Osteopathy is a way of detecting, treating and preventing health problems by moving, stretching and massaging a person’s muscles and joints.
Osteopaths believe that problems with the way bones, muscles and joints fit and work together can affect all other parts of the body. They believe their treatments allow the body to heal itself. Osteopaths use a range of techniques but do not use drugs or surgery.
Most people who see an osteopath do so for help with back pain or other problems related to muscles and joints. Some osteopaths also claim to treat a wide range of health conditions, including asthma, digestive problems and period pain.
Osteopathy is a complementary or alternative medicine (CAM), and is different from conventional western medicine. Osteopaths may use some conventional medical techniques, but the use of osteopathy is not always based on science.
Read more about what happens when you visit an osteopath.
Does osteopathy work?
There is evidence that osteopathy is effective for the treatment of persistent lower back pain. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends it as a treatment for this condition.
There is also limited evidence that it is effective in helping recovery after hip or knee operations.
There is no good evidence that osteopathy is effective as a treatment for any other health conditions.
Serious side effects or complications have been reported, but they appear to be rare.
Read more about the evidence on osteopathy.
How do I get osteopathic treatment?
Osteopathy is not widely available on the NHS. Your GP or primary care trust can tell you whether it is available.
Most people pay for osteopathy treatment privately. Treatment costs vary, but typically range from £35 to £50 for a 30- to 40-minute session. You do not need to be referred by your GP to see an osteopath privately.
Only people registered with the General Osteopathic Council are allowed to practise as osteopaths. You can find a registered osteopath near you on the GOC website.
Find out more about how osteopathy is regulated.