Osteopathy works with the structure and function of the body.

What is Osteopathy for?

Osteopathy is based on the principle that your well-being depends upon your skeleton, muscles, ligaments and connective tissues functioning smoothly together. A recent survey of osteopathic practices underlined the wide range of patients treated…

50 % suffer low-back pain

Most back pains result from mechanical disturbances of the spine such as postural strains, joint restrictions and spinal disc injuries. Osteopathy, with it’s comprehensive approach to healthcare is a particularly successful approach to treatment.

Over half are women

Many women are working mothers and combining both aspects of their lives can give rise to many problems, from the perennial headache to musculo-skeletal disorders. Many headaches originate from stiffness and tension in the neck and osteopathic treatment can often bring relief. Pregnancy can put a strain on the whole spine and osteopathic treatment can help the body adapt to the many changes it experiences.

25 % are in their forties

Many people are losing fitness at this stage in their lives and are more prone to injury. Osteopaths consider the whole person, examining posture and the strength and flexibility of muscles, ligaments and tendons. Treatment is designed to alleviate current problems and help to prevent recurrences.

Many are retired

Pain-killers are not the only solution for the aches and pains associated with ageing. For more permanent relief it is necessary to eliminate the underlying causes of mechanical pain, a job for which the osteopath is specifically trained.

Many problems relate to work

Work, whether at a computer terminal or in heavy industry can give rise to muscle, tendon and joint discomfort, often in the back, hands and arms. Driving to work and long hours increase the pains. Osteopaths treat many conditions related to the workplace and can give advice and preventative exercises.

How is it done ?

Osteopaths use 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.. Gentle releasing techniques are often used, especially when treating children or elderly patients. (see cranial osteopathy)

What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is an established system of diagnosis and manual treatment for many conditions and is recognised by the British Medical Association as a distinct clinical discipline. G.P. referral is not required as many conventional diagnostic procedures are used during examination. In May 2000, osteopathy became the first major complementary health care profession to be afforded statutory recognition under the Osteopaths Act (1993). It is now a criminal offence for anyone to use the title “osteopath” unless registered with the General Osteopathic Council. Patients have the same safeguards as when currently they consult a doctor or dentist. Most people consult an osteopath because they have back pain, but the American Doctor who developed the treatment in the late 1800’s used it for a far wider range of symptoms. Osteopaths believe that much of the pain and disability that we suffer stems from abnormal function of the body structure. It’s 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 individual needs of the patient.


What happens on my first visit ?

On your first visit, a full medical history will be taken. An examination will be carried out (you may be asked to remove some clothing for this), and you may then be asked to perform a few simple movements so that the osteopath can assess the problem. The osteopath will use their hands to assess areas of weakness, tenderness, restriction or strain within your body. The osteopath will make a diagnosis and discuss it with you and if osteopathic treatment is suitable it will be offered to you. Treatment will be aimed at helping to restore normal joint stability and function. Osteopaths usually start treatment by releasing and relaxing muscles and stiff joints, using gentle massage techniques, rhythmic joint movements and muscle release techniques. The osteopath may also carry out manipulation using short, quick movements to spinal joints. Other techniques may also be used depending on your problem.

How many sessions will I need ?

Treatments usually last up to half an hour, and normally between 2 and 6 sessions are required. Many patients decide that they would like to have periodic preventative treatments to avoid recurring problems. Many private health insurance schemes give benefits for osteopathic treatment. Some companies reimburse the total fee that you have paid the osteopath, some only a percentage.

What’s the difference between an osteopath and a chiropractor ?

Its a question of how they handle your bones…. There are more similarities than differences between osteopathy and chiropractic. The differences can be subtle and many practitioners use the same techniques. The main difference is that chiropractors tend to work mainly on the spine, using manipulation and massage, while osteopaths work across the whole body, tending to place more emphasis on soft tissues and stretching joints. But each osteopath and chiropractor has their own unique style.

Confused ?

It is easier to understand if you realised how these kissing cousins of complementary therapy grew up. In the late 1800’s. Dr Andrew Taylor Still, the founder of osteopathy, and Daniel David Palmer, the founder of chiropractic established their therapies in Kirksville and Davenport respectively. The birth of osteopathy in 1871 and chiropractic in 1874 were separated by only three years and 100 miles.

Both Andrew Taylor Still and Daniel Palmer found their inspiration in the practice of bone-setting which had flourished in Europe for centuries. Although bonesetters were either self taught or learned by apprenticeship, their value was acknowledged by physicians and surgeons.

Bonesetters advocated the swift manipulative treatment and rapid rehabilitation. Both Still and palmer developed these ideas. The theory of joint displacements, mainly emanating from the spine, became known as osteopathic lesion and chiropractic subluxation respectively.

In Britain, osteopathy and chiropractic developed alongside each other, but while chiropractic stayed close to its American parent organisation, osteopathy drifted away from its roots. But that does not mean that the two disciplines have travelled far apart in the U.K. Infact, over the years, osteopaths and chiropractors have pinched one anothers techniques.

Ask an osteopath or chiropractor about which one to see, and many will say the best thing to do is find a practitioner who works well with you. If you are happy with a particular person then stick with them, as long as they are registered with either the GOsC or GCC – a legal requirement.

Rachel Quickenden
russell sutton osteopath