What is osteopathy?

Osteopathy is also known as osteotherapy and is a field of medicine that is focused on the health of the muscular and skeletal systems. Osteopathy is centred on the belief that a healthy musculoskeletal system will make a significant contribution to a healthy body, as conditions that affect the musculoskeletal systems may have repercussions for the circulatory, digestive and nervous systems.

How does Osteopathy work?

Osteopathyuses ancient approaches to provide alternative treatments to invasive, medical treatments. In some cases, osteopathy may be used in tandem with medical treatment, but it is largely reliant on techniques which are founded on natural healing, rather than medications or surgical procedures. Osteopathy works to strengthen and improve the functioning of the musculoskeletal system in a bid to improve overall standards of health. Osteopathy is a versatile medical discipline, which is tailored to suit the needs of each individual patient.

Osteopathyfocuses on conditioning the body, as well as treating existing health conditions and is increasingly being seen as an effective means of preventive medicine.

Who can benefit from osteopathy?

The range of people that can benefit from Osteopathyis vast; people from all walks of life can benefit from osteopathy as it is a versatile and gentle treatment. The following groups of people could benefit from osteopathic treatments:

  • Sports players: sports players place stress on their bones and muscles continuously and consequently often suffer from both chronic and acute injuries. Osteopathy helps to reduce pain and ease muscle tension. Increasingly, sports teams are also incorporating osteopathy in their training routine, as it can help to condition the body; this boosts performance levels and reduces the possibility of suffering injuries in the future.
  • Office workers: office workers that spend long periods of time sitting at a desk often experience lower back and neck pain. Osteopathy can correct posture and strengthen the muscles in the back and neck to make them more resistant to injury and strain. Exercises and stretches also help to improve the alignment of the spine, which will reduce pain.
  • Pregnant women: pregnancy can cause digestive problems, mental stresses and muscular aches and pains. Osteopathy can help to relax the mind, soothe aches and pains and improve bodily functions such as digestion.
  • Elderly people: elderly people often experience stiff joints and muscular aches. Osteopathy can help to soothe pains, loosen joints and increase the range of movement around the joints.

Which health conditions does osteopathy treat?

Most people associate osteopathy with back pain; however, this treatment is muchmore versatile than people think and can actually be used to treat a huge range of health conditions. Osteopathy is founded on the belief that a healthy musculoskeletal system is a strong foundation for a healthy body, so a range of different illnesses can benefit from treatment which improves the function of the muscles and bones. Common complaints treated by osteopathy include:

  • Lower back pain: this is one of the most common conditions in adults across the UK, with hundreds of workers taking time off because of back pain each year. The widespread increase in the number of people suffering from back pain has been associated to the increasingly sedentary lifestyles people now lead. Osteopathy can help to improve the positioning of the vertebrae and the alignment of the spine, as well as correcting posture and strengthening the muscles and connective tissues in the back.
  • Joint pain and arthritis: joint pain and arthritis are particularly common amongst older people, who often suffer from stiff joints and aching muscles. Osteopathy provides gentle treatment which gradually strengthens the muscles and joints and increases the amount of movement a patient can cope with. Osteopathic treatment can also help to relax the muscles and ease pain.
  • Sports injuries: sports injuries, especially muscular aches and pains, are extremely common amongst both amateur and professional athletes. Osteopathy reduces tension in the muscles, loosens the joints and speeds up recovery time; massage techniques that raise body temperature and increase circulation, also increase the efficiency of waste disposal, which helps to heal the injury. Osteopathy can also increase the efficiency and efficacy of the muscular and skeletal systems, which enhances performance and makes the body more resistant to injury further down the line.
  • Muscle deterioration: elderly people and sports players are prone to muscle deterioration due to the strain placed on the muscles associated with ageing and repeated physical exertion. Osteopathy can help to gradually build up strength in the muscles and surrounding connective tissue; this can improve flexibility and aid movement.

Is Osteopathysuitable for everyone?

Because it is so gentle, osteopathy is suitable for the vast majority of people; during an initial consultation, an osteopath will be able to assess whether the treatment is suitable for the patient.

What happens during an appointment?

During the initial appointment, the osteopath will ask the patient a large number of questions to ascertain their level of general health and find out details of any previous or existing health conditions. The patient should also discuss any allergies or family health problems with the osteopath before they start their treatment. In some cases, the osteopath may perform physical examination and they may ask the patient to undergo some tests; this will help them to determine the patient�s overall standard of health and identify sources of pain or discomfort.

Subsequent appointments will usually be much shorter and will focus purely on the treatment; there is a large range of different treatments on offer so the patient may experience a mixture of different methods and techniques.

Is Osteopathy painful?

Osteopathyis designed to eradicate pain, not cause it; it is one of the most gentle and painless forms of therapy. In some cases, patients may experience very mild pain or discomfort following a session; however, this is because their bodies are not used to the movement, stretches and exercises, not because the treatment is painful. As patients get used to the actions involved, they will not feel any pain.

Is osteopathy available on the NHS?

The current number of NHS providers that offer osteopathic treatment is low; however, osteopathy is becoming an increasingly popular treatment and plans are in the pipeline to increase the number of NHS trusts that offer osteopathy. To find out if NHS osteopathic care is available in your area, you should consult your local Primary Care Trust.

How much does Osteopathy cost?

The cost of Osteopathyvaries greatly depending on which osteopath you choose to see and where you are in the country (prices are generally higher in the South than in the North). Osteopaths� fees usually reflect their level of expertise and their professional experience. As a general guide, patients should expect to pay between �30 and �50 for a thirty minute session.

Is Osteopathy covered by private health insurance?

Many private health policies do include osteopathic treatment; however, it is best to check with your provider before you agree to have a course of treatment.

How will I find an osteopath?

Nowadays, it is extremely easy to find details of all the healthcare professionals that offer services in your local area; often, searching online or looking in the telephone directory will give you a large number of results. Many osteopaths now have their own websites where you can look at details of the services they offer, compare prices and look at their qualifications and experience. It is also beneficial to ask your GP for advice; they will almost certainly be able to recommend an osteopath in the local area. You may also find it helpful to ask around and see if anyone you know has had a positive experience with an osteopath and can recommend their services.

All osteopaths should be registered with the General Council of Osteopaths (this is a legal requirement); you can look up all the osteopaths on the register in your local area by consulting their website.

How many appointments will I need?

For many people between 3 and 6 sessions is usually sufficient, although some patients may choose to continue their treatment for longer. For ongoing conditions, such as arthritis, patients often attend weekly sessions on an ongoing basis. Improving general health is key to the philosophy of osteopathy so osteopaths will always offer patients advice on how to improve their overall standards of health; often this is achieved by offering advice on eating well, exercising and teaching patients how to stretch properly. These additional guidelines act as a form of treatment and can help to improve long-term health, which reduces the need for treatment in the future.

Do I need to be referred by my GP?

Anyone can visit an osteopath and a referral is not needed, but many people seek the advice of their GP if they have a medical problem or recurring health condition. Increasingly, GPs are advising patients with back pain and muscular aches to visit an osteopath or chiropractor. Osteopaths often find it useful to know of any recent treatment or medication you have had and it is usually advisable to tell your GP that you are having osteopathic treatment; this helps to ensure the care you get is as effective as possible.

Osteopathy treatments

Lifestyle advice

Manipulation by an osteopath


Stretching excercises