What is osteopathy?

Osteopathy is the science of human mechanics. It is an established, recognised system of diagnosis and treatment that lays emphasis on the structural integrity of the body. It is essentially a natural therapy. It is distinctive in the fact that it recognises much of the pain and disability we suffer stems from abnormalities in the function of the body structure as well as damage caused to it by disease.

Osteopathy uses many of the diagnostic procedures used in conventional medical assessment and diagnosis. Its main strength, however, lies in the unique way the patient is assessed from a mechanical, functional and postural standpoint and the manual methods of treatment applied to suit the needs of the individual patient.

Is osteopathy a new treatment?

No, it is about as old as modern medicine. It started in the 1870’s in the United States of America and it arrived in Great Britain over 80 years ago. The first school in Britain, The British School of Osteopathy, was founded in 1917 in London.

How does osteopathy work?

Just as structural engineers undergo a lengthy training to help them understand the mechanics of bridges, dams and high rise buildings, so do osteopaths follow an extensive, four-year training including anatomy, physiology and pathology of the human body. This equips them to analyse your problems and diagnose your complaints, using a variety of clinical skills backed up where necessary by X-ray examinations and biochemical tests. Their treatment – designed to correct the faults revealed by this thorough structural investigation – is gentle and rarely causes pain. In most cases it is followed by explanation and advice to help you prevent a recurrence of your trouble. If other treatment is indicated, you will find that your osteopath will refer you to the most appropriate source of help.

How does osteopathy work with orthodox medicine?

Osteopathy does not conflict with conventional medical teaching. The conventional medical profession is in fact an amalgamation of two professions – that of physician and that of surgeon. Put simply, the primary skill of the surgeon belongs to the operating theatre; the primary skill of the physician is concerned with the prescription of therapeutic drugs. The primary skill of the osteopath is concerned with correcting faults in body mechanics. Until recently, the medical profession had not appreciated that abnormal mechanical function can cause symptoms without conventionally recognizable tissue changes.

The osteopathic approach is now accepted as an effective method, which can be used either independently or in conjunction with medical treatment. Osteopaths do not offer an alternative treatment, but are able to widen the scope of health care available to the public.

What is the scope of osteopathic practice? Where can osteopathy help?

Osteopaths treat the following conditions:

  • generalised aches and pains,
  • joint pains including hip and knee pain from osteoarthritis,
  • arthritic pain,
  • general, acute & chronic backache, back pain,
  • uncomplicated mechanical neck pain,
  • headache arising from the neck,
  • frozen shoulder / shoulder and elbow pain / tennis elbow, arising from associated musculoskeletal conditions of the back and neck,
  • circulatory problems,
  • cramp,
  • digestion problems,
  • joint pains, lumbago,
  • sciatica,
  • muscle spasms,
  • neuralgia,
  • fibromyalgia,
  • inability to relax,
  • rheumatic pain,
  • sports injuries and tensions.

What happens on a first visit to a registered osteopath?

A first consultation with a Registered Osteopath is similar to that of a Registered Medical Practitioner. The osteopath will want to know how the symptoms began and the factors, which affect them. A complete medical history will be taken, then previous illnesses and injuries and also current treatments will be noted. A Registered Osteopath is qualified to carry out a conventional examination, and to reach a diagnosis, so he may decide to make an orthopaedic, neurological or circulatory examination. X-rays, blood tests or urine analysis may be requested as well. This part of the examination is very important because patients may not have seen their doctor before hand. A Registered Osteopath is trained to identify any condition, which might require other treatment or referral to the patient’s General Practitioner.

From the outset of his training the Registered Osteopath develops a highly tuned sense of touch in his fingers. He will make a methodical assessment of the patient’s posture and structural state and conduct a detailed examination by touch. He will feel the range and quality of movement of the joints to note whether the movement is restricted or excessive. He will examine the condition of the soft tissues, the muscles, ligaments and connective tissue to see whether they are normal or under stress. In this way the Registered Osteopath builds up a structural ‘survey’ of the patient to find any deviation from the structural and mechanical harmony, which is the optimum for that individual.

How do registered osteopaths treat their patients?

Osteopaths work with their hands, but there is no standardised treatment for any condition. Just as different doctors may prescribe different tablets for the same condition, so different Registered Osteopaths may employ different techniques according to their experience and expertise and to the individual needs of the patient.
Osteopaths may use a wide variety of treatment methods from soft-tissue ‘massage’ types of technique and passive repetitive stretching movements, to improve joint mobility, to the high velocity thrust technique, which can cause a joint to click. Gentle release techniques are widely used, particularly when treating the very young or the elderly. The treatment program may include advice on posture, diet, lifestyle, or stress, as all of these may have contributed problem. Instead of treating symptoms, the osteopath is attempting to remove mechanical and other problems, which can hinder the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Osteopathic treatment is seldom painful and Registered Osteopaths will use the most gentle techniques for the case. Patients generally find treatment to be pleasant and relaxing.

Do I need to be referred by my doctor?

No, just as you don’t need a doctor’s referral to consult a dentist. However, more and more General Practitioners are referring patients to Registered Osteopaths. The standard of training laid down by the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC) gives its members the competence, which the medical profession expects.

What if I need a sick note?

An Osteopath can give you an incapacity certificate, which will usually be treated by the Department of Social Security in the same way as a GP’s certificate.

What training has an Osteopath received?

Osteopaths and orthodox medical practitioners have received a similar basic medical education. GCE’A’ level science passes to university entrance level are required before acceptance to an accredited college. Anatomy, physiology and pathology are all studied and the pre-clinical course, similar to that at orthodox schools, teaches students to examine all the systems in the body in order body in order to make a conventional clinical diagnosis. The osteopathic student however receives more advanced training in the detailed examination of the musculo-skeletal system and in the mechanics of the body and he, or she, develops the manual skills necessary for diagnosis and treatment. It costs £65,000 to train an Osteopath.

The General Osteopathic Council (GOsC) is responsible under the under the osteopaths Act 1993 for regulating, developing and promoting osteopathy in the UK. The GOsC’s statutory register formally opened on 9th May 1998.

From 9th May 2000, with the full enactment of the legislation, it is an offence for anyone practicing in the UK to claim expressly or by implication to be any kind of osteopath unless registered with the GOsC.

Does osteopathy work?

‘WHICH’ report of October 1986 suggested that osteopathy was the most widely used complementary therapy; that the majority of patients who consulted an osteopath did so because of back pain; and that nearly 90% of patients claimed to have been cured or improved by treatment.

Recognition of osteopathy?

Osteopathy is the first complementary therapy to be recognized in the UK, giving new protection to patients. On 1st July 1993 The Osteopaths Bill became law and osteopathy in the United Kingdom is now recognized as a bona fide medical treatment.

For the 5 million people in Britain who visit an osteopath each year, legislation means that they will now have the same legal protection they receive when consulting a doctor or a dentist.

How much will I have to pay for treatment?

Osteopathic treatment is not available on the National Health Service.
A consultation and treatment, which takes about half an hour, costs £45.00 Charges will be reduced to patients in cases of special need.

Why is the body framework so important to health?

The body framework, the musculo-skeletal system, is the largest system in the body. It consists primarily of the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments and connective tissue. It is the largest user of energy in the body and the largest producer of waste products.
Human life is not represented by the activity of our internal organs. We do not live lives just to digest, secrete, excrete, circulate and respire! Instead we walk, run, drive, build, speak and write; everything we undertake and achieve is expressed by the activity of our musculo-skeletal system. The other systems in the body are there to nourish, repair, maintain and organize the musculo-skeletal system and generally to serve its demands. When the body is healthy all the body systems are working harmoniously together, adapting automatically to its constantly changing needs. The osteopath’s job is to diagnose and treat faults that occur in this mechanical system due to injury, stress or any other cause and to ensure that it is functioning as efficiently as possible. When our structure is in harmony and balance, just like a well-tuned engine, it will function with minimum of wear, stress and use of energy, leaving more energy available for living.

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