What is Osteopathy?

The practice of osteopathy began in the United States in 1874. The term “osteopathy” was coined by Andrew Taylor Still, the founder of Osteopathy.

Osteopathy has been described as the art and science of promoting and maintaining health in the body. Our bodies have the natural ability to maintain themselves and heal. Osteopaths promote this by identifying and removing the obstacles to our bodies own healing abilities.

Many Osteopathic approaches are now influenced by modern, up-to-date, pain science and evidence based treatments, as well as traditional methods and patient education. Frequently a combination of movement, stretching, targeted deep tissue massage, joint articulation, functional & active release techniques and manipulation of a person’s muscles and joints are used to improve function, relieve pain and aid recovery.

Understanding the patient, and their unique combination of symptoms, medical history and lifestyle is key in Osteopathy. This helps to make an accurate diagnosis of the causes of the pain or dysfunction, and not just focussing on the symptoms.

Most people who see an osteopath do so for help with conditions that affect the muscles, bones and joints, such as:

– Lower back pain

– Neck pain

– Shoulder pain

– Arthritis

– Dysfunction of pelvis, legs and hips

– Sports injuries

– Headaches

– Postural problems from work or pregnancy



Osteopathic knowledge is based on detailed knowledge of physiology, anatomy, psychology, pathology, neurology, biomechanics sociology, research strategies and professional practice. Osteopathic treatment is based on the principles of Osteopathy. The basic principles of Osteopathy are:

1) The body is a unit

This means that when being treated by an Osteopath you are are considered as a whole person, we don’t only treat the part that hurts. Every part of your body affects and communicates with every other part of your body. Through careful reasoning and understanding of the human body Osteopaths aim to understand the root cause of your symptoms.

2) Structure governs function (and the corollary that function maintains and develops structure)

Dysfunction often occurs when structures of the body are compromised or injured. This will likely have an effect on the function of the body. Also, that the structure of our bodies is constantly remodelled and modified by the functions we perform.

3) The body is its own ‘Medicine Chest’

The human body has it’s own built in healing abilities and mechanisms. These can be stimulated,  hindered or even blocked. Removing barriers to recovery is a very important part of Osteopathic treatment. Osteopathy encourages the bodies own healing mechanisms, while removing barriers to healing.

4) The ‘Rule of the Artery’ is supreme

For the body to heal properly and be healthy, it needs a good blood supply. The blood provides nutrition, oxygen, immune cells and healing factors essential for healing and health. If an area has restricted blood supply or nutrition healing is slow. Identifying the fluid health of the body is another important factor of Osteopathic treatment.


What is an appointment like?

The initial appointment involves taking a detailed case history, and examination of the problematic region, as well as the whole body. After a diagnosis is formulated and explained to you – the next step is treatment (or referral). Treatment can be through a number of techniques and approaches, depending on the patient. Usually the first session is an hour – which gives plenty of time for treatment and history taking. Returning patients can usually be done is half that time.

Will if feel nice? Will it hurt?

There will always be a careful balance between managing ‘pain relief’ treatment and treating the ‘underlying causes’; this is referred to as balancing needs & wants. This is important because, for example, frequently people want their shoulders massaged – because it feels nice and their shoulders hurt – but the underlying cause of their shoulder pain might be somewhere else in their body, or even the way in which they are using their body. Balancing between making the shoulders feel nice, and fixing the root cause involves communication and understanding.

Treatment might always feel nice, or feel comfortable at the time – the the effect of the treatment is to promote health and wellbeing. Several techniques may (temporarily) aggravate some pain, in order to facilitate recovery. If this is the case, it will be explained to you and your permission will be asked.


How are Osteopaths trained?

In the UK, Osteopaths have to graduate a university degree in Osteopathy. Osteopathy is a protected title, by law, and to be allowed to call yourself an Osteopath in the UK you must qualify to be part of the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC).

Studying comprehensive medical knowledge (physiology, anatomy, psychology, sociology, research strategies and professional practice), osteopathic philosophy, osteopathic technique and physical examination – Osteopaths have to attain over 1000 hours of clinical practice before they can Graduate.

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