What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is an established recognised system of diagnosis and treatment that lays its main emphasis on the structural integrity of the body.

It is distinctive in the fact that is 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 diseases.

Osteopathy uses many of the diagnostic procedures involved in standard 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.

Founded by American Dr. Andrew Taylor Still in 1874, Osteopathy is a system of manual medicine that emphasizes normal body mechanics and manipulation to correct faulty body structures.

Osteopaths are highly trained, healthcare professionals, regulated by law and recognised as one of the Allied Health Professions by NHS England.

Osteopathic care is safe and effective, and aims to promote the health of people, though the use of manual therapy, exercise and health advice. It is suitable for all ages, from babies to the elderly. Osteopathy not only takes in the physical symptoms but the lifestyle, attitudes and current health of the patient.

Osteopaths diagnose the cause of pain and can often do a great deal to help reduce the level of your pain and suffering.

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What is Cranial Osteopathy?

Cranial Osteopathy is a gentle and subtle extension of osteopathic principles. It has a wide range of applications, from working with newborn babies, through to the complex results of whiplash injury, to many painful conditions in the frail and elderly.


Your Pain

But what directly causes the pain? Often, it is the result of localized swelling of injured tissue, which creates pressure on nerves.

  • Low back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Rheumatic pain
  • Period pain
  • Pain from injury
  • Sports injury
  • Arthritic pain
  • Joint stiffness
  • Leg pain

Whatever your pain, the skilled diagnostic and therapeutic techniques of osteopathy can allow you a speedy return to normal activity. If you have had the pain for a long time and other forms of treatment have not helped, osteopathic treatment, with its unique insights, may be beneficial, although it may require time and patience. The Osteopath will look at how your whole body functions and so be able to reduce strain on the painful area caused by mechanical problems elsewhere.

There are times when it is wise for you to take medication as well as receiving osteopathic treatment. Osteopaths frequently work in close co-operation with your doctor.


Why an Osteopath?

Osteopaths help to reduce tissue inflammation as well as diagnose and treat subtle dysfunction in the nervous system that can cause hidden problems in muscle function and other aspects of the body that can be hard to uncover by other health professionals not trained to do so. By uncovering these significant underlying causes of pain and dysfunction Osteopaths are often able to restore normal health and function.

Much long-term, recurrent pain is caused by degenerative changes to the body’s framework. Nobody can reverse the process of ageing, but many Osteopaths are experts in coaching you in life style changes that have been proven to significantly slow down and even reverse disability and frailty associated with the ageing process. Osteopathic treatment using gentle, manual techniques on joints, muscles and ligaments may often ease pain, reduce swelling and improve the mobility and range of joint movement. Pain control is an important part of treatment and Osteopaths give guidance on simple self-help methods to use at home.

“96% of respondents to a recent survey, commissioned by the General Osteopathic Council the professions state regulation body, were satisfied or very satisfied with their osteopathic care[i]”.

“50.4%of patients who visited an osteopath had been experiencing symptoms for 13 weeks or more, but 61.1% of people were seen within three days of requesting an osteopathic appointment.[ii]

“Over 50% of patients reported an Improvement in their symptoms one week after osteopathic treatment and 73% reported an improvement in their symptoms at 6 weeks post-treatment.[iii]


  • Osteopaths are skilled Allied Health Health care professionals
  • Osteopaths deal with pain every day.
  • UK Osteopaths treat well over six million people every year who are suffering from pain.
  • Osteopaths can help you both with treatment and advice on self-help.
  • Osteopaths treat acute pain.
  • Osteopaths treat chronic pain
  • Osteopaths work to prevent pain recurring.


What to expect when visiting an Osteopath

Osteopaths undergo Master level rigorous 4-5 year undergraduate training and on-going continual professional development throughout their professional life. They are highly trained, skills professionals, who are trained in diagnosing health issues, including those that may require further investigation.

When you visit an osteopath for the first time a full case history will be taken and you will be given an examination. All information will be treated as confidential in accordance with standards of practice set out by the General Osteopathic Council, Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) May 2018.

It is natural in most circumstances to worry about your symptoms and the cause. You can be confident that your Osteopath will always complete a routine examination that checks for more serious diagnoses and will advise and discuss with you any further action that might be required.

You will normally be asked to remove some of your clothing and to perform a simple series of movements. The Osteopath will then use his or her highly developed sense of touch, called palpation and other simple tests, to identify any points of weakness or excessive strain throughout the body.

The Osteopath may need additional investigations such as x-ray or blood tests. This will allow a full diagnosis and suitable treatment plan to be developed with you. Osteopathy is patient centred, which means the treatment is geared to you as an individual.

After the examination, your Osteopath will discuss your treatment options with you, and you will then jointly decide an appropriate and suitable treatment plan, and the likely associated costs. This plan may involve several visits, and very occasionally, further tests and/or referrals to another appropriate health care professional.

Your treatment may begin at your first appointment. You may experience mild discomfort afterwards, but in most cases this will pass within 24 hours. If you have any concerns about your treatment you are encouraged to discuss them further with your Osteopath.

If you wish, you are more than welcome to bring someone with you to your consultation.



Many private health insurance schemes give benefit for osteopathic treatment. Some companies will reimburse the total fee that you have paid to the Osteopath, some only a percentage. Most companies require a GP or specialist referral. All insurance companies have help lines to explain your actual benefit and methods of claiming. However in order to save money, some private’s health Insurance companies have, recently, started to make changes to their offer that are no longer acceptable to many Osteopaths. Check with your Osteopath to see which insurance companies they are happy to deal with.


Osteopath and Patient Protection

Osteopaths are trained to recognize and treat many causes of pain. Osteopathy is an established system of diagnosis and manual treatment, which is recognized by the British Medical Association as a discrete clinical discipline.

In 1993 Osteopathy gained statutory recognition under the 1993 Osteopaths Act. This culminated in the opening of the Statutory Register of Osteopaths by the General Osteopathic Council in May 1998. Osteopathy, like dentistry and medicine, is a fully regulated, closed profession and only those on the General Osteopathic Council Register can, by law, call themselves Osteopaths. All Osteopaths need to have medical malpractice insurance and to follow a strict code of conduct.

Patients have the same safeguards as when they consult a doctor or dentist.


Quality in Osteopathic Practice

Osteopathy is very safe and well regarded by patients. This report on Quality in Osteopathic Practice from the Institute of Osteopathy brings together existing research around the patient experience, the clinical effectiveness and the safety of osteopathic practice.

If you have other questions that we have not answered here, don’t hesitate to contact us!

Here at Helix House our resident Osteopaths are Clive Lindley-JonesSusan Farwell and Yan-Chee Yu


i, ii, iii Quality in Osteopathic Practice