The British Medical Association's guidance for general practitioners states that doctors can safely refer patients to osteopaths. Read More...
All osteopaths practising in the UK have completed rigorous training. Students of osteopathy follow a four or five-year degree course, during which they study anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, nutrition and biomechanics. This is similar to a medical degree, with more emphasis on anatomy and musculoskeletal medicine. In addition they undergo a minimum of 1,000 hours of clinical training. Qualification generally takes the form of a bachelor's degree in osteopathy - a BSc (Hons), BOst or BOstMed - or a masters degree in osteopathy (MOst).
By law all osteopaths practising in the UK must be registered with the General Osteopathic Council, and the GOsC can supply details of osteopaths in your area. The GOsC website has a page where you can search the register by the osteopath's name, town, county, postcode or country.
Although osteopaths treat many conditions, most people think of us as 'back specialists'. Back pain is what many osteopaths treat a lot of the time. Osteopathic treatment does not target symptoms only but treats the parts of the body that have caused the symptoms. Osteopaths have a holistic approach and believe that your whole body will work well if your body is in good structural balance, Imagine, for example, a car that has one of its front wheels not quite pointing straight. It may run well for a while, but after a few thousand miles, the tyre will wear out. You can apply this example to the human body, which is why it is so important to keep the body in good balance. We use a wide range of techniques, including massage, cranial techniques (sometimes referred to as 'cranial osteopathy') and joint mobilization and this breadth of approach allows us to focus on every patient's precise needs.
Osteopaths assess and treat people of any age from the elderly to the newborn and from pregnant women to sports people.
Osteopathy focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Using a combination of osteopathic and conventional diagnostic techniques, treatment is based on mobilising and manipulative procedures tailored to the individual patient, reinforced by guidance on diet, lifestyle and exercise.
This approach emphasizes the integration of the musculoskeletal system with other body systems, and the influence that impaired function of each has on the other. It also seeks to empower patients in assisting their recovery to good health.
Before we start to treat you, we will make a full medical assessment. We take time to listen to you and ask questions to make sure we understand your medical history and your day-to-day routine. We'll ask you about things like diet, exercise and what is happening in your life, as these may give clues to help our diagnosis.
We may feel your pulse and check your reflexes. We may also take your blood pressure and refer you for clinical tests, such as x-rays, if we think you need them.
We usually look at your posture and how you move your body (active examination). We may also assess what happens when we move it for you and see what hurts, where and when (passive examination).
Using touch, we may also find the areas which are sensitive or tight and this helps us to identify what's going on. We also conduct specific orthopaedic tests to confirm or deny our initial differential diagnosis. When we have done this, we can diagnose your condition. We may sometimes feel that osteopathy is not appropriate for you and refer you to your GP or another specialist such as an orthopaedic surgeon.
Osteopaths use a wide range of gentle manipulations, depending on your age, fitness and diagnosis.
Treatment is different for every patient but may include techniques such as different types of soft tissue massage and joint articulation to release tension, stretch muscles, help relieve pain and mobilise your joints.
Sometimes, when we move joints you may hear a 'click'. This is just like the click people get when they crack their knuckles.
We may discuss exercises that you can do to improve your posture and movement in your workplace and everyday life.
The most common conditions that we treat are:
However, patients have found osteopathy helpful for many other conditions. If you want to find out more, any osteopath will be happy to talk to you.
Increasingly osteopaths are working alongside GPs and other healthcare professionals, providing treatment both privately and through the NHS. Commonly treated conditions include back, neck and shoulder pain, headaches, sport- and work-related injuries, arthritic pain, joint pain and digestive disorders.
A Medical Research Council trial comparing treatment options for lower back pain found that spinal manipulation, added to GP care, is clinically effective and the most cost-efficient option for patients (UK Back Pain Exercise and Manipulation trial, MRC, 2004).
In 2006, the Department of Health published guidelines which advocated the establishment of multidisciplinary clinical assessment services and recognised that MSDs can often be resolved quickly and effectively by treatments such as osteopathy (The Musculoskeletal Services Framework. A joint responsibility: doing it differently, DH, 2006).
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) published guidance on the treatment of non-specific low back pain in May 2009. Recommendations in Low back pain: Early management of persistent non-specific low back pain, include manual therapy, as practised by osteopaths. This includes spinal manipulation, mobilisation and massage, for patients who "have been in pain for longer than six weeks but less than one year, where pain may be linked to structures in the back such as joints, muscles and ligaments".
Most patients visit an osteopath of their own accord, but some may be referred by a doctor. Osteopaths are trained to recognise when osteopathy will not help a medical condition, and will refer a patient to a GP when necessary.
Guidelines for the referral of patients to an osteopath have been published by the General Medical Council (Good Medical Practice, GMC, 2006) and the British Medical Association (Referrals to complementary therapists: Guidance for GPs, General Practitioners' Committee, BMA, 2006). This guidance confirms that GPs can refer patients to osteopaths as statutorily regulated health professionals.