What is an Osteopath?


There is often confusion about the role of an osteopath, chiropractor and physiotherapist.  Here, Paul O’Keefe gives us the low down on Osteos:

What is an osteopath?

Osteopaths are primary healthcare practitioners who focus on how the skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves, circulation, connective tissue and internal organs function as a holistic unit.

Osteopathy is built on the principle that the body’s structure governs it function. That is, if the muscles are relaxed and loose and the joints aren’t stiff then the body can move more freely, the lymphatics can move more freely, circulation is unimpeded and therefore the body is in an optimal state to operate properly and heal itself.

Osteopaths undertake rigorous training to meet the standards of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. In order to be registered in Australia, Osteopaths complete a 5-year double degree in clinical and health sciences and as qualified practitioners osteopaths must meet ongoing Continuing Professional Development obligations.

What conditions does an osteopath treat?

Osteopaths treat and manage a broad range of ailments of the musculoskeletal, vascular, visceral (organ) and nervous systems. The most commons issues they treat are: neck and back pain, sports injuries, headaches, postural problems, occupational injuries, sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, arthritis, knee and foot pain.

What doesn’t an osteopath treat?  

Osteopaths are expertly trained to know when to refer their patients to other health professionals including GPs for further assessment. In addition, osteopaths often refer patients directly for appropriate radiological tests (xrays) if they believe this is necessary.

What techniques does an osteopath use?

Osteopathic treatment uses techniques such as stretching and massage for general treatment of the soft tissues (muscles, tendons and ligaments) along with mobilisation of specific joints and soft tissues.

Why would I visit an osteopath as opposed to a physio or chiro?

Osteopaths focus on the whole body, its structure and how the muscles, bones, ligaments, blood supply etc. function and work together. It is this holistic approach, as opposed to just solely focusing on the injury or problem area that differentiates many osteopaths, however in modern practice there often is significant overlapping of osteopathy and physiotherapy.