Osteopathy involves physical manipulation of the body, stretching and massaging the muscles to tr y to treat illness – most often musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain, neck pain, ar thritis and spor ts related injuries. Some osteopaths also treat other non-musculoskeletal problems.
The theor y behind osteopathy is that health relies on the skeleton, muscles and connective tissues of the body all working smoothly together.
The manipulation aims to relieve muscle tension, improve movement of the joints and increase blood supply to the affected area encouraging the body to heal itself.
Osteopathy generally isn’t painful but you might feel sore or stif f for a few days after treatment. Extremely rarely, osteopathy has been linked to serious complications after spinal manipulation of the neck, including stroke. Osteopathy is not recommended for people at increased risk of damage to the bones, ner ves or other tissues, so it may not be suitable if you have a fracture, osteoporosis, cancer or other conditions. Your osteopath should take a histor y and discuss any risks with you.
There is some evidence that osteopathy may help some joint pains and the National Institute for Health Care and Excellence (NICE) recommends manual manipulation therapy, which includes osteopathy, for lower back pain. However there is no current evidence that it works for non-musculoskeletal conditions.
Osteopathy is not generally available on the NHS, though it may be in some areas. It is regulated by law; only qualified practitioners are allowed to call themselves osteopaths and must be registered with the General Osteopathic Council.
Evidence of helping joint pain