Osteopaths are trained to treat musculoskeletal issues, from back pain and neck problems to issues with the joints. It is a treatment that uses manual and physical therapy to reduce pain and improve the function of the body. In this guide, we’ll answer the question ‘what is osteopathy?’ and look at the conditions Osteopathy can treat.
Osteopathy is a form of diagnosis and treatment for a range of medical conditions, working with the structure and functions of the body. Based on the principle that the wellbeing of a person is based on the skeleton, muscles, ligaments and connective tissues working smoothly together, Osteopaths believe that when these elements of the body are functioning properly, in many cases the body is able to heal itself. Osteopaths look at the cause of the issues you are experiencing and work with you to facilitate the healing process to help you reach full recovery.
Osteopaths work with people from all backgrounds, from young children to older patients, manual workers, office professionals and athletes, and pregnant women. Since the treatment is so gentle, it can be used by people of all ages to treat a host of different problems. Osteopathy is used to aid healing for a wide range of conditions and health concerns, creating an optimal healing environment for the body. The conditions Osteopathy can treat include:
At an osteopathic consultation, you will be asked questions about your medical history and your lifestyle, along with the symptoms you’re experiencing. This provides your Osteopath with an overview of your health and enables them to make an accurate diagnosis. From this information, they will be able to formulate an appropriate treatment plan for you. The details you provide will be treated as confidential, as outlined by the standards of practice set out by the General Osteopathic Council.
Your osteopathy appointment will involve examining the areas that are causing you issues, whether that’s your back, joints, neck or elsewhere. Your osteopath may also examine areas that are connected to the pain, such as your forearm if you have neck pain as the nerves are connected here and could be contributing to your health issues. As they carry out the examination, they will explain to you what they are doing and why.
Osteopathy involves manual therapy, which is a gentle hands-on approach that focuses on releasing tension in the joints or muscles and improving mobility. The treatment may also include exercises that you can complete at home to assist the healing process and advice designed to help you manage your pain and improve wellbeing. Osteopathy treatment usually begins from your first appointment but the Osteopath may advise that you go for additional tests, such as blood tests or scans, or they may liaise with other health professionals such as your GP.
The goal of osteopathy is to provide a gentle form of treatment, so those trained in this field work hard to provide a treatment that is as pain-free as possible. However, you may experience some slight discomfort during your session or after the treatment. If you’re experiencing pain during your treatment or you feel uncomfortable, you can ask your osteopath to stop.
Although Osteopaths and Chiropractors both aim to help patients with physical issues that prevent them from living full and active lives, and both focus primarily on the back, there are differences between chiropractic and osteopathy. Chiropractors focus on the joints and spine, whereas Osteopaths adopt a more holistic approach to the body. So it is the approach to physical therapy that is the key difference between these allied health professions. Following a thorough case history and physical assessment, osteopaths aim to formulate a diagnosis that focuses on the cause of the patient’s pain rather than just treating the site of the pain. Find out more about the difference between osteopathy, chiropractic and physiotherapy here.
Osteopaths in the UK are regulated by the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC) and are recognised as an allied health profession by the NHS. In order to become a registered Osteopath, they need to complete a degree which is recognised by GOsC and this includes 1,000 hours of supervised clinical practice in a teaching clinic. The GOsC requires practicing Osteopaths to maintain continuous professional development and knowledge to stay on the GOsC Register.