What is Osteopathy

Osteopathy is government registered form of healthcare that involves treatment of the body through manipulation of the musculoskeletal system. It is a form of drug-free, non-invasive manual therapy that recognises the important link between the body’s structure and the way it functions. Osteopaths can diagnose and treat a variety of conditions in people of all ages and backgrounds.

Osteopaths use a broad range of hands on treatment techniques to help reduce pain and improve movement in the body, allowing it to function at a more optimal level.  Techniques involved can be soft tissue work, stretching, joint manipulation, muscle, facial and visceral release techniques and a range of gentle balancing techniques. Osteopaths also give exercises and home management plans when required.

In Australia

In Australia Osteopathy has been practiced for over 100 years and today has grown as a recognised primary healthcare profession which utilise a combination of traditional methods and modern scientific philosophies. Osteopaths in Australia complete a minimum of five years university (double bachelor or masters degree) training in anatomy, physiology, pathology, general medical diagnosis and osteopathic theory and techniques.

Osteopaths almost exclusively work in private practice and consultations are subsidised by the majority of private health insurers, as well as Medicare under the Enhanced Primary Care program for patients who are eligible. 

Osteopaths must partake in at least 25 hours of ongoing professional development and education every year to maintain their registration with the Osteopathy Board of Australia, a subsection of the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency.

History and Philosophy

Osteopathy originated in the mid-late 1800’s by an American physician Dr. A.T Still, who had felt that allopathic medicine of the time was flawed, and that to find the answer to many ailments, one had to look deeper at the human body, studying the connection between anatomy and physiology to truly understand what’s happening to the body when disease is present. Through this approach, he discovered how to best treat the patient, wherever possible without the use of drugs and surgery.

Osteopaths approach treatment and management of patients with philosophies instilled from Dr. A.T Still and his many successors since, believing that rational treatment is based by the following three principles:

  1. The body is a unit. This may seem like common sense, but it is a fact often neglected in patient diagnosis and treatment. Every cell in the body is connected, and hence injury at one site can have effect on any other tissue in the body, either local or distal. This occurs through chemical imbalance, change in blood flow/dynamics and postural/movement compensations. Osteopaths use their intimate knowledge of the body to try and find the initial cause of the problem, not just diagnose the site of pain.
  1. Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated. This is why osteopaths choose to treat the musculoskeletal system. When a structure is restricted, through tension or misalignment, then the function of that structure and those around can be impacted. The same also happens in reverse, where a structure has to change shape to accommodate the change in function. It is through this concept that osteopaths diagnose and treat the body, removing what restrictions they can in joint, muscles and fascia (connective tissue), allowing impeded function to restore itself to normal.
  1. The body has an inherent capacity for self-maintenance, self-regulation and self-healing. Through the past centuries leaps and bounds in medical science, we know this to be true (although at the time of Osteopathy’s inception, the immune system was not yet discovered), yet the extent to which this is true is phenomenal. When stimulus and obstacles are removed, the body knows where it needs to be and how to get there. Osteopaths are fully aware of this and believe that through treating the imbalances they find, that the healing ability of the body will do all the true preservation work for them. It is the job of the clinician to remind the body of where it wants to be, to find the health, rather than letting the body remain stuck in a memory of compensation, an altered state of normal.