What is Osteopathy?

If you wondering if Osteopathy is for you, or would simply like to learn more – we’ve provided an outline to help you understand the treatment and how it works.

Osteopathy is a legacy based on the initial work of Dr Taylor Still (1828-1917) who was the first physician to recognise fully that the relationship between the structure (anatomy) and function (physiology) of the body are counteractive without each other, and that this reciprocal relationship is vital to physical and mental well-being of the human body.

As a profession, it is regulated by the General Osteopathic Council, and all osteopaths must be registered in order to practise. The course takes 4 years of full time study to complete.

Who can osteopathy help?
It can be used to treat many issues including:

  • Back and neck pain
  • Joint pain
  • Sports injuries
  • Posture during pregnancy
  • Muscle spasms
  • Sciatica
  • Tension
  • Headaches

Osteopathy is a manual therapy using various methods to identify and treat areas of the body, which are not moving properly, leading to pain, dysfunction or injury. It is part of the primary health care system, and can be complementary to other medical practise.

It utilises numerous clinical methods of investigation to diagnose and identify mechanical problems of the body, which involve bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, discs, nerves, connective tissue and organs (viscera), that may be the cause of restricted body movements and chronic or acute pain.

It can help to contribute to the treatment and management of a wide range of conditions, and generally focuses on treating the neuro-muscular-skeletal system, using a patient-centered approach. Any loss of mobility can cause an imbalance in your state of health; which does not only affect joints, but also nerves, ligaments and internal organs at the site of the problem, along with elsewhere in your body.

There are a number of principles behind osteopathy, ideas such as the body contains self healing mechanisms that can be utilised as part of the treatment, and that no part of the body works, or can be considered, in isolation. Psychological and social factors also form part of the process leading to diagnosis and treatment plan.

The key tools for this are listening to the patients history, observing movements actively and passively, assessing the muscles and joints, which will then lead to a wide range of non-invasive manual techniques such as deep tissue massage, stretching, joint articulation and manipulation.

These techniques help to reduce pain, increase mobility of joints, relieve muscular tension and enhance blood supply to tissues, encouraging the body’s own healing mechanisms. They may also provide advice on lifestyle issues, posture, diet and exercise to help conditions reoccur.

Interested or looking for more information?

If you’d like to know more or would like help deciding how appropriate Osteopathy might be for you, contact me today.


Conditions treated by Osteopathy

The information provided below explains in more detail how Osteopathic treatment can be used to remedy common ailments.

Back & Neck Pain

Aches and pains in these areas are likely to be the most common complaint osteopaths deal with on a daily basis. These symptoms can be caused through desk-based positions, sports, driving, lifting children, sleeping awkwardly or a variety of others reasons.

Presentations of this can be focused around pain, limited movement of an area in the spine, neurological symptoms into the extremities, headaches, or mechanical back pain.

Each presentation may have a variety of causes and triggers, and can be aggravated by a variety of things. The level of pain can affect day-to-day activities, and can be a barrier to excelling in sports.

Osteopathic treatment can be extremely successful in the treatment of this, after a detailed case history, examination and diagnosis to determine the cause of the pain. This may mean an assessment of your position at work or in your sport.

Tennis/Golfers Elbow

Contrary to what the name suggests, this is not a condition only associated with these sports. It is a type of repetitive strain injury (RSI) created when the wrist is repeatedly extended in sports, occupation or daily activities. The condition can have a sudden onset, or symptoms may build up over a period of time; causing pain in the elbow, forearm, wrist and hand and can potentially leave the hand with a weakened grip.

Osteopathy can help to relieve these symptoms with soft tissue massage, manipulations, stretches and advice on self-help. As with any injury, a treatment and management plan can be devised to help relieve and prevent further injury, and to aid recovery. These conditions often respond particularly well to osteopathy.

Sports Injuries

The key with sports injuries is to determine the actions performed in that sport, and at which part of that action the body is compromised, overloaded or compensating for other body parts-and therefore may lead to injury. Common sports injuries seen are torn and strained ligaments, inflamed tendons, repetitive strains, or muscle and joint pain.

The treatment plan is designed specific to that sport, aid recovery, improves mobility and strength in the musculoskeletal system, and most importantly to rehabilitate and prevent re-occurrence of injury. The main goal is to return you to your sport as quickly, but safely as possible. Treatment involves assessment of the joints, soft tissue massage, and manipulations, exercise, with emphasis on rehabilitation specific to the sport.

Muscle/Tendon Pain

Muscles and tendons can become sore through a variety of reasons. The most common is post exercise, with Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS). This is due to the exertion of energy through the muscle in an activity, and there is some soreness in the muscle in the following days after the activity. Other causes of muscle soreness can be a sudden awkward movement, in lifestyle or in sport, trauma, inflammation or poor posture.

Treatment can be focused directly towards the aggravated tissue, but also above and below the area. Before treatment occurs, a full assessment takes place to determine the predisposing factors to injury, and also to highlight any areas of the body which may be maintaining the pain- and therefore contributing to the symptoms. Treating in this way helps to prevent re-occurrence of injury.

Specific treatment can involve soft tissue massage and manipulations of the muscle to improve blood flow, lymphatic drainage to encourage flushing of toxins, active and passive stretches to develop help the muscle fibres, and prescribed exercises to continue treatment yourself at home. These techniques help to promote good tissue health, and relax sore muscles.

Pregnancy Posture

As the body changes through pregnancy, the body has to travel through a period of adaptation in a relatively short amount of time. Laxity of the ligaments increases, as a natural process, to allow for these changes, which can affect the kypho-lordotic curves in the spine. Consequently, this put strains and excessive load on the certain parts of the body.

Osteopathic care can help to relieve symptoms of pain through manual physical therapy, but also to advise on exercises to develop core strength and maintain a good posture. Treatment will assess whether the pelvis and spine are functioning correctly, which can help to relieve the tension in the surrounding muscles.

Joint/Arthritic Pain

There are various reasons joint become inflamed and painful; the most common being osteoarthritis, also referred to as ‘wear and tear’. This is a condition that cannot be “fixed” by osteopathy, but symptoms can be significantly reduced, range of movement can improve and pain can be reduced in the affected joint.

The treatment is very gentle, with small articulations of the joint in a pain free range, to allow the fluid in/around the joint to nourish the area. Treatment can assist with pain management and return to activity.


This is a common presentation, and is when the sciatic nerve become irritated, causing pain in areas such as the lower back, buttocks, down the posterior part of the leg. This can lead to neurological symptoms such as pins and needles, tingling or numbness into the back of the thigh and calf- and sometimes into the foot.

The causes of sciatica can vary depending on lifestyle. Common causes are degeneration of the spine, disc injury, inflammation around the root of the nerve, or muscle spasms along the path of the nerve.The goal is to reduce the irritation of the nerve, therefore relieving the symptoms. This is achieved by using techniques such as soft tissue massage, articulations (movement) of the lumbar spine, exercises on developing core strength to assist in improving posture, and manipulations to help improve the movement available in the lumbar spine.

These techniques are employed after a full examination of the spine in active and passive ranges and neurological testing, to confirm the diagnosis of sciatica.

Tension Headaches/Migraines

There are many causes of headaches, and a whole variety of types. A common cause is through tension of the muscles or joints in the neck, also known as Cervicogenic headaches. These can be associated to posture, work position, sleep position, sport, or stress.

After a thorough case history to rule out any causes that may be non-mechanical, a diagnosis will be made. There is a wide range of treatments that can be used to help relieve these symptoms. Osteopathic treatment has been known to effectively treat tension headaches with gentle traction of the neck, articulation of the joints in the thoracic and cervical spine, soft tissue massage to the shoulders, neck, base of the skull and scalp, and manipulation.

The assessments performed prior to treatment allow an osteopath to decide on the correct aftercare specific to you, to help maintain postural balance and avoid postural fatigue.