Body alignment through movement, stretching and soft-tissue massage

Osteopaths near you

How can osteopathy nourish you?

Osteopathy is a holistic form of health care that focuses on the interaction between musculoskeletal structure and other important systems[1] of the body. The core principles of osteopathy are based on the idea that the body is a unified whole[2] which has the innate resources to heal and maintain itself. It is believed that because structure and function are inseparable, helping to repair the body’s ‘framework’ will stimulate the processes needed to regain healthy function.

By applying principles of human biomechanics (a study of how different parts of your body move and affect other parts), osteopaths aim to support the body’s natural healing abilities[3]. Osteopathy treatment includes a variety of manual therapies such as adjusting the alignment of the spine, gentle stretches and soft-tissue massage[4]. Osteopaths can also provide a therapeutic exercise program and offer education about lifestyle factors including ergonomics[5] which may support long-term wellbeing.

Osteopathy was founded by Andrew Taylor Still, a medical doctor who worked as a hospital steward during the American Civil War[6]. Disillusioned with the medical practices of his time after the deaths of his children[7] during a spinal meningitis epidemic, Still spent several years researching more effective ways to help the body heal itself. He reached the conclusion that making adjustments to the ‘structural framework’ of the body could have a ripple effect[8] on circulation and other body systems, supporting natural mechanisms of healing and self-repair.

Some aspects of osteopathy, such as spinal alignment and joint manipulation, are also characteristic features of chiropractic. In Australia, osteopaths are regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)[9].

Benefits of osteopathy

There is evidence to suggest that osteopathic manipulation may significantly reduce lower-back pain, and the improvements may last[10] for up to three months after treatment. Research suggests that when compared with conventional treatment for lower back pain, osteopathy may be equally effective, with the possible benefit of requiring less medication[11] than other approaches to pain management. 

The results of one study indicate that osteopathic manipulative treatment may be an effective treatment for chronic migraine[12]. Research suggests osteopathy may reduce bowel discomfort and irritation[13] in people with a history of Crohn’s disesase. There is also evidence to suggest osteopathy may reduce the duration of hospital care required by premature babies[14], with significant implications for reducing healthcare costs.

People also turn to osteopathy for sciatica pain relief. This problem can come from living a sedentary lifestyle to sudden injuries that can evolve to complications such as a herniated disc. Osteopathy is an effective treatment that relieves people from these pains.

Osteopathy may assist in relieving symptoms related to:

Arthritis, rheumatism and osteoarthritis Back pain Balance, stability and coordination Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) Circulation and cardiovascular conditions Crohn’s disease Digestive and gastrointestinal issues Headaches and migraines Insomnia and sleep disorders Joint issues Lymphoedema Muscle spasm, tightness and cramps Neck pain Nervous system and neurological conditions Osteoporosis and bone density Pain relief Posture and spine issues Sciatica Scoliosis Sports injuries Sprains, strains and ligament injuries Show all

What to expect from an osteopathy session

On your first visit to an osteopathic clinic, the practitioner will ask you about your medical history as well as the health concerns for which you are seeking treatment. You will be given a thorough examination which may include neurological tests[15] and diagnostic scans. Your osteopath might also ask you to perform various stretches and diagnostic motions to evaluate your mobility and identify possible problems with your posture and alignment. 

Your osteopath will develop a diagnosis and a treatment plan intended to address your health concern, but also support your overall wellness. The treatment may include manual therapies[16] such as gently moving various joints through their range of motion, soft-tissue massage, spinal adjustments and stretches.

Because osteopathy is a holistic treatment that emphasises whole-body health, it’s likely that your practitioner may work on several different parts of your body, not just where it hurts[17]

If you are seeking osteopathic treatment for sciatica pain relief, for example, your osteopath might adjust joints in your spine and help you do stretches[18] that relieve muscular tension in your buttocks to treat pain or numbness in your foot or calf. Your osteopath might also provide you with instructions for how to continue supporting your wellness[19], for example by doing back pain exercises or improving the ergonomics of your office environment.

Although osteopathy is generally a gentle and pain-free modality, some aspects of treatment (such as dry needling) may be slightly uncomfortable. Your practitioner will do everything they can to minimise discomfort[20], and they will inform you if any part of the treatment may cause unpleasant sensations.

Osteopathy may result in slight aches and pains, which are your body’s natural response[21] to manual therapy, and usually don’t last longer than a day or two. More serious reactions, such as those that require emergency treatment or lead to long-term health problems, are very rare: it is estimated that only one in 36,079 treatments [22]is associated with a major incident.

As with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing osteopathy. If you have an injury or other health issue, or any concerns at all, also speak to your osteopath, who will be happy to address these and explore whether osteopathy is an appropriate treatment for your health condition.


  1. Osteopathy | Better Health Channel
  2. What Is Osteopathy? | Brisbane Osteopathy Centre
  3. Osteopathy | Better Health Channel
  4. Melbourne Osteopath | Growing Bones
  5. At Home Ergonomics | Summit Osteopathy
  6. A.T. Still Biography | The Museum of Osteopathic Medicine
  7. History of Osteopathic Medicine | American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine
  8. History of Osteopathic Medicine | American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine
  9. Home | Osteopathy Board of Australia
  10. Osteopathic manipulative treatment for low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials | PMC
  11. A comparison of osteopathic spinal manipulation with standard care for patients with low back pain | PubMed
  12. Clinical effectiveness of osteopathic treatment in chronic migraine: 3-Armed randomized controlled trial | PubMed
  13. Osteopathy decreases the severity of IBS-like symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease in patients in remission | European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology
  14. A Multicenter, Randomized, Controlled Trial of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment on Preterms | PLOS ONE
  15. In preparation for your initial appointment, here are our top tips for your first session! | Summit Osteopathy
  16. What to expect from an Osteopathic treatment | Body & Health Creation
  17. Everything you need to know | Medical News Today
  18. Sciatica & Osteopathy | melbourneosteopathy.com.au
  19. Osteopathy | Better Health Channel
  20. 9 things you would only know if you have seen an Osteopath | News | City Way Health Clinic
  21. What to expect after your Osteopathic treatment | Move Osteopathy
  22. Risks of osteopathic treatment | National Council for Osteopathic Research

Frequently asked questions

Osteopathy is a holistic healthcare approach that emphasizes the interconnectedness of the body's structure and function. Osteopaths use manual techniques to address musculoskeletal issues, considering how they may affect overall health. Unlike some other disciplines, osteopathy takes a whole-body approach to treatment.

Osteopathy can be beneficial for various conditions, including musculoskeletal pain, joint issues, back pain, headaches, and more. Osteopaths assess the body's structure and function to identify and address factors contributing to these conditions.

Osteopaths use a hands-on approach for diagnosis and treatment. Through palpation and manual techniques, they assess the body's tissues, joints, and overall structure. Treatment may involve techniques such as soft tissue manipulation, joint mobilization, and therapeutic exercises.

Osteopathic treatment is suitable for individuals of all ages, from infants to older adults. Osteopaths consider the unique needs and conditions of each patient, tailoring their approach to address specific concerns and promote overall well-being.

In many cases, a referral is not required to see an osteopath. Individuals can directly seek the services of an osteopath for assessment and treatment. Osteopaths may work independently or collaboratively with other healthcare professionals based on the individual's needs.

The number of sessions needed varies depending on the individual's condition and response to treatment. During a session, the osteopath will conduct an initial assessment, discuss the patient's medical history, and use hands-on techniques to address identified issues. The treatment plan will be discussed, including the expected number of sessions and any necessary follow-up care.

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