Osteopaths are healthcare professionals who diagnose, treat and provide preventative advice on the musculo-skeletal system of the body, using manual techniques to alleviate stresses to improve the body's function. They work on the principle that the well-being of a pe4rson is dependent on the skeleton, muscles, ligaments and connective tissue all functioning smoothly together.
Osteopaths diagnose a patient’s complaints using information from their case history, including general health, specific symptoms and other details, and by performing a physical examination by using a highly refined sense of touch (palpation) to identify any restricted, weak or strained areas of the body. Further information is obtained by assessing the patient's general posture and checking for restrictions or tension in joints or muscles by asking the patient to perform a series of active movements, and by referring to and interpreting digital imagery generated by scanning techniques such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CT scans, ultrasound and x-rays. Laboratory tests may be performed, the blood pressure taken and other physical assessments made as necessary. After making a working diagnosis, treatment is planned together with the patient. Osteopathic treatments often involve working with the hands using soft tissue techniques, gentle release techniques and other appropriate methods of treatment, such as cranial osteopathy.
They treat patients using a variety of manual techniques, touch, physical manipulation, soft tissue stretching, muscle relaxation, gentle mobilisation and massage. The aim is to increase the mobility of the joints, to relieve muscle tension and boost the amount of blood supplied to the tissues. They provide lifestyle advice on posture, eating, exercise and relaxation, in order to help the patients to recover faster and to prevent the problems from occurring again.
Osteopaths treat biomechanical complaints, such as backaches, general joint problems, sports injuries, headache, arthritis, asthma, stress and repetitive strain injuries, digestive disorders, some breathing problems and a wide range of general medical complaints. They also treat children for the after-effects of birth trauma and childhood accidents and devise exercise and nutritional programmes. It is important that they maintain accurate and up-to-date patient records.
Osteopaths work in conjunction with medical practitioners, dentists, podiatrists, dieticians and naturopaths, and may work from clinics or from their homes. They have a high level of contact with the public.