Osteopathy, which was developed in the United States in the 1880s, arrived in the UK in the early 1900s. Today there are almost 5,000 osteopaths registered with the General Osteopathic Council, who carry out more than 7 million consultations every year.

One of the earliest colleges of osteopathy in the United States developed four ‘osteopathic precepts’ that provide a useful insight into what osteopathy is. First: “the body is a unit”. That is, the human body does not function as a collection of separate parts but an integral whole. Second: “structure and function are interrelated”. Any body part carries out a function that is dictated by its structure. Third: “the body possesses self-regulatory mechanisms”, which includes hormonal pathways. Lastly, “the body has the inherent capacity to defend and repair itself”.

Osteopathy is considered to be useful in treating a wide range of musculoskeletal problems ranging from back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain to other muscle and joint problems. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence currently recommends osteopathy for treating chronic lower back pain.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association in March 2014 (Degenhardt et al. 2014), assessed current use of osteopathy and associated patient-reported outcomes. In other words, it looked at what people were using osteopathy for and whether it was helping them. Having looked at almost 3000 clinic visits, the study concluded that osteopathy was mainly used for managing musculoskeletal pain and that it was most effective for short-term symptom relief.

On average, 92% of patients either felt better or much better immediately after a treatment, with 72% of patients still reporting feeling better of much better after a week. There is still plenty of research to be done on the effects of osteopathy, particularly in non musculoskeletal-related illnesses (asthma, anxiety, depression), so if you have musculoskeletal pain, osteopathy might be a useful option.

To seek an osteopath in the York area, see: http://www.yorkclinic.com/therapies/osteopathy.aspx


Degenhardt, BF., et al. 2014. Preliminary findings on the use of osteopathic manipulative treatment: outcomes during the formation of the practice-based research network, DO-Touch.NET., in Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. Vol.114(3).