Osteopathy FAQs

What conditions do Osteopaths deal with?

Osteopathy is best known for the treatment of a wide variety of musculo-skeletal problems, but it also has a role to play in the management of a number of other conditions. The most common complaints for which patients consult Osteopaths include:

  • back and neck pain
  • sciatica
  • headaches
  • pains in peripheral joints such as shoulders, knees and ankles, tendonitis and muscle strains,
  • work-related and repetitive strain injuries
  • sports-related injuries

However, Osteopathy can also play a significant role in pain management in arthritic conditions, and when used in conjunction with medical treatment, can be of value in reducing the severity of symptoms in conditions such as asthma, gynaecological dysfunction and chronic fatigue. Many mothers-to-be find Osteopathic treatment very beneficial both to reduce back pain during pregnancy and also to help prepare the body for birth. In addition, there is a wide variety of gentle non-manipulative techniques for use on infants and small children.

What’s the difference between Osteopaths, Chiropractors and physiotherapists?

It’s not the role of any health professional to try to define what another health care professional is, and what they do. If you want a definition, it would be best to ask people in those professions.

What we can do is tell you about the defining characteristics of Osteopathy, which are its underlying philosophy and its broad range of techniques.

While “Biomechanics” has become one of the most rapidly developing areas of medicine in recent years, Osteopathy was one of the first professions to incorporate biomechanical analysis of how injuries occur and what the secondary effects are likely to be. For example, if you go to an Osteopath with a shoulder injury, the Osteopath will do much more than just examine and treat your shoulder. They will want to know exactly how the injury occurred in order to assess not just which tissues in the shoulder are injured, but also whether there may be any involvement of other areas with a mechanical relationship to the shoulder, such as the thoracic & cervical spine, the clavicle and the associated soft tissues.

They will then want to analyse any possible secondary effects. For instance, your posture may be poor and as a result will have modified the bio-mechanics of the shoulder by altering the angle of the scapula which will affect the gleno-humeral joint resulting in an abnormal loading of the rotator cuff tendon.

Over a period of time, this may lead to more severe problems developing in the rotator cuff tendon which will have been as a result of poor posture, which is frequently found in those who spend long periods hunched over laptops & PCs at work. The Osteopath will then use this information to prescribe a treatment plan that addresses not just the shoulder, but all of the other areas of the body and associated tissues that may be involved. The plan will include attention not just to the joints and their associated soft tissues, but also to the blood supply to the affected areas, the lymphatic drainage, the nerve supply etc., in order to include all those factors which will affect the success of healing. It is this “whole body, multi-system” approach that has been the basis of Osteopathy’s success over the last century.

How do Osteopaths treat?

Osteopathy is best known for the treatment of a wide variety of musculo-skeletal problems, but it also has a role to play in the management of a number of other conditions. The most common complaints for which patients consult Osteopaths include:

  • Massage and stretching techniques
  • Articulation techniques, in which joints are mobilised by being passively taken through their range of motion
  • Muscle Energy techniques, in which contracted muscles are released by alternately being stretched and made to work against resistance
  • Counter strain techniques, which achieve release of restriction by placing the affected joint or muscle in a position of comfort, while applying a “Counter” stretch to the antagonists of the tight muscles
  • Functional techniques, which involve gentle mobilisation of joints in a way which “probes” barriers to normal movement until a way is found through the restriction
  • Manipulation, which may be used where it is appropriate and safe to do so, though it is not the mainstay of most Osteopathic treatments. Osteopathic manipulations are carried out using minimum force levels in order to maximise safety and minimise patient discomfort
  • Osteopathic treatments are tailored to the requirements of the individual patient, and techniques are selected which are appropriate to the patient’s need
How effective is Osteopathic treatment?

There exists a great deal of research which not only provides a physiological basis for Osteopathic concepts and techniques, but also provides statistical data on outcomes. Reports have shown not only a consistent level of successful outcome, but also a high degree of patient satisfaction.

Is Osteopathic Treatment Safe?

Osteopathy has one of the best safety records of any medically-related profession. Osteopaths are trained to recognise any condition that might make Osteopathic treatment inadvisable, and will refer patients for appropriate medical attention in such cases. Just as a Doctor regards safety as the most important factor in selecting the appropriate medication for a particular patient, so an Osteopath will also select the most appropriate style of treatment with safety as the prime consideration.