Recently, someone close to me (in Spain) mentioned that he really likes his osteopath but that he feels uncomfortable when she adjusts (cracks) his neck. This encouraged me to write this post to guide people on what happens and what to expect during an osteopathic treatment.

First of all, a osteopath must be a trained and registered practitioner. In the UK osteopathic training takes 4 years in an osteopathic school such as the British School of Osteopathy (BSO) or the European School of Osteopathy (ESO) among others. And the osteopath must be registered, by law, with the General Osteopathic Council (GOSC). There is a list of registered osteopaths in their website. Alternately a osteopath may have trained part-time after having coursed previous medical training such as physiotherapy or medicine. They will also be registered with the GOSC in case of practicing osteopathy.

In practice, a osteopath should:

  • Inform the patient about the whole process (especially the fact that the practitioner may ask the patient to undress to perform a physical examination)
  • Take a full case history to ensure that the patient is in good health and that his condition can be treated safely with osteopathic techniques
  • Ask for consent before initiating the physical examination
  • Get written consent in the case of having to refer to another health practitioner
  • Inform about the diagnosis and treatment
  • Give a prognosis and offer alternative treatment methods
  • Ask for consent before initiating treatment
  • Enable right of withdrawal if any technique causes any major discomfort, uneasiness or pain. In this case other techniques can be applied with similar benefits for the patient.

All these points are set so that osteopathy can be practiced effectively and safely. This work is done by the GOSC and it is collected in the Standards of Practice which can be downloaded from the GOSC website.

Coming back to my friend’s situation, it is essential that the patient understands that he is in charge of his health. This means that the patient has the last word regarding his treatment. If the patient is afraid of a technique or a technique causes pain or discomfort; this should be mentioned and the practitioner must adapt to the patients needs.

The most important thing to remember, from both sides, is that communication between patient and practitioner is essential in order to achieve an effective treatment.