Osteopathy. More than just backs...

February 14, 2017


Now you may or may not be aware of what an Osteopath actually is. The total confusion on some (most) peoples faces when I tell them what I do after they ask is something that I have got used to, even since I was accepted to start studying Osteopathy. 


This look of bewilderment is usually accompanied by one of a few questions;

  • Is that to do with backs?

  • A what?

  • Is that similar to Physiotherapy/Chiropractors? (for a brief answer to this, see one of our previous blogs)


Hopefully, by the end of this blog you will know what an Osteopath is, what they do, how they work, general things that they can help with and where Osteopathy actually came from. 


What is Osteopathy?


Osteopathy is a way of detecting, treating and preventing health problems through movement, stretching and massage (according to the NHS). On a whole this is a pretty sound definition that simply explains what we do, even if there is slightly longer list of treatment methods we can use.


Osteopathy is generally used by patients to achieve relief from musculoskeletal complaints (examples will be given further down) with massage, mobilisation, stretching and manipulation being commonly used to treat. These techniques help to improve the recovery rate from injuries, aches and pains. Osteopaths can also provide advice on how to stretch, exercise and mobilise yourself to help with recovery or prevent future problems.


There are other techniques however that focus on visceral and cranial elements of treatment, however as I have not been taught or apply these in practice I really do not feel that it is my place to try and explain these. This again applies to the ideas of classical osteopathy, and due to my inexperience in this field I am not the right person to write about it.


Osteopathy is a statutorily regulated profession, with the profession 'Osteopath' being a protected title. All Osteopaths are regulated by the General Osteopathic Council.




Where did Osteopathy come from? 


Osteopathy was founded by Andrew Taylor Still, a physician and surgeon, in the late 1800's in Kirksville, Missouri. He aimed to treat patients with minimal surgery and medicine, as he realised that the medical treatments of the time were generally ineffective or harmful. He aimed to treat patients with a whole host of conditions and disease, ranging from dysentry through to sciatica and arthritis. For a more detailed history and progression of Osteopathy, the Institute of Osteopathy have written a very good article on this. Osteopathy spread from the United States across the world through students of A.T Still. 


Osteopathy is still present in the United States, with Osteopaths there still being trained and qualified to practice medicine. However, the achieve a DO qualification as opposed to MD to differentiate themselves. This is where Osteopathy in the UK (as well a Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany etc) differ, as in these places Osteopaths are only trained as manual therapists. 


So what should I expect at an appointment?


Generally most Osteopaths follow the same procedure for when they see a new patient at their clinic. However, this gives a rough outline of what to expect if you were to see an Osteopath at Alpha Health. 


  • Every appointment starts with the taking of a few personal details (date of birth etc). 

  • A general case history is then taken of why you've come in, your symptoms etc as well as any relevant medical history. This is done to help with providing a diagnosis but also to help us tailor our treatment and management plans to you

  • Following the case history, an Osteopath will then carry out an examination. This may include some testing of various systems of the body to ensure that Osteopathy is suitable, as well as a physical exam that will see how you move among other things to help further narrow down to providing you with a diagnosis

  • Following the examination, everything will be explained to you. This usually includes; a diagnosis, an explanation of  relevant things found in the examination, the treatment plan and your prognosis (i.e. how long it'll take to get better)

  • After this (as long as you're ok to proceed) treatment will begin which may include massage, mobilisation, manipulation, stretching etc. Not every technique is used for every patient

  • Following treatment you will be given some advice on stretches and exercises to do that will help your condition


This follows the general outline of most first appointments. As primary healthcare practitioners, Osteopaths have a duty of care to you to make sure that Osteopathy is the most suitable course of treatment. If it is not, then everything will be explained to you. It's probably a good time to say that the vast majority of patients are treated by us and not referred on elsewhere.


It may be necessary, especially at the first appointment, for you to be asked to dress down or remove a few items of clothing. This is to allow for a full examination and also can help treatment be as effective as possible. This is always down to you however, and we will always make sure your comfort is our priority. There are some tips from us though that may help if you'd rather not remove any clothing such as;


  • Bring or wear a pair of shorts

  • Wear a vest or 'strappy' top

  • Wear clothing that your may wear to exercise in




What sort of things can we help with?


Osteopathy can help with a range of musculoskeletal conditions, including;

  • Neck pain

  • Back pain

  • Sports injuries

  • Shoulder, elbow and wrist pain

  • Hip, knee and ankle pain

  • Arthritic pain

  • Headache/migraine prevention

  • Generalised aches, pains and tensions


As you can see, the list includes a lot more than just backs. 


Hopefully this blog has given you a few answers about what Osteopathy is, what Osteopaths do and what we can help with.


If you have any other questions then leave a comment below, message us via our 'Contact Us' page or contact us through one of our social media pages (links are all below).


Or you could take a look at our FAQ page.





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