- 1 What Is Osteopathy?
- 2 What Osteopathy Can Achieve
- 3 Why Is Osteopathy Effective?
- 4 Which Conditions Can Be Treated By Osteopathy?
- 5 How Are Osteopaths Trained & Qualified?
- 6 Clinical Studies Prove That Osteopathy Works
- 7 How to Access Osteopathy
- 8 Product Guide: Joint Food Supplements
- 9 Bibliography
What Is Osteopathy?
Osteopathy is a distinct form of manual healthcare. The principles of osteopathy are based on the links between structures within the body and their specific roles.
In particular, osteopaths have a holistic focus on the functions and the interactions between the skeleton, joints, nerves, connective tissues, muscles and internal organs.
Osteopathy is a form of complementary medicine that is applied to detect, treat and help prevent health problems.
Why Is Osteopathy Effective?
Through a range of manual techniques, osteopaths aim to restore the normal structure and function of the body’s joints and tissues. This can help to re-establish optimal mobility, improved nerve function and stabilised lymph and blood flow. These outcomes are achieved through massage, stretching and physical manipulation.
Osteopathy is classed as a complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) that is separate from conventional western medicine. The use of osteopathy is not necessarily founded on scientific evidence, although conventional medical techniques may also be incorporated into treatment plans.
Which Conditions Can Be Treated By Osteopathy?
Generally people who see an osteopath are seeking treatment for conditions that affect their joints, bones and muscles. Some common situations are:
These are the traditional areas of practice. However, there are osteopaths who also claim to have the ability to treat conditions not directly linked to joints, bones and muscles. This may include migraines, digestive disorders, colic, depression, stress, and painful menstruation; among other ailments.
However, the effectiveness of osteopathy for treating these conditions is not necessarily widely accepted within the medical fraternity.
How Are Osteopaths Trained & Qualified?
Osteopaths are tertiary trained healthcare professionals. To become an osteopath, students must complete a mandatory four to five years of training, depending on the country where they are qualifying.
This degree includes extensive practical and clinical experience with foundations in health and medical science. Osteopaths must study subjects such as pathophysiology, neuroscience, anatomy, nutrition, biomechanics, pharmacology, and physiology.
Osteopaths must develop the skills to identify and develop a working diagnosis to provide treatment and rehabilitation to patients with disabilities and physical disorders. In some cases, this also includes referrals to other specialists for a collaborative response to patient care. Osteopaths focus on primary care and are trained to assess patients holistically so that they can work together with the patient for better health promotion and disease prevention.
Clinical Studies Prove That Osteopathy Works
Like all alternative therapies, there is an element of scepticism surrounding osteopathy and its benefits. However, there is a growing body of research which does support the use of osteopathy, particularly in the treatment of persistent lower back pain. Researchers have examined at the effects of osteopathy on low back pain in a range of patients, from active military personnel through to obese patients1, 2, 3.
In 2005, the journal of MBC Musculoskeletal Disorders published a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials assessing the effects of osteopathic manipulative treatments (OMTs) for lower back pain4. The authors concluded that OMT can significantly reduce lower back pain. However, Licciardone and colleagues also noted that more standardised research is necessary to determine how these treatments work and if the benefits are long lasting.
In 2014 a research paper was published evaluating the effects of OMTs on pregnant and postpartum women suffering from acute and chronic non-specific lower back pain5. The researchers assessed the success of the osteopathic treatment three months after the initial consultation. They concluded that even after three months the patients still reported a significant improvement in lower back function and decreased pain. However, again, further high-quality, randomised controlled trials are necessary.
It is important to note that there is large variation in the scope of practice associated with osteopathy. There are clear professional differences in the manual techniques used in spinal manipulation. This can make it difficult to assess how these methods affect the body, both during therapy and throughout the time that follows.
Until the results of further detailed research are available there is limited support for the use of OMTs to effectively treat all forms of shoulder, neck and limb pain. This does not mean that osteopathy is ineffective; rather this form of treatment may not work for all patients and more clinical research is necessary.
Health conditions unrelated to the musculoskeletal system are unlikely to be remedied through osteopathy.
History of Osteopathy
The foundations of osteopathy where established in the 19th century by an American physician and surgeon, Andrew Taylor Still. He was one of the first physicians to promote preventative medicine.
Still was a strong believer in physicians treating the underlying disease, not just its symptoms. Osteopathic treatment centres on providing the body with the best opportunity to heal and rehabilitate through its own biomechanical functions.
Philosophy of Osteopathy
The practice philosophy identifies the well-being of an individual as being dependent upon the correct functioning of the body’s structural components.
Therefore, osteopathy focuses on physical manipulation, stretching and massaging the body to achieve positive health outcomes.
Surgery or pharmaceutical interventions do not have a role in osteopathic treatments. However, depending on the condition, these interventions may be considered as complementary treatments.
How to Access Osteopathy
As osteopathy is not a conventional medicine, treatment is not widely available through the NHS or other public health care service providers. However, general health practitioners will be able to advise if osteopaths are available in your area.
There is no requirement for a referral to see an osteopath privately and many health insurers will provide cover for osteopathic treatments. The cost for treatment can vary between from £35 to £50 for a 30-40 minute session.
In the UK, practicing osteopaths must be registered with the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC). By searching the GOsC register, it’s possible to find a qualified osteopath in the UK. Similar regulatory bodies oversee osteopaths in different countries.
Product Guide: Joint Food Supplements
Several good combination preparations for joints also contain glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM. As the health of the joint cartilage depends on many factors, combination preparations are usually superior to individual active ingredients.
You can purchase glucosamine or MSM directly from your pharmacy as a dietary supplement. Likewise, numerous recommendable remedies with good customer reviews can be found on amazon, some of which we have selected here:
- Cruser, dA, et.al (2012). A randomized, controlled trial of osteopathic manipulative treatment for acute low back pain in active duty military personnel. Journal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy. Volume 20, Issue 1, (pp. 5-15).
- Licciardone, J. et. al. (2013). Osteopathic manual treatment and ultrasound therapy for chronic low back pain: a randomized controlled trial. Annals of Family Medicine. Volume 11, Issue 2, (pp. 122-9)
- Vismara, L. et. al. (2012). Osteopathic manipulative treatment in obese patients with chronic low back pain: a pilot study. Manual Therapy. Volume 17, Issue 5, (pp. 454-5)
- Licciardone, J., Brimhall, A. and King, L. (2005). Osteopathic manipulative treatment for low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. MBC Musculoskeletal Disorders. Volume 6, Issue 43, DOI: 10.1186/1471-2474-6-43
- Franke, H, Franke, J. and Fryer, G. (2014). Osteopathic manipulative treatment for nonspecific low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. MBC Musculoskeletal Disorders. Volume 15, doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-15-286