A7_About Osteopathy_114612352 Osteopathy is a method of assessing, treating and preventing a wide range of health problems. Osteopaths use a combination of movement, stretching, targeted deep tissue massage and manipulation of a person’s muscles and joints to improve function, relieve pain and aid recovery.

The body has the natural ability to maintain itself and, by helping this process, an osteopath can promote restoration of normal function. The principle of osteopathy is that the wellbeing of an individual relies on the way that bones, muscles, ligaments, connective tissue and internal structures work with each other.

An osteopath will take the time to understand their patient, and their unique combination of symptoms, medical history and lifestyle. This helps to make an accurate diagnosis of the causes of the pain or lack of function (rather than just addressing the site of the condition), and from that, to formulate a treatment plan that will achieve the best outcome.

Osteopaths frequently work alongside other health professionals, such as GPs, nurses and midwives as well as alternative medical practitioners. Osteopathy works well to complement other medical interventions including surgery and prescribed medication.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises that GPs can safely refer patients to an osteopath for treatment. Osteopathy is available on the NHS in some areas of the UK.


Safety and Regulation

A7_About_Osteopathy_185020862 Osteopaths are regulated by the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC). It is against the law to call yourself an osteopath unless you are qualified and registered with the GOsC. The minimum qualification for an osteopath is completion of a four or five year degree, which includes at least 1000 hours of supervised clinical practice. Many osteopaths also study for masters degrees. They must then continue to update and expand their knowledge by logging a minimum of 30 hours per year of continuing professional development. GOsC can remove an osteopath from the register if they fail to maintain a strict code of professional practice. You can check whether an osteopath is registered by visiting the GOsC website.

Osteopathy is very safe. It is estimated that between 1 in 50,000 and 1 in 100,000 patients will suffer a reaction to osteopathic treatment that is serious enough to require further medical treatment or does not resolve within 48 hours.


Conditions treated by osteopaths

Although osteopaths are well known for treating back pain, the practice of osteopathy can help relieve the symptoms of a wide range of conditions. Osteopaths treat joint pain, neuromuscular conditions, digestive conditions, headaches and sleep problems.


Osteopaths are experts in the treatment of a wide range of conditions. Here you can read about some of the most common conditions that osteopaths can help with.
You can expect thorough and professional treatment from any registered osteopath. All osteopaths maintain professional standards that ensure patient safety, privacy and dignity.
Like other medical practitioners osteopaths are regulated. This means that patients can be confident about the qualifications held by registered osteopaths and high standard of care they will receive.


Osteopaths are primary healthcare professionals, so you may not need a referral to see someone. If you are seeking treatment funded by the NHS or a private healthcare insurer you may need to be referred. This page will help you find out if you need a referral
Osteopathy began in America in 1891, invented by a medical doctor who was concerned about the risks of using many of the drugs commonly prescribed at the time. Since then the practice of osteopathy has continued to develop and evolve.
Osteopaths and patients are supported by a wide range of bodies providing information, advice, training, research, networking and regulation. You can find out more and use links to their websites here.


Learn from patients how they have benefited from osteopathic treatment.
Download leaflets and documents produced by the iO for patients, employers and healthcare professionals.

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