Osteopathy, what is it?

In summary: osteopathy is a very effective manual therapy for a wide range of physical conditions.


Osteopathy is essentially based on the freedom of movement of and in the body as a whole.

To function properly, the body requires freedom of movement. Muscles and joints need to move without friction, organs need to be able to adapt to different body positions, blood and lymph must run smoothly through vessels, pinched nerves need to be avoided, food needs to move freely through the bowels for digestion, etc, etc.


Many physical conditions are a result of lack of mobility. Poor movement can be caused by a local problem, but very often the real cause is hidden somewhere else in the body. The osteopath is an expert in finding the actual cause (root cause) and in restoring the desired mobility.

Some practise-based examples

Since osteopathy deals with the whole body, achievements are often surprising. Some success stories:

Chronic knee complaints

A 47-year old man was complaining of knee discomfort for 2 years, worsening over the last year and extending to the glutes area and lower back. Even his daily walk had become impossible a couple of months ago. After several physical examinations and treatments without improvement, the specialist suggested, as a last resort, an operation in which the nerve supply got repressed (pain control). Instead, the patient decided to visit an osteopath first. The osteopath concluded there had been an ankle distortion 2 years earlier causing a slight dislocation of the fibula bone proximally near the knee, putting some muscles under strain and continuously compressing a nerve. After 2 treatments the man was able to retake his daily walk and there was never a need for surgery.

Usual lymph therapy gets less successful

A 58-year old lady recieved, due to a chronic disease, continuous lymph therapy to full satisfaction. However, lately she noticed her therapy failed to get the usual good results, so she decided to visit an Osteopath. Exploration revealed a spasm in a large muscle deep down in her belly giving pressure on lymph nodes and vessels. There was reason to believe this muscle spasm had appeared after a change of work posture a couple of weeks earlier. Additionally, a lack of mobility in the ribcage, caused by a chronic lung condition, was putting stress on the main vessel for lymph drainage located in the thorax. The osteopath made sure the oppressed lymph flow got re-established and showed the patient what she could do herself to stay mobile and avoid muscle spasm. After only a few treatments, the patient returned to her usual lymph therapy, feeling better and more energetic than ever.

Low Back Pain

A young and very athletic lady complained about Low Back Pain, always appearing after particular activities in the gym and lingering for a long time after. She showed a history of Low Back Pain and sciatica, often treated with good results but to her regret only short lived. The osteopath put forward her irritable bowel syndrom, pointing out there was a continuous tension from the intestines which decreased pelvic and lower back mobility. Since her sports activities required more movement than the daily postures, it seems logical her Low Back Pain only appeared in the gym. The combination of structural treatments for the lower back and pelvis, and visceral treatment made the complaint disappear completely. The patient was very relieved she finally understood the cause of her problems and after the osteopath taught her some exercises to do just before entering the gym, she was able to practise her sports again joyfully and without pain.

Osteopathic skills

Osteopathy is a 5-year study, complementary to physiotherapy. The osteopath has, besides the profound knowledge of a physiotherapist about the human musculoskeletal system, a profound knowledge of the whole body. An osteopath knows the anatomy and function of the nervous system and the organs, how regulation of bodily fluids is organised, about skull movements, and a large etcetera. And, most importantly, the osteopath knows how all these systems work together and which symptoms can be expected in the case of disorder. Also, the osteopath is trained in interpreting medical reports and images, so all available information is getting used to obtain an effective treatment.

Osteopathic tools

The most important tools of the osteopath are, just like a physiotherapist, eyes, hands, and of course common sense. The osteopath possesses several treatment skills and will opt for the most appropriate programme of treatment according to complaints and demands of each individual patient. Used methods can vary from firm (for example joint manipulations) to very soft (for example drainage techniques).

So, the osteopath is able to treat everything?

Certainly not!

The osteopath is not a substitute for a general practitioner nor a medical specialist but instead, co-operates with them. Cases exist in which the osteopath is not able or allowed to treat. Therefore, the osteopath is trained in recognizing conditions that should be redirected or do require more research before commencing an osteopathic treatment.