What is osteopathy?

Over the years osteopathy has become synonymous with the treatment of spinal pain – after all, back pain is common, and it affects daily life dramatically.

But in reality, osteopathy also helps pain and dysfunction in other parts of the body (e.g. ankles, knees, elbows, ribs etc.), as well as assisting the functioning of essential areas such as the thorax, abdomen and pelvis.

It is important to realise that an osteopath is a generalist and not a specialist. We don’t specialise in treating one thing because that would be entirely at odds with the way that an osteopath sees human beings and the way that their body functions as an integrated whole.

Osteopathy is a system of manual medicine (meaning we mainly treat with our hands), developed in the early part of the 20th century, that treats dysfunction anywhere in the human body through a focus on the musculoskeletal system and its neurological, vascular and visceral interactions. Nowadays osteopathy is seen as one of the various forms of manual (or manipulative) therapy; however, there is a lot more to osteopathy than this. Indeed, osteopathy is quite a ‘broad church’!

The profession was established by Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917) in 1892. Osteopathy has been practised in the UK since 1917. In 1993 the Osteopaths Act was passed, making it a criminal offence for someone to call themselves an osteopath who is not registered with the General Osteopathic Council. This register came into being in May 2000.