It’s a question I get asked all the time by new patients, people I meet in business, or even my friends and family – What is an Osteopath? Put simply, Osteopathy is a recognised health care profession, albeit one of the smallest. There are only about 1700 of us across this Australia.
An Osteopath sees people with aches and pains that stem, at least partially, from structural pressures exerted on the body during life. We treat conditions affecting nerves, muscles, joints and bones with a variety of hands-on therapeutic techniques. The bofﬁn in me would describe Osteopathy as a system of musculoskeletal medicine, with its practitioners being skilled in manual examination, diagnosis, and treatment for neuromusculoskeletal issues. Some of the conditions we treat include back pain, hip pain, foot pain and work-related pain. We pride ourselves on being able to tell what’s wrong with you, and being able to do something useful to fix it.
Osteopaths use a variety of treatments
Osteopaths place a premium on the skill of clinical reasoning — the ability to tease out the relevant details of a person’s story of how they’ve become injured – and weave them into a treatment plan. That plan might involve combinations of therapies as distinct as massage, manipulation of joints, prescribed exercise, pain education or even some forms of counselling about injury and stress management.
Osteopaths are primary health care providers
In Australia, Osteopaths work as part of primary care — meaning you can see one without needing a referral and trust that they will know what to do if your problem falls within their area of expertise (the nerves, muscles, joints and bones). They will know when to refer patients to another practitioner such as a GP, a specialist, or a psychologist.
Osteopaths meet high professional standards
In Australia, Osteopaths must have a minimum of five years university training in anatomy, physiology, pathology, general medical diagnosis and osteopathic techniques. Osteopathy Australia members must be government-registered, meet high professional standards and complete annual continuing professional education to practice.
How to find an Osteopath
When choosing an Osteopath, you need to feel comfortable with them and feel able to discuss your relevant personal history and a little bit of your medical history as well. Make sure your Osteopath takes the time to explain what they think is going on, how long they think it will take to get better and what types of treatment they suggest before starting with therapy.