What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is a form of “hands on” manual medicine that has been practiced in Australia for almost 100 years (since 1909). Osteopathy is a holistic, complementary and alternative system of health care, and may be applied as treatment for relief of a specific problem, or may be practiced as preventative health care.

The foundation of Osteopathy rests on four basic principles, which are –

The body is a unit and the person represents a combination of body and mind.

The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health maintenance.

Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated.

Rational treatment is based the above principles (an understanding of body unity, self-regulation and the interrelationship of structure and function).


Osteopathy was founded by Dr A.T. Still, in the 1870’s in the USA. Since then Osteopathy has spread globally, and is now commonly found in countries such as the USA, UK, Europe, New Zealand and Australia.

In Australia, Osteopathic students undergo a five year course in Osteopathic medicine. There are three Universities in Australia offering courses in Osteopathy, RMIT (Melbourne) VUT (Melbourne) and UWS (Sydney). An Australian Osteopathic qualification will come in the form of a double degree (B.App.Sc.(Clin.Sc.)B.Ost.Sc.) or a degree and masters degree in Osteopathy (B.App.Sc.(Osteo.),M.Ost.)

Subjects studied extensively during these five year courses include anatomy, biomechanics, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, general medical diagnosis and Osteopathic diagnosis and treatment.


Why see an Osteopath?

Osteopathy is suitable for the treatment, management and prevention of many musclo-skeletal problems. These may include –

  • Sports injuries
  • Back pain and sciatica
  • Neck pain, TMJ (jaw) complaints
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Joint pains, tendonitis and muscular strains
  • Work related injuries
  • Scoliosis and postural complaints
  • Management of symptoms in conditions such as arthritis, asthma, gynaecological dysfunction (e.g. period pain) and chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Aches and pains during pregnancy, preparation for childbirth and the after-effects of childbirth
  • Infant and childhood problems e.g. traumatic childbirth, infant colic/reflux, recurrent ear infections, “glue-ear”, asthma, bed wetting
  • Learning and behavioural difficulties in ADHD, Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy & autism
  • Visceral complaints e.g. Constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

What techniques does an Osteopath use?

An Osteopath will have a wide variety of techniques at their disposal, and the selection of techniques applied are tailored to the individual needs of each patient. Techniques applied during a consultation depend on several factors –

  • The nature of the problem
  • How long the problem has been present
  • The Osteopath’s assessment of which technique is most suitable
  • The patient’s comfort and consent given

Techniques utilised by an Osteopathic practitioner include (but are not limited to) –

Soft tissue techniques and massage

Articulation techniques in which joints are mobilised by being passively taken through their range of motion.

Muscle energy techniques in which contracted muscles are released by alternately being stretched and made to work against resistance.

Counterstrain techniques which achieve release of restriction by placing the affected joint or muscle in a position of comfort, while applying a “Counter” stretch to the antagonists of the tight muscles.

Functional techniques which involve gentle mobilisation of joints in a way which “probes” barriers to normal movement until a way is found through the restriction.

Manipulation in which a direct force is applied to improve a joint’s range of motion, a small “pop” or “click” may be heard during this technique. Manipulation may be used where it is appropriate and safe to do so, though it is not the mainstay of most Osteopathic treatments. Osteopathic manipulations are carried out using minimum force levels in order to maximise safety and minimise patient discomfort.

“Visceral” techniques are used in the management of conditions affecting internal organs. These involve gentle and rhythmical manipulation of the internal organs.

Osteopathy and…

The following information has been reproduced with permission from a series of A.O.A. (Australian Osteopathic Association) brochures.

Osteopathic Health Care will be more than happy to mail these brochures to you upon request, or alternatively you can drop in to see the clinic and pick up a copy.