Osteopathy is a system of diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of medical conditions. It works with the structure and function of the body, and is based on the principle that the well-being of an individual depends on the skeleton, muscles, ligaments and connective tissues functioning smoothly together.
To an osteopath, for your body to work well, its structure must also work well. So osteopaths work to restore your body to a state of balance, where possible without the use of drugs or surgery. Osteopaths use touch, physical manipulation, stretching and massage to increase the mobility of joints, to relieve muscle tension, to enhance the blood and nerve supply to tissues, and to help your body’s own healing mechanisms. They may also provide advice on posture and exercise to aid recovery, promote health and prevent symptoms recurring.
Regulation of osteopathy
All osteopaths in the UK are regulated by the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC). It is against the law for anyone to call themselves an osteopath unless they are registered with the GOsC, which sets and promotes high standards of competency, conduct and safety.
Who and what do osteopaths treat?
Osteopaths’ patients include the young, older people, manual workers, office professionals, pregnant women, children and sports people. Patients seek treatment for a wide variety of conditions, including back pain, repetitive strain injury, changes to posture in pregnancy, postural problems caused by driving or work strain, the pain of arthritis and sports injuries.
Osteopaths use their hands to identify abnormalities in the structure and function of a body, and to assess areas of weakness, tenderness, restriction or strain. By this means, your osteopath will make a full diagnosis and discuss with you the most appropriate treatment plan, estimating the likely number of sessions needed to treat your condition effectively.
Then they work with your body’s ability to heal itself. They will usually start any treatment by releasing and relaxing muscles and stretching stiff joints, using gentle massage and rhythmic joint movements. The particular range of techniques your osteopath uses will depend on your problem.
The first treatment generally lasts about 45 minutes (to allow for case history taking and diagnosis) and subsequent treatments tend to last around half an hour. Osteopaths also offer added exercises and health advice, to help reduce the symptoms and improve your health and quality of life.
The osteopath should make you feel at ease during your consultation and explain everything that is happening. Do ask questions at any time if you are unsure or have any concerns.
How much does it cost?
Most people visit an osteopath as a private patient and pay for their treatment. Please see our Contact page for current prices.
If you have private health insurance it may be possible to claim for your treatment. You will need to ask your insurance company about the available level of cover and whether you need to be referred by your GP or a specialist.
Is referral from a doctor necessary?
Most patients ‘self refer’ to an osteopath for treatment.
Although referral by a GP is not necessary, patients are encouraged to keep both their GP and osteopath fully informed, so that their medical records are current and complete and the patient receives the best possible care from both healthcare practitioners. Osteopaths are skilled in diagnostic techniques and trained to identify when a patient needs to be referred to a GP.
Osteopaths consider each person as an individual. On your first visit the osteopath will spend time taking a detailed medical history, including information about your lifestyle and diet. You will normally be asked to undress to your underwear and perform a series of simple movements.