Osteopathy: Everything you need to know

Osteopathy is a drug-free, non-invasive manual therapy that aims to improve health across all body systems by manipulating and strengthening the musculoskeletal framework.

An osteopathic physician will focus on the joints, muscles, and spine. Treatment aims to positively affect the body’s nervous, circulatory, and lymphatic systems.

Manual medicine means that both diagnosis and treatment are carried out with the hands.

Osteopathy is a complementary therapy. It is used alongside conventional treatment to improve health. However, osteopathic physicians are also qualified as medical doctors (MDs), and they have more training than other complementary therapists, such as naturopaths. They specialize in osteopathy.

Osteopathy is one of the fastest growing healthcare professions in the United States (U.S.).

Fast facts about osteopathy

Osteopathy uses a drug-free, non-invasive form of manual medicine that focuses on the health of the whole body, not just the injured or affected part.

The osteopathic physician focuses on the joints, muscles, and spine.

Osteopathic intervention can help treat arthritis, back pain, headaches, tennis elbow, digestive issues, and postural problems.

Treatment can also assist with sleep cycles and the nervous, circulatory, and lymphatic symptoms.

What is osteopathy?

Osteopathy manipulation
Osteopathy includes manipulation or joints to treat whole systems of the body.

Osteopathy takes a holistic, whole-body approach to healthcare.

It uses manual ‘hands-on’ techniques to improve circulation and correct altered biomechanics, without the use of drugs.

An osteopathic physician does not concentrate only on the problem area, but uses manual techniques to balance all the body systems, and to provide overall good health and wellbeing.

Diagnosing and treating conditions using these techniques is called Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM).

Techniques include stretching, gentle pressure, and resistance, known as osteopathic manipulative medicine.

An osteopathic physician may also issue prescription medicine and use surgical methods to support the holistic, manual treatment.

Many osteopathic physicians also serve as primary care physicians in fields such as family medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics.

Osteopathy consultation
An osteopath will first of all fully assess a patient’s
health to work out what treatment is needed in the sessions.

People visiting an osteopath should ensure that their doctor is accredited by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and licensed to practice.

Ask to see this documentation if it is not already on display in their practice.

An individual may have a referral from a primary care physician, or they may refer themselves.

Self-referring patients should inform their regular doctor, to ensure that ongoing care is consistent.

Osteopathy is patient-centered. An initial consultation will take place before any active treatment or management begins.

During this consultation, the osteopathic physician will discuss the patient’s health problems, listen, and take case notes. The session will last approximately 45 minutes.

Physical examination

The osteopathic physician will physically examine the patient, who may need to remove some clothing to carry out the diagnosis. Patient privacy should be respected during this process.

The examination may take 1 to 2 hours.

The patient will be asked to demonstrate simple stretches and movements to help the osteopathic physician make an accurate analysis of their posture and mobility.

The doctor will also assess the health of the joints, ligaments, and tissues, using a highly trained technique of touch known as palpation.

The osteopathic physician will propose a treatment plan to meet the patient’s needs.

This will include the number of sessions likely to be needed, although this number may change depending
on the patient’s response to treatment.

Osteopathy emphasizes self-healing, so an osteopathic physician may also advise dietary changes, home exercise programs, and lifestyle adjustments.

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