Osteopathy is a regulated healthcare profession in the UK. It is also recognized by the Health and Care Professions Council as a profession allied to medicine like physiotherapy or chiropody. Osteopaths must be registered with the General Osteopathic Council and patients can check their osteopath’s registration online. Training to be an osteopath in the UK requires the successful completion of a 4-year full-time university degree.
Osteopathy, also known as osteopathic medicine, was founded by Dr Andrew Taylor Still, an American physician in the 19th century. Osteopathic philosophy gives a holistic approach to health and stresses the importance of the musculoskeletal system in a person’s health and well-being. The aim of treatment is to support the body’s self-healing capacity.
Because osteopaths believe that there may be a musculoskeletal link in many conditions, osteopathy may also help with a wider range of disorders. Your osteopath can devise a strategy of treatment that takes your whole musculoskeletal system into account. Attention is also given to other systems of the body – such as the circulatory, nervous and lymphatic systems – since these all play significant roles in the healing process.
Hands-on osteopathic treatment
An osteopath focuses on your whole body, including the soft tissues (such as muscles, ligaments and tendons), the spine and nervous system, and may use a variety of different hands-on methods, including:
Soft tissue massage techniques
Articulation – gentle rhythmic joint movements
Stretching muscles and joint capsules
Muscle energy techniques – encouraging muscles to work against resistance
Visceral manipulation – gentle movement of the abdominal and pelvic areas
As osteopathic techniques include a gentle approach, they can be suitable for many people, from the newborn to the older person, and for those with complex medical problems.
Lifestyle and environmental factors
Although osteopathy is best known as a form of hands-on medicine, osteopaths may also refer you on to other healthcare providers, and are able to offer advice on injury prevention, pain management and rehabilitation programs.
Osteopathy encourages you to take responsibility for your own long-term health and wellbeing, and can help you find out which lifestyle and environmental factors may be contributing to your condition. These may include poor posture, stress or the need for ergonomic furniture.
An osteopath may work out a range of treatments, including individual exercise routines, relaxation techniques or body awareness sessions, which show you how to move your body in gentler ways.
In some disorders – such as prolapsed discs, joint infections or bone disease – manipulation may not be appropriate. Your osteopath will ask you about your medical history so they can treat you in the context of your overall health.
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