An osteopath is an Allied Health professional who specialises in the treatment of the musculoskeletal system. Osteopaths believe that the body can heal itself if the right combination of manual techniques such as massage and the manipulation of muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons are used to bring the body back to a cohesive whole.
Osteopaths take a history of each patient including general health, previous injuries or health problems and events leading up to presentation. They observe how the patient’s body functions when they sit, stand and lie down, as well as physically examine the patient by using palpation to determine which areas of the body are healthy and which are in pain.
An osteopath also observes the spine, shoulders and determines if the pelvis is symmetrical. At the initial consultation, the osteopath will devise a treatment plan for the patient, if he or she thinks that osteopathic treatment is suitable.
If the osteopath determines that osteopathic treatment is not suitable for the patient, they can refer the patient back to their GP for further investigation who many then refer to an osteopathic surgeon, or physiotherapist instead.
Different techniques can be used in osteopathic treatment, such as the pumping technique, traction, manipulations, stretching techniques, muscle energy techniques, counterstrain techniques or high velocity-low amplitude.
Osteopaths usually treat patients who complain of headaches, bad backs, neck pain, sciatica, overuse injuries, asthma, joint pain, menstrual problems and pregnancy problems. An osteopath may be able to treat chronic fatigue as well as arthritis and sports injuries. There are also many other conditions that may benefit from treatment by an osteopath.
Osteopaths may treat a wide range of patients, from children to the elderly. They can assist pregnant women by helping to reduce back pain as well as readying the body for childbirth.
After the initial consultation, a patient may need to see the osteopath for a prescribed number of sessions to achieve the client’s goals. On the second visit the osteopath will determine via reassessment, if the initial treatment was effective, then will decide whether to continue with that specific treatment or to try a new approach.