Simply put, osteopaths treat the musculoskeletal system. They use their hands to restore balance and improve function of the joints and other parts of the musculoskeletal system. Osteopaths move, stretch, manipulate, articulate and massage muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints in careful and specific ways in order to prevent or address a number of problems.

Reasons to See an Osteopath

There are several reasons why you might want to see an osteopath. They include:

  • Chronic pain, especially in your back or neck: osteopaths take a full case history and perform orthopaedic assessments to help determine the cause of your pain. You can consult your osteopath as a primary health care giver and then can refer you on if necessary.
  • Scoliosis: this is a relatively common childhood condition. An osteopath can easily and quickly recognise signs of scoliosis and order further testing, recommend treatment and exercises or make a referral to a physician who specialises in scoliosis.
  • Chronic headaches or migraines: restriction and tightness in your neck and shoulders can be one cause of headache and migraine. Osteopaths can work through these areas to release tension and improve range of motion to help ease these symptoms. They can also perform a neurological assessment to help rule out more serious causes of headaches and migraines. manipulate to ease your symptoms. 
  • Sports or athletic injuries: osteopaths are trained to treat all sorts of sports injuries and strains. They can also use supportive techniques such as taping or bracing to enable you to return to sport as quickly as possible.

Techniques used by osteopaths

Regularly osteopaths use their hands to treat the body. 

Massage
Soft tissue or massage techniques can be used to release tension in muscles and improve circulation and drainage.

Muscle Energy Technique
This is when they use an isometric contraction followed by a relaxation to produce a reflex lengthening of the muscle which in turn provides more give and movement at the joint.

Joint manipulation

Osteopaths are training in joint manipulation, a technique which introduces a high velocity but low amplitude thrust to a joint in order to improve movement and stimulate the associated spinal nerve.

Dry needling
Dry needling is another beneficial technique used by osteopaths.  It uses very fine needles that target trigger points in your muscles. By targeting and activating these trigger points, dry needling provides relief from tension and tightness. It can be used to treat a number of problems, including strains from repetitive motion (as in sports), chronic pain (especially back pain), and other problems with the spine.

Cupping
Osteopaths also regularly use cupping. It has a very long history and ancient roots. Essentially, cups are applied to the body (using suction) at various points, which helps release and relax muscles, activate lymphatic drainage, stretch deep layers of fascia, and release tension in tendons, muscles, ligaments, and more. 

As you can see, osteopaths administer many important and useful therapies to their patients. They are carefully trained, and accredited. Because they have a large choice in the techniques that they use, osteopaths can tailor the treatment and technique choice to suit the individual and the problem that they present with. 

Osteopathic qualifications in Australia

Osteopathy is a recognised treatment that can be helpful for many conditions. In  Australia osteopaths must complete a five year bachelor degree and be registered as an allied health practitioner under AHPRA (Australia Health Practitioner Regulation Agency). Registered osteopaths are then also recognised by the Osteopathy Board of Australia.