What Is Osteopathy & How Can It Help Me?

By Philip Austin (Osteopath)

Have you ever considered if Osteopathy could be right for you? In this post I’ll firstly explain what Osteopathy is, and how it may help you.

Osteopathy is a form of manual medicine that is based on the concept that disease is related to problems in the musculoskeletal system. Core principles involve the reciprocal connection between the structure and function of the body both concerning regional problems and the body as a whole. Osteopathy also complements other health care professions and is valuable in the management of a broad range of musculoskeletal conditions.

Taking a detailed case history is essential to osteopathic evaluation where relationships may be made between the patient’s presenting symptoms and other medical and psychosocial problems. During an examination, osteopaths will observe patients’ general posture and movement as well as examine ranges of motion in structures local, adjacent and distant to the area of symptoms. Findings from an examination may also be established with imaging techniques such as X-ray and other clinical investigations such as blood tests.

Once a diagnosis has been made and the patient is considered safe to treat, a wide range of non-invasive techniques are applied. Treatments include deep and superficial soft tissue techniques, joint articulation and manipulation on muscles, tendons and ligaments as well as mobilisation of specific joints. Furthermore, an osteopath can also recommend complementary assessment and treatment from other healthcare professionals that can help with other factors either raised in the case history or that become apparent during the management of the patient.

Osteopaths treat disorders such as back and neck pain, tension-type headache, joint pain, osteoarthritis, repetitive strain injuries (RSI) and sciatica.

Is osteopathy effective?

You may wonder if osteopathy is affective and what types of conditions it can successfully treat. A good deal of scientific research and many randomized controlled trials have shown that osteopathy is an excellent option for back pain, especially lower back pain. For example, one study found that osteopathy was extremely effective at alleviating lower back pain for new mothers who had just given birth. After only four OMT treatments, participants reported an impressive 73% decrease in their pain levels on average. The control group (who received no osteopathic treatment) only reported a 7% decrease.

Other studies have shown that osteopathic treatments promoted restoration of shoulder injuries, provided general pain relief, encouraged healing of sprained ankles and is also shown to be effective at alleviating the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. In addition, other research suggests that osteopathy could be a palliative measure for headaches and migraines.

The effects of stress on the body

When we experience physical or emotional stresses our body tissues tend to tighten up generally, but more especially around the neck and shoulders. The body is able to adapt to these effects initially, but a lasting strain within soft tissues often remain. As such, any remaining tension can restrict its free movement both in muscles and associated joints. Gradually the body may find it more and more difficult to cope with accumulated stresses and symptoms may develop. Thus, osteopaths focus on the whole person from a biopsychosocial perspective that includes medical issues, work and social life stresses and psychological function.


In Australia, osteopaths are university trained in anatomy, physiology, pathology, general medical diagnosis and osteopathic techniques. Osteopaths are trained to recognise conditions that require medical referral and are also trained to carry out standard medical examinations of the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, abdominal and nervous systems.

Osteopathy is covered by most private health funds and the Chronic Disease Management (CDM) scheme. Osteopaths are also registered providers for workers compensation schemes, motor accident insurers and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

  • Dr Philip Austin Osteopath

    Meet Dr Philip Austin, one of our highly experienced and skilled Osteopaths. Phil’s key areas of expertise are in treating musculo-skeletal pain including back, neck and shoulder pain, tension headaches and frozen shoulder. He also consults to our corporate clients in ergonomics. Phil has a PhD in Pain Medicine and offers effective treatment and information to get your pain under control.

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