was raised to think that success/income/security equated with hard work. That mindset is dangerous – it means we can make a bigger drama out of things than they need to be, or be suspicious of gifts and opportunities that present. More often than not, when things are meant to be, it’s the easier path that’s the right one. Trust it.
What was your first job?
My dad “sub-contracted” me to help him out in the cabinetry business he worked for at age 12. I would go in for an hour after school each night and clean up all the sawdust and laminex offcuts that the tradesman left across the factory.
I also spent a couple of uni summers working in the SPC cannery sorting peaches and plums on a conveyor belt for 8 hours, often 7 days a week. $16 an hour was like gold at the stage. My factory background certainly makes me grateful for my work environment now.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Buy a house.
Why do you think you have made it in your industry?
Obviously, I have to be good with my hands to do what I do. But I think my clients also appreciate my honesty, I’m willing to admit when something has me confused or I don’t have an answer. Similarly, I’m willing to ask for help – this is huge! So many people bumble forwards because they’re too embarrassed to ask for assistance or an opinion from someone who has gone before them. It takes so much more time to make the mistakes yourself!
I’m big hearted and genuinely love my clients and care about what is happening in their lives, far beyond simply fixing their pain.
Lastly, and this might seem weird, but I’m really good with names. And I can’t tell you just how useful that is.
Did you have a Plan B?
No. I think every start-up gets told the stats on small business failures over the first 5 years, but I never thought it would apply to me. I knew growth might have slow patches, but I never thought it would stop. We turned 4 at the beginning of May. After starting the business on my own and being available 1.5 days a week, we now have 3 osteopaths, a massage therapist and two receptionists.
What is the biggest thing you have learnt?
My biggest satisfaction comes through the relationships I make. So my team means the world to me. I’m better in a team environment than solo.
Similarly, developing a trust and connection with a client that means they feel safe to share more, often results in a deeper therapeutic change. Stress and anxiety play such a big role in feeling generally tense. I often think the conversations that I have with my clients have more of an impact on their overall health than what I do with my hands.
What got you through tough times at work?
A bath. I’m a water baby – being submerged reduces my stress instantly.
An international plane ticket to look towards.
A husband who is very patient and grounding.
And a best friend who has already done what I am doing. It can’t be understated how incredibly important it is to have people in your life who believe in you unconditionally, and have the strength to lift you up when you’re own strength is lacking.
What are the advantages of working/living on the Surf Coast?
The surf coast is special place and I think it calls to likeminded people. The population is growing at a rapid rate and I find that families that I work with who are new to the area have been drawn here for the same reasons: an appreciation of the outdoors, a need to be by the ocean and a craving for a simpler, slower pace of life. It means that the community here isn’t quite the same as elsewhere.
The attitude towards healthy lifestyle down here is inspiring. People are mindful of how they exercise and what they eat. But, they’re also very aware of the health of the environment and our oceans. There are a lot of people trying to make big differences in our community.
Best Surf Coast discovery?
That beach a little ways out of town that has fewer people, a gentle wave and is dog friendly.
What’s the most important thing to remember when it comes to your personal life?
I have to remember to make time for fun.
When it comes to running a business, there are a lot of responsibilities to your clients and staff. Last year, I realised I’d forgotten to prioritise myself in amongst the endless “To Do List”, and it meant that I’d missed out on some cool events and belly laughs. This year if someone invites me to something, I’ve shifted my default answer to YES. I’m all about passion, playfulness and trust.
How do you think a woman can successfully balance her career and personal life?
Being a business owner can be all consuming. My belief is that having a vision of how you will contribute to the world will guide where you focus your energies in life and business. If I’m living on purpose, the sacrifices I may make along the way are still working towards goals in other areas of my life. It kind of creates a win-win situation.