Osteopathy is a form of manual healthcare which recognises the important link between the structure of the body and the way it functions.
Osteopaths focus on how the skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves, circulation, connective tissue and internal organs function as a holistic unit.
Using skilled evaluation, diagnosis and a wide range of hands-on techniques, osteopaths can identify important types of dysfunction in your body. 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. Osteopaths may also give advice on nutrition and rehabilitation exercises where appropriate.
In Australia, osteopaths are government registered practitioners who complete minimum accredited university training in anatomy, physiology, pathology, general healthcare diagnosis and osteopathic techniques.
Osteopaths are primary healthcare practitioners and are trained to recognise conditions that require medical referral. They are also trained to perform standard examinations of the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, respiratory and nervous systems.
Osteopathy is covered by most private health funds and by Medicare’s Chronic Disease Management (CDM) Plans. Osteopaths are registered providers for DVA patients, as well as by ReturnToWorkSA and motor accident insurers.
A recent study (Burke et al, 2013), shows that Australian osteopaths mainly see patients with acute or sub-acute musculoskeletal problems which are predominantly spinal conditions. A significant proportion of these patients have one or more co-existing conditions, largely of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, along with mental health disorders. The majority of patients have a significant improvement within few treatments, with infrequent and minor adverse events reported.
Burke SR, Myers R, Zhang AL. (2013) A profile of osteopathic practice in Australia 2010-1011: a cross sectional survey. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders.
What to expect when you visit an Osteopath
During your first consultation, your Osteopath will ask questions and conduct a full osteopathic and orthopaedic examination. You will normally be asked to remove some of your outer layers of clothing, depending on the area of your body requiring treatment. Following osteopathic treatment, your Osteopath may need additional investigations such as x-ray, scans or blood tests. This will allow a full diagnosis and suitable treatment plan to be developed for you. If needed, your Osteopath may refer you on to another health professional.
Do you need a referral from your GP?
Many patients are referred to Osteopaths by their Doctor, other health practitioners or personal trainers. However, as Osteopaths are primary practitioners, you can make an appointment without a referral.
Under the Chronic Disease Management Program, many clients with chronic conditions can have up to 5 treatments per year part covered by Medicare. In these cases, you will need a referral from your GP.
How long will your treatment take?
Your initial consultation may last up to one hour because it includes a thorough case history and examination as well as treatment. Follow-up treatments are usually a little shorter. Depending on your condition, they can take up to 30 minutes.
What do you need to bring?
Your osteopath will ask to see any X-rays, scans or test results that you may have. Your osteopath may ask you to undress to your underwear depending on the area of your body requiring treatment. Therefore you may want to wear loose pants or bring a pair of shorts if this would make you more comfortable.