Osteopathy is a type of physical therapy which promotes a holistic, ‘whole body’ approach to health. Using physical manipulation, stretching and massage, osteopathy aims to improve joint mobility, relieve muscle tension, increase blood flow and encourage healing.
What qualifications do osteopaths have?
Can osteopathy help me?
Osteopathy promotes services which may help treat the following conditions:
- back and neck pain
- joint pain
- sprains and strains
- work and sports related injuries.
What do osteopaths do?
Osteopathic treatment is based on an understanding of the human body, its structure and function. An osteopath will use touch to investigate the underlying cause of your injury or issue. The treatments usually involve hands-on techniques for the muscles and joints, including:
- spinal manipulation
- soft tissue massage
- joint mobilisation
- muscle resistance training.
You may also be given information about steps you can take yourself to help improve or maintain your health and wellbeing, including healthy eating and regular exercise, as part of your osteopathic treatment.
Does research support the use of osteopathy?
Similar to chiropractic treatment, the evidence-base for osteopathy is limited. There is very little high-quality evidence on osteopathy, and the evidence that does exist is not robust and does not clearly prove that osteopathy is effective as a ‘holistic’ approach to certain health conditions.
Osteopathy does use spinal manipulation, as does chiropractic and physiotherapy, and this has been shown to be effective for lower back pain. However, it has also been found to be no more effective than other commonly used treatments such as exercise therapy.
Some osteopaths claim the therapy can help treat non-musculoskeletal conditions such as asthma, painful periods, headaches, glue ear, jaw problems and scoliosis (abnormal curving of the spine). However there is limited to no evidence to support these claims.
It is true there are people who find osteopathy helps them feel better. However, it is possible that this is a result of the ‘placebo effect’. This happens when a person feels better from a treatment because they have the expectation that it will work, not because of the treatment itself.
Given the lack of evidence, it’s important to discuss with your doctor whether osteopathic treatment is suitable for you. If you do decide to try osteopathy, you can find a qualified practitioner in your area through the Whitecoat website.