Osteopathy is a form of manual medicine which recognises the important link between the structure of the body and the way it functions. Osteopaths focus on how the skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves, circulation, connective tissue and internal organs function as a holistic unit.

Using skilled evaluation, diagnosis and a wide range of hands-on techniques, osteopaths can identify important types of dysfunction in your body. Osteopathic treatment uses techniques such as stretching and massage for general treatment of the soft tissues (muscles, tendons and ligaments) along with mobilisation of specific joints and soft tissues.

In Australia, osteopaths are government registered practitioners who complete a minimum of five years’ university training in anatomy, physiology, pathology, general medical diagnosis and osteopathic techniques. Osteopaths are primary healthcare practitioners and are trained to recognise conditions which require medical referral. They are also trained to perform standard medical examinations of the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, respiratory and nervous systems.

Frequently Asked Questions

What conditions do Osteopaths treat?

Osteopathy treat of a wide variety of musculo-skeletal problems, but it also has a role to play in the management of a number of other conditions. The most common complaints for which patients consult Osteopaths include:

  • back and neck pain
  • disc pain and sciatica
  • headaches and migraines
  • pains in peripheral joints such as shoulders, knees and ankles, tendinitis and muscle strains,
work-related and repetitive strain injuries, and
  • sports-related injuries.

However, Osteopathy can also play a significant role in pain management or when used in conjunction with medical treatment.

Is osteopathic treatment safe?

There’s no such thing as a form of medical treatment which is guaranteed 100% safe in every case. Even the painkillers you buy in the supermarket for a headache may cause severe side effects in some patients. That said, however, Osteopathy has one of the best safety records of any medically-related profession. Osteopaths are trained to recognise any condition that might make Osteopathic treatment inadvisable, and will refer patients for appropriate medical attention in such cases. Just as a Doctor regards safety as the most important factor in selecting the appropriate medication for a particular patient, so an Osteopath will also select the most appropriate style of treatment with safety as the prime consideration. Your osteopath will discuss with you any risk associated with particular treatment.

Do I need a referral to see an osteopath?

You do not need a referral to see an osteopath. The only times you will need a referral are if you wish to consult an osteopath under Medicare's Chronic Disease Management program and the Veterans’ Affairs scheme

What should I expect at my consultation?

Allow 30 minutes for all consultations. This enables the Osteopath to ask you about the details of your current complaint, full medical history as well as perform a thorough physical examination, including observation and palpation to form a diagnosis and treatment plan.  After discussing the findings, diagnosis and treatment approach with you, appropriate comprehensive treatment will be given.

On subsequent consultations, a re-evaluation will be carried out to check the effectiveness of the osteopathic care provided and if there is a need to modify the diagnosis or treatment.

Who pays? Am I covered?

Rebates are available for those members of Private Health Funds with ancillary or "extras" cover, but the amount of rebate and the conditions vary from insurer to insurer, so check the details of your policy.

With the federal government initiative under Medicare Plus, patients with chronic conditions may be referred by their GP for osteopathic treatment under an Chronic Disease Management (CDM) plan. Patients under the Veterans' Affairs scheme and the various State WorkCare/WorkCover and Transport Accident compensation schemes have a portion of their treatment costs covered by those schemes.

What about long term preventative care?

Osteopaths believe that getting patients to keep returning for more treatments is not the best form of long term preventive care. The key to preventing health problems recurring, and to developing long-term solutions, lies in increasing patients’ awareness of the causes of problems, and in giving them the help they need to take responsibility for their own health. This is done in a number of ways:

  • By identifying the causative factors of a patient’s problems, such as problems with workplace ergonomics, and trying to reduce or eliminate them.  
  • By teaching patients more efficient and less strenuous body usage in their actions at home or at work.  
  • By helping patients become aware of postural problems and how to correct them.
  • By providing individually tailored exercise programmes both for rehabilitation and prevention.
  • By teaching relaxation techniques to reduce stress.
  • By working in conjunction with other practitioners such as dieticians, occupational therapists etc. where appropriate.

Osteopaths thus believe that long-term prevention is the result of a cooperative effort between patient and practitioner.