Osteopathy offers a system of diagnosis and treatment that can help treat a wide range of medical conditions.
Osteopathy is a distinct approach to healthcare based on the original discoveries and experiences of its American founder Dr Andrew Taylor Still (1828 – 1917). Dr Taylor Still was the first physician to recognise fully the relationship between the structure (anatomy) and function (physiology) of the body and how this interdependence was vital for physical and mental well-being. Since its early beginnings, Osteopathy has evolved into a modern, regulated, mainstream healthcare field and, in 2017, Osteopaths were formally recognised by the National Health Service (NHS England) as Allied Health Professionals.
Osteopathy is a patient-centred approach to health; an individualised management plan may include hands-on treatment, exercise, diet and lifestyle advice and, if appropriate, onward referral. Osteopathy also includes patient self-help and education. At the ESO we’re proud to teach a broad spectrum of osteopathic approaches and techniques, so our graduates can help care for a wider range of patients. You can find more information about osteopathic diagnosis and treatment below – ‘How do osteopaths work?’
In the United Kingdom, osteopathy became a profession governed by statute in 1993. The governing body set up as a result of this statute is the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC) and all osteopaths practising in the UK must be registered with them. The GOsC promotes patient safety by registering qualified professionals and setting, maintaining and developing standards of osteopathic training and practice. Further information is available at www.osteopathy.org.uk. The ESO’s Integrated Masters Degree programme is accredited by the GOsC and, therefore, all ESO graduates are eligible for registration with them.
Osteopaths assess their patients as unique individuals, reviewing all aspects of their symptoms. A detailed case history is taken during the first consultation, followed by a thorough physical and clinical examination to identify the patient’s problems, including any diseases that might be responsible for their symptoms. The osteopath will explore factors such as the patient’s mobility, posture and general state of well-being and may also consider lifestyle factors, levels of activity, dietary preferences and levels of stress; after investigation and arriving at a working diagnosis, the osteopath will discuss their findings with the patient and agree a treatment and management regime; patients may be referred to another healthcare professional or to their GP.
Working with their hands, osteopaths apply a range of techniques to help reduce pain, increase mobility, relieve muscle tension and enhance circulation. This potentially helps the patient’s own healing mechanism to work more efficiently and promotes recovery. Osteopaths help provide relief from structural, mechanical and functional problems in people of all ages and achieve this by restoring the body’s equilibrium and balance. This may be achieved through the use of osteopathic treatment or through exercise and lifestyle recommendations.
Most osteopaths are self-employed within the private sector, either in their own practice or as an associate in someone else’s practice. A small but increasing number work in the NHS.
Osteopaths can help patients with a variety of conditions such as:
- Muscle spasms
- Minor sports injuries
- Arthritic pain
- Back and neck pain
- Frozen shoulder
Many osteopaths help treat patients throughout their pregnancies to help relieve the symptoms induced by altered posture and weight bearing and many also help treat babies; babies’ skeletons are softer than an adult’s and osteopaths will, therefore, use gentler techniques such as cranial osteopathy when treating babies.
Giving a list of conditions that osteopaths help treat can sometimes give a false picture. Osteopaths treat people, not conditions and osteopaths are able to help in many ways when a person’s function is affected by their structure, however that manifests.
The osteopath will spend time at the initial visit taking a detailed case history. This will involve asking questions about the patient’s current symptoms, and also about their general medical history. The patient will usually be asked to undress to their underwear in order for the osteopath to carry out a thorough examination. This will allow a diagnosis and treatment plan to be devised tailored to their needs. Treatment can include a range of stretching, mobilizing and manipulative techniques designed to help restore normal function and to facilitate the body’s own healing process. The osteopath will explain what will be involved in any treatment.
Osteopathic treatment is not usually painful, although the nature of some conditions is such that some discomfort may be induced. Many techniques are extremely gentle. In devising a treatment plan, the osteopath will take into account the nature of the symptoms and also the patient’s concerns. The osteopath will not perform a technique unless the patient is happy for him/her to proceed. Some patients are anxious about the “cracking” of joints. These are known as High Velocity Thrust (HVT) techniques and are an effective way of mobilizing a joint that is not moving very well. Again, the osteopath will only proceed with such a technique when it is appropriate to do so and with the patient’s permission.
It is not necessary for a patient to be referred by their GP as appointments can be made direct with an osteopath. However, the patient may like to see their GP in the first instance if they have concerns. If the osteopath feels it is necessary for a patient to see his/her GP then they will advise them as such and, with the patient’s permission, may also contact the GP themselves to let them have details of examination findings or to request further information.