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Osteopathy Explained: What is osteopathy and how does it work?

Osteopathy is a form of healthcare that focuses on the musculoskeletal system, and how this can affect the rest of the body. It’s an alternative to traditional medicine, but it does have many similarities with physiotherapy and chiropractic too. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore what osteopathy is all about, what it can help with, its key principles and qualifications needed for training. We’ll also take a look at how did osteopathy start? What happens in the first consultation? And finally, we will answer some common questions such as: What are the benefits of Osteopathy? And what are the side effects?

What is osteopathy?

osteopathy sessionThe word ‘osteopathic’ comes from two Greek words “osteon” meaning bone, and “patheia” which means suffering.  When osteopathy first began over 150 years ago, osteopaths were called bone setters, they used a lot of manipulation to the joints.  However modern osteopathy is very different to its humble beginnings. 

In the late 1800s, Dr Andrew Taylor Still created a new system of medical care for people who had been injured or damaged in civil war. He noticed that during healing there was an imbalance within the body and so he developed what we now know as osteopathic medicine to help restore balance.  There are many different techniques used by osteopaths such as gentle movements, manipulations and soft tissue work (massage). Some common conditions treated with Osteopathy are neck pain, back pain headaches and migraines.

What do Osteopaths actually do?

Osteopathy is a drug-free, non-invasive manual therapy that focuses on improving your body’s health through strengthening and manipulation. It alleviates clinical symptoms by directly targeting the neuromuscular system. Manipulation therapies are designed to increase range of motion and maintain proper joint function for healthy joints, muscles, fascia, connective tissue, nerves and blood vessels.

The therapeutic techniques used in osteopathic treatment help alleviate pain associated with injury or disease as well as provide relief from conditions such as headaches or back pain.

An osteopath will look at any part of the body that may be causing problems.  Osteopathy is very holistic, so they don’t just look at where it hurts, they look at all the areas that can be contributing to the painful area.    They’ll recommend what they think would help to resolve those issues – whether by massaging, manipulating, joint mobilisation,  exercise rehabilitation or one of the many other techniques that they have.  

 It’s all about identifying what is going wrong in your body compared to how it should be. osteopaths have an intimate understanding of the structure and function of the human body, and importantly how it all interconnects. 

Often when you have pain that develops in your body from a muscle joint or nerve, the pain can be felt distant to where the actual injury is – this is called referred pain and is very common.  If you have had some sort of pain such as shoulder, back or neck pain that keeps coming back despite getting treatment then there is a good chance that it is referred pain and is coming from another source.  

How can an osteopath help?

seeking osteopathy treatmentIf you’re experiencing pain, discomfort or trouble functioning in your life with a muscle joint or nerve problem then there’s a good chance that an osteopathy treatment could make the difference for you.

Osteopaths focus on your neuro-musculoskeletal system – the bones, muscles, nerves and other tissues that support your body and control its movements. Osteopaths provide musculoskeletal assessment for any pain or discomfort you may have in all areas of movement; manual therapy to help with muscle tension and restrictions caused by injury or repetitive motion overuse; clinical exercise programs designed according to what is recommended for rehabilitation treatment following an illness/injury or surgery procedure (e.g., neck pain); advice about how posture affects health conditions like backache through ergonomic assessments as well as recommendations regarding lifestyle habits such as dieting choices that could affect overall physical wellness

Osteopaths combine traditional techniques such as deep tissue massage, joint manipulation or stretching with more modern tools like myofascial release, rehabilitation exercises and taping. 

Does Osteopathy really work?

Yes, our treatments have been shown to help people of all ages with a range of problems. One example is that in many studies osteopathic manipulation has been found effective for the treatment or prevention of asthma attacks and allergies! It can be used alongside other medication too – so if you need it, we’ll give it! There are lots more examples where these benefits come into play.

Osteopathy is most renowned for treating acute back pain and neck pain.  Numerous studies have shown that osteopathy is effective in relieving pain and restoring mobility.  

Specifically NICE states Consider manual therapy (spinal manipulation, mobilisation or soft tissue techniques such as massage) for managing low back pain with or without sciatica, but only as part of a treatment package including exercise, with or without psychological therapy. [1]  This is exactly what osteopathy does and why it gets the best results. 

What is osteopathy what is the difference between osteopathy,  physiotherapy and chiropractic?  

expert osteopath

Osteopathy is a physical therapy that can be used to treat issues with muscular and joint problems. It differs from physiotherapy, which also deals with muscles but will have more of an emphasis on rehabilitation rather than treatment. Osteopaths may use techniques to manipulate the joints in order to relieve tension or pain. The difference between osteopathy, chiropractic and physiotherapy comes down mainly to training – they all deal with muscle tension and injury relief in different ways, but it’s worth pointing out that there are similarities too!

What does a typical consultation look like?

osteopath consultationA lot depends on what your needs are going into the first appointment; some people might need just one session while others could need many more sessions over time.  The first consultation usually involves a detailed discussion of your symptoms, so that the osteopath can get an idea of how and why they are affecting you. Your reaction to different treatments will also be assessed to find what might work best for you.

Once they have collected all the information required they will perform a physical assessment.  The osteopath will look at your posture and your ability to move the affected area through some normal movements they may also conduct an orthopaedic and neurological examination to make sure that the joints muscles and nerves are all working properly.   osteopaths are highly trained to be able to rule out any significant disease or to refer for additional testing or imaging or to a specialist.

Once they have combined these objectives history and the assessment they will arrive at the diagnosis and should explain that to you and Gain your informed consent to begin treatment your osteopath should discuss the various treatment options with you so that you can both formulate a plan to give you the best recovery possible. 

What are the benefits of osteopathy and what are the risks?  Osteopathy provides huge benefits when used properly – it’s been shown in studies that osteopathic medicine can help with everything from pain management to recovery time following surgery. However, there have been cases where someone has had a bad reaction to certain treatments, as with all medical procedures there are always risks involved.  However, every osteopath undergoes significant training in risk assessment and reduction, to first of all ” do no harm” and secondly to make sure that they are providing the best treatment possible for their patients.

What is the training required for an osteopath? 

An osteopath is someone who has studied a five-year undergraduate degree before they are qualified as an osteopathic doctor/practitioner. They are given the title doctor by the universities to reflect the significant study that they have done, similar to a dentist, although they are not general practitioners.    They then have further opportunities for continuing professional development throughout their career so they can stay up to date with changing standards and advancements within the sector!

What are the Key principles of osteopathy?

osteopaths in brunswickThe main principles of osteopathy are:

– The major principle of osteopathic medicine is that the body has an inherent capacity to heal itself.  This principle implies that there must be adequate circulation to and from all tissues of the body, and there must be proper nervous system function in order to maintain health and to heal the body.  

– Structure determines function.  In other words, if the structure is in balance then it will work at optimal capacity.  The osteopathic principle of ‘structure and function are interrelated is one of the core principles behind what osteopaths do.   As these two aspects are closely linked, changes in your musculoskeletal system can be reflected (and sometimes caused) by changes in other bodily systems. 

Essentially it means that you cannot have a properly functioning body if there are structural imbalances in the musculoskeletal system.   much of the work that osteopaths do is to restore the structural alignment within the body to allow normal function.

– First do no harm; there should be no treatment without first establishing a diagnosis to rule out pathology or disease. This involves taking a detailed history with a focus on symptoms, physical examination and imaging studies as required to assess each case individually (x-rays).

– Each individual’s needs are determined by their lifestyle which affects how they live and can have an impact on their overall well being. Osteopaths offer advice that promotes active lifestyles

Who is the best osteopath near me?

best osteopath near me,

To find the best osteopath near me, I would suggest going to the website for your state or territory’s health department and navigating their ‘find a practitioner’ section.

Additionally, conducting research via internet search engines like Google can provide valuable insights, as can reading blogs that review local osteopaths. It’s also beneficial to ask friends for recommendations or to directly call different clinics to see which ones meet your needs. If these methods don’t yield results, consider leveraging social media. Platforms such as Facebook groups or LinkedIn profiles within your industry can be excellent resources for finding trusted practitioners.

Remember, choosing the right osteopath is crucial for your health, so take the time to find someone who is highly recommended and aligns with your health goals

Ready for more? Head back to our homepage to access a wealth of information on osteopathy and other holistic health practices.


Low back pain and sciatica in over 16s: assessment and management

NICE guideline [NG59]Published: 30 November 2016 Last updated: 11 December 2020


Your Questions Answered: 

Can osteopathy help alleviate symptoms of extreme tiredness and headache?

Yes, osteopathy can help alleviate symptoms of extreme tiredness and headaches through various techniques.

Osteopathy uses a holistic approach to diagnose and treat various conditions by focusing on the musculoskeletal system. For symptoms like extreme tiredness and headache, an osteopath may employ techniques such as cranial osteopathy or manual therapy to relieve tension in the head and neck areas. These treatments aim to improve circulation and nervous system function, potentially reducing headache frequency and severity and addressing associated fatigue. The effectiveness of osteopathy in managing these symptoms varies depending on the individual’s specific condition and overall health.

 What techniques do osteopaths use to treat patients?

Osteopaths use a variety of techniques including manual therapy, joint manipulation, and soft tissue techniques.

Osteopathy encompasses a range of hands-on techniques which may include spinal manipulation, soft tissue stretching, deep tactile pressure, and mobilization of joints. These techniques aim to restore normal joint stability and function, enhance blood flow, and relieve muscle tension. Osteopaths assess the body holistically, considering the possible interconnections between different bodily systems which may affect overall health. This approach helps tailor the therapy to treat the root cause of pain and discomfort rather than just addressing the symptoms.

What should one expect during their first osteopathy session?

The first session typically involves a detailed health assessment followed by a physical examination.

During the initial consultation, the osteopath will discuss the patient’s health history and symptoms in depth to understand the underlying causes of the presented issues. This is followed by a physical examination where the osteopath assesses posture, mobility, and areas of pain and discomfort. Based on this evaluation, the osteopath may perform some diagnostic tests to rule out other conditions. After the assessment, a personalized treatment plan is devised, which may include immediate manual therapy and advice on exercises or lifestyle adjustments to aid in recovery and prevent future problems.


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