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Osteopathy - what you need to know - Matthew Rogers, Institute of Osteopathy, Head of Professional Development

Safe and effective, osteopathy is a form of manual medicine dedicated to the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders throughout the whole body.


Osteopathy underwent statutory regulation in 1993. This gives an osteopath similar status to a dentist or physiotherapist and guarantees patients the equivalent high level of care.

By law, an osteopath must be registered with the General Osteopathic Council who regulate the profession in the UK, promoting patient safety by setting and monitoring standards of osteopathic education and conduct.

To register with the GOsC, an osteopath must undergo a 4 – 5 year degree level training program at a recognised college or university. This intensive medical training equips the osteopath with an in-depth knowledge of anatomy, physiology and pathology combined with over 1000 hours of hands on clinical practice and robust clinical methods examination techniques for the cardiovascular, respiratory, neurological systems and abdomen.

What does treatment involve?

A patient centred approach, osteopathy is unique from other manual disciplines in that practitioners focus on ensuring the optimum environment for health in the individual, not just the treatment of disease. As such, exercises, health promotion, education and disease prevention are a key feature in the osteopathic toolkit.

A full medical case history is conducted, taking into account factors such as occupation, previous injury, posture and the patient’s goals of treatment as well as red and yellow flag questioning.  Treatment involves a package of care including manual techniques such as joint articulation, manipulation and osteopathic soft tissue, together with health information, self-management advice and exercise therapy if relevant.

What do osteopaths treat?

Although osteopathy has a well-deserved and evidence based reputation for expertise in the treatment of neck and lower back pain (supported by the NICE guidelines), it has a high degree of success in other areas too. There are many reasons that people choose to consult an osteopath. Here are just some of them:

  • Upper limb problems including rotator cuff pathology, frozen shoulder & lateral epicondylitis
  • Lower limb problems
  • Sports related injuries
  • Posture problems
  • Headache, neck pain & shoulder tension
  • Muscle strains, ligament sprains and tendinous problems
  • Arthritis and rheumatic pain
  • Pregnancy related muscle pain
  • Lower back pain and sciatica

However, as well as musculoskeletal problems, there is also evidence that osteopathy may help with other common health conditions including:

  • Circulatory problems
  • Digestive issues
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Inability to relax

(Effectiveness of manual therapies: the UK evidence report, Bronfort et al, 2010)

The Institute of Osteopathy is the professional body representing osteopathy and is dedicated to uniting, supporting and developing the profession for the improvement of public health. They represent over 65% of UK osteopaths promoting high standards through initiatives such as their Patient Charter, the development of a Service Standards and evidence based post registration training for osteopaths. The Institute also invests in research such as the development and implementation of a standardised electronic musculoskeletal Patient Reported Outcome Measure (e-PROM) tool for the profession.

Content provided by Matthew Rogers, Institute of Osteopathy Head of Professional Development. 

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