What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is a method of assessment, diagnosis, treatment, management and prevention of musculoskeletal and other related disorders. It works with the structure and function of the body, and is based on the principle that the well-being of an individual depends on the skeleton, muscles, ligaments and connective tissues functioning smoothly together.

Osteopaths use a holistic approach and take time to understand their patient and their unique combination of symptoms, medical history and lifestyle. This helps make an accurate diagnosis of the cause of the pain or lack of function (rather than just addressing the site of pain). Using this approach an osteopath will formulate a treatment plan for the individual patient, not their condition, that will achieve the best outcome.

An Osteopath will treat the patient using a combination of hands-on techniques including movement, stretching, targeted deep tissue massage and skilled manipulation of a person’s spine and joints, with the aim to improve function, relieve pain, aid recovery and restore a state of balance within the body.

In the UK, Osteopathy is an established primary health care system and is a statutorily regulated profession overseen by the General Osteopathic Council requiring the successful completion of a four-year degree course which includes at least 1000 hours of supervised clinical practice. They then must undertake ongoing continual professional development throughout their careers, logging a minimum of 30 hours per year.

Osteopathy is recognised by the British Medical Association and World Health Organisation and the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises that GPs can safely refer patients to an osteopath for treatment.

Registered Osteopaths treat more than 7 million people each year in the UK, making the profession a major provider of primary health care.

Conditions treated by an Osteopath

An osteopath may be helpful in the management of conditions including, back pain both acute and chronic, headache arising from the neck and migraine, shoulder and elbow pain such as frozen shoulder and tennis elbow, foot and ankle pain, hip pain, arthritic pain, sciatica, sports injuries and many more.

What happens on your first visit?

On your first visit, your osteopath will take a detailed case history, including previous medical complains and conditions that may be relevant to your current complain. The details you provide will strictly confidential. They will then carry out a physical examination which will not only look at the area of the complaint but also look at how the body is functioning as more generally. They may ask you to do some simple movements or stretches, to observe your posture and mobility. They may also ask to do some more general health testing such as taking your blood pressure.

After this, your osteopath will explain fully what they feel is causing your condition/ complain and discuss a treatment plan that is suitable for you and that they feel is appropriate. This is most likely to be osteopathic treatment but may refer you for further test, such as x-rays.

Your osteopath is likely to ask you to remove some of your clothing during your physical examination so that they can examine you properly but you will be provided with a towel and/or gown if you feel you need one.


You can find more information on Osteopathic treatment from the General Osteopathic Councils website http://www.osteopathy.org.uk