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An introduction to osteopathy

Osteopathy is a healthcare profession that works primarily via the musculoskeletal system to diagnose, treat and help patients to manage a wide range of healthcare issues.

A core principle of osteopathy is that wellbeing is dependent on how each person is able to function and adapt to changes in physical capability and their environment. Osteopaths are often described as treating the individual rather than the condition: when treating a patient they adopt a biopsychosocial approach, considering biological, psychological and social factors, instead of viewing a symptom or injury in isolation.

osteopath manipulating a patient's shoulder

Treatment is intended to aid the body's own healing systems and may include physical manipulation, stretching and massage to improve joint mobility, relieve muscle tension and improve blood and nerve supply, as well as helping patients to discover active ways of enhancing and maintaining their own health and wellbeing.

Osteopathy is a primary healthcare profession with statutory recognition. In the UK, osteopathy is regulated by the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC), and all osteopaths must be registered with GOsC before they can legally practice. Osteopaths have also recently been recognised by the NHS as an allied health profession, alongside other professions including physiotherapists, dieticians and paramedics. Osteopathy is widely practiced globally, although regulations vary from country to country.