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Osteopathy involves manipulation and mobilisation of the joints and surrounding soft tissue such as the muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissue. The aim is to help the spine and joints to move more easily, to reduce stiffness and tension in the muscles, and to relieve pain.

What happens in a session?

Your first session will last for about 30–45 minutes. At the first session, you will be asked about your medical history. The osteopath will carry out a careful physical examination, and will normally ask you to remove some of your clothing and perform a simple series of movements. The osteopath will then use touch to identify points of weakness or excessive strain in your body. You will usually be treated lying on a treatment couch in various positions, although some manipulation may be carried out with you sitting or standing. Osteopaths usually start any treatment by releasing and relaxing muscles and stretching stiff joints, using gentle massage techniques, rhythmic joint movements and muscle release techniques. They may also carry out spinal manipulations using ‘high velocity thrusts’. These are short, quick movements to spinal joints to extend them slightly beyond their normal passive range of motion. Your osteopath may show you exercises to do at home and suggest ways you can improve your posture. The number of treatments needed depends on your condition. If you have chronic low back pain, for example, you might need up to 6 treatments. For acute pain, one or two treatments may be enough. 

What does osteopathy feel like?

After an osteopathic treatment, you may feel stiff or sore for a few hours. When a high velocity thrust is performed, you may hear an unnerving click. This is nothing to be concerned about, as it is the body realigning itself.

Is osteopathy safe?

In about half of all people treated, osteopathy involving spinal manipulation can cause short-lasting side effects like mild pain and soreness for between 24 and 48 hours, as well as mild headaches and tiredness. 

General Osteopathic Council