About Osteopathy

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About Osteopathy

Osteopathy focuses on the body’s bones, joints, muscles, nerves and internal organs and how they interact with one another.

An osteopathic diagnosis is made by taking a comprehensive history of the complaint and other relevant details, observation of the body’s movement, muscle tone and posture. The osteopath uses their highly developed sense of touch (palpation) to assess the affected areas. Some special medical tests may also be performed.

Osteopathic treatment is holistic which means treating the body as a whole. Osteopaths try to understand what led to the patient’s problem and therefore prevent it from recurring in the future. For example, a patient presenting with knee pain will also have their ankle, foot, hip and lumbar spine assessed as any of these areas could lead to pain in the knee.

Treatment usually involves relaxing tight muscles with gentle rhythmic massage, restoring joint movement by stretching, articulation and manipulation (short quick movements that can produce a clicking sound). Many other techniques may also be used depending on the type of injury.


Who visits an Osteopath?

In the UK, an estimated 24,000 patients consult osteopaths every working day. This amounts to nearly 7 million consultations a year. Osteopaths are providing over 850,000 more consultations a year since 1997 and over 1.7 million more than in 1994.

Do Osteopaths have any formal training?

Training to be an osteopath takes four years full-time or five years part-time. There are eight osteopathic education institutions awarding qualifications recognised by the General Osteopathic Council.

Can you see an Osteopath through the NHS?

Currently access to osteopathy on the NHS is limited, but support continues to grow as commissioning authorities recognise the benefits of providing osteopathy to patients. GPs are permitted to refer patients to osteopaths as statutory regulated professionals. The British Medical Association (BMA) also provides guidance to GPs on referral. There has been an increase in patients referred by or with the knowledge of a GP or Consultant from 22% to 26%, but the majority are still ’self-referred’. The percentage of people who have heard of osteopathy and have actually received treatment has increased 25% over 1996.

Some Facts

  • The Prince of Wales is Patron of the General Osteopathic Council.
  • Osteopathy became the first complementary medicine profession to be accorded statutory recognition, under the 1993 Osteopaths Act.
  • The cost to the NHS. each year treating back pain, is about £700 million.

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