A Guide to Osteopathy: What You Need to Know about Osteopaths

Are you familiar with what an osteopath is or what they can treat? If not, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve created this short guide to give you an overview of what an osteopath is, what they treat and more. 

What is Osteopathy & What is an Osteopath? 

Fundamentally, osteopathy uses a holistic approach to providing healthcare. This medical tradition considers the entire individual when making a diagnosis and a subsequent treatment plan. While osteopathy may use manual techniques to treat patients, it should not be confused with chiropractic, which is a completely separate type of care. 

Osteopaths are trained as primary healthcare practitioners and must be licensed through the General Osteopathic Council in order to practice in the UK. Osteopaths are required to understand how to apply osteopathic principles to health, illness and disease, and then apply this knowledge to patients. In addition, an osteopath must: 

  • Understand the human body and its functions
  • Understand medical conditions and know when patients may need to be referred to another healthcare professional
  • Understand and evaluate scientific information and data and apply it to osteopathy
  • Understand biomechanics
  • Have “well-developed palpatory skills”
  • And more

Training to be an osteopath is not easy. An osteopath must complete 4 years of study, which is only one year less than the 5 years of study required for a medical osteopath. To become an osteopath, individuals must study anatomy, pathology, pharmacology, physiology, nutrition, and biomechanics. They must complete at least a minimum of 1,000 hours of clinical practice. In addition, osteopaths are required to complete regular professional development to keep their skills up to date, while also staying compliant with professional standards. 

When an osteopath sees a patient for the first time, they consider the entire body, not only the area that may be painful or hurt. Treatment will include manual techniques that are geared to heal without the use of medications. 

What Do Osteopaths Treat? 

Osteopaths can treat a wide variety of conditions including: 

  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Sciatica
  • Arthritis
  • Foot pain
  • Ankle pain
  • Hip & knee pain
  • Hand, shoulder and elbow pain
  • Headaches (some can even improve migraines)
  • Tennis elbow
  • Postural issues
  • Sports injuries
  • Digestive problems
  • Neuralgia

And if a patient has a health condition that can’t be helped with osteopathic treatment, the osteopath will then refer their patients to another healthcare professional. 

What to Expect When Visiting an Osteopath

First, you’ll want to make sure the osteopath you choose to visit is registered with the General Osteopathic Council, and they are licensed to practice in the UK. When you visit their office, you should see documentation on display that attests to these facts. If not, then ask to see their documentation. And if the osteopath is not able to produce these proofs, then leave and find another osteopath who can fulfil these requirements. 

When you see an osteopath for the first time, you’ll be asked to fill out a medical history questionnaire. After this, the osteopath will perform a physical assessment, talk with you about any health issues, and take notes, ask you questions and listen to your answers, much the same as a medical osteopath would.

During the physical exam, the osteopath may ask you to do some simple movements and stretches. These will help the osteopath to analyse your posture and mobility. In addition, the osteopath may also examine your joints, ligaments, and tissues with an osteopathic method called palpation.

After the exam is completed, the osteopath will then make a diagnosis and work with you to create the right treatment plan. Treatment can include gentle manipulation of joints, cranial osteopathic techniques, and more. Your osteopathy may also give advice on your posture and guidance on how to prevent pain. 

Depending on your diagnosis, it may be necessary to have several treatments spread out over time. This is common and nothing to worry about. Along with the treatment options, your osteopathy may also discuss some lifestyle and diet changes that could help your condition. They may also recommend some exercises to do at home.

When it comes to the treatments, the manipulation methods used by osteopaths are gentle and quite different to methods used by chiropractors. However, it is common to feel sore about 24 to 48 hours afterwards. 

If you have pain or discomfort that lasts longer, or you have any questions about the pain you’re experiencing or any other issues, then it’s a good idea to call and let your osteopath know about these issues. 

How Much Does Osteopathic Treatment Cost? 

Most osteopathic treatments are not covered by NHS; however, the charges may be covered if you have private health insurance. In that case, it’s always a good idea to check with your private health insurance provider to see if osteopathy is covered or not. 

Most patients will see the osteopath as a private patient, which means you’ll be responsible for paying for treatment. Fees usually depend on where the osteopath is located and their level of experience. On the average, an initial appointment may cost about £48 for a 30-minute session. Subsequent sessions may cost up to £70. 

How Does an Osteopath Compare to a Chiropractor? 

Chiropractors tend to focus on the spine and joints and may also work to help nerve issues and improve healing. They focus on using adjustments that may “crack and pop.” Chiropractors are also trained to perform and read x-rays and MRIs. 

Osteopaths, on the other hand, focus on the entire body and treat a wider range of health issues. They do manipulations that are gentle, and work on the muscles and soft tissues, as well as joints and the spine. 

As you can see, an osteopath is concerned with a patient’s entire wellbeing. They’re highly trained and licensed to use a wide variety of methods to help their patients heal, without the use of medicine.