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Osteopathy has been around since the late 1880’s and has developed alongside physiotherapy and chiropractic as an established physical therapy, proving very effective in the relief of all sorts of physical conditions and injuries. However Greek physicians like Hippocrates are believed to have been the first practitioners of physical therapy, advocating massage, spinal manipulation and manual therapy techniques and hydrotherapy to treat people as far back as 460 BC. One could also argue that ‘Bonesetters’ documented in history since the middle ages in Europe were akin to the osteopaths and physiotherapists of today.

Osteopathy in Europe compared to the US is viewed as perhaps more in tune with the original principles of Osteopathy which view the human state as truly integrated  and interrelated with the inate ability to self regulate, protect and heal. In short osteopathy attempts to influence this ‘self help’ system using physical therapy to re-balance body systems to help with both longstanding ailments and acute injuries.

Osteopathy is a regulated and protected profession and all osteopaths are required to complete a 4 – 5 year degree course which includes in depth study of anatomy,physiology and pathophysiology and intensive clinical training.

All osteopaths are required to have full public liability insurance and are bound by a duty of care (see links to GoSC)to provide a safe, non prejudiced and professional approach to healthcare whilst keep their professional knowledge up to date.

Here is how some other healthcare professionals describe osteopathy:

British Medical Association, information for GPs

To qualify, an osteopath must study for four to five years for an undergraduate degree. This is similar to a medical degree, with more emphasis on anatomy and musculoskeletal medicine and includes more than 1,000 hours of training in osteopathic techniques. By law, osteopaths must register with the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC). It is an offence for anyone to call themselves an osteopath if they are not registered. The British Medical Association’s guidance for general practitioners states that doctors can safely refer patients to osteopaths.

The BMA’s policy on referral emphasises the need for increased awareness amongst medical students and highlights the value of post graduate education for health care professionals. Also emphasised is awareness that all practitioners providing treatment in the discrete disciplines of osteopathy and chiropractic have attained high levels of education and competence.



Published by Bupa’s health information team, July 2009.

This factsheet is for people who are planning to have osteopathy, or who would like information about it.Osteopathy is a manual therapy mainly used for treating problems associated with bones, joints and the back. It focuses on the structure and function of the body.

Your care will be adapted to meet your individual needs and may differ from what is described here. So it’s important that you follow your osteopath’s advice.

About osteopathy

Osteopathy is used to diagnose, treat and prevent joint, muscle and ligament (musculoskeletal) conditions and the effects of these on a person’s general health. Osteopaths believe that strengthening the musculoskeletal system helps your body to heal itself and prevent illness.

Osteopaths claim that osteopathy is holistic and doesn’t just treat the symptoms of a condition. It takes into account your medical history, lifestyle and personal circumstances.

Many health problems are thought to be caused by poor posture and misalignment of muscles and joints. Osteopaths suggest that if the structure of your body is improved, the function of your body will also improve, problems will be alleviated and you will return to good health.

Osteopathy is used as a complementary treatment (one given alongside conventional treatments). It’s used for several health conditions including:

  • low back pain
  • neck pain
  • arthritis
  • sports injuries
  • restricted mobility
  • occupational ill health

Meeting your needs

Your care will be adapted to meet your individual needs and may differ from what is described here. So it’s important that you follow your osteopath’s advice.