What is osteopathy?

Over the years osteopathy has perhaps become synonymous with the treatment of spinal pain - after all, low 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 helping the functioning of important areas such as the thorax, abdomen and pelvis.

Andrew Taylor Still - the founder of osteopathy - circa 1900 (United States)

Andrew Taylor Still - the founder of osteopathy - circa 1900 (United States)

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 completely at odds with the way that an osteopath sees human beings and the way that their system functions as an integrated whole.

Osteopathy is a system of manual (meaning we largely treat with our hands) medicine, developed in the early part of the 20th century, that treats dysfunction anywhere in the human body through a focus on the musculo-skeletal 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 practiced 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.