About Osteopathy

This page provides an overview of what osteopathy is, what osteopathic treatment involves and the regulation of osteopathy. There are currently 4,810 osteopaths (as at 11 October 2013) on the UK Statutory Register of Osteopaths.

What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is a system of diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of medical conditions.  It works with the structure and function of the body, and is based on the principle that the well-being of an individual depends on the skeleton, muscles, ligaments and connective tissues functioning smoothly together.

To an Osteopath, for your body to work well, its structure must also work well. So Osteopaths work to restore your body to a state of balance, where possible without the use of drugs or surgery.  Osteopaths use touch, physical manipulation, stretching and massage to increase the mobility of joints, to relieve muscle tension, to enhance the blood and nerve supply to tissues, and to help your body’s own healing mechanisms.  They may also provide advice on posture and exercise to aid recovery, promote health and prevent symptoms recurring.

Regulation of osteopathy

 All osteopaths in the UK are regulated by the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC). 

Osteopaths are required to renew their registration each year and we provide registrants with an annual licence to practise. As part of this process, the GOsC checks that osteopaths have current professional indemnity insurance, remain in good health and of good character, and 
have met mandatory Continuing Professional Development requirements.

Protection of title

The title 'Osteopath' is protected by law. It is against the law for anyone to call themselves an osteopath unless they are registered with the GOsC, which sets and promotes high standards of competency, conduct and safety. The GOsC can, and will, prosecute individuals who practise as osteopaths when they are not on the GOsC Register. For information about what to do if you think someone is practising as an osteopath but is not on the Register, see our Protection of title page.

Further information 

See Osteopathy in practice to learn more about the profession and use the Register to find a local osteopath. You can also download our information leaflets What to expect from your osteopath and Standards of osteopathic care


Who and what do osteopaths treat?

Osteopaths’ patients include the young, older people, manual workers, office professionals, pregnant women, children and sports people. Patients seek treatment for a wide variety of conditions, including back pain, changes to posture in pregnancy, postural problems caused by driving or work strain, the pain of arthritis and minor sports injuries, headache arising from the neck (cervicogencic/migraine prevention), cramp, circulatory problems, digestion problems, muscle spasms, joint pain, sciatica, frozen shoulder/shoulder elbow pain/tennis elbow pain arising from associated musculoskeletal conditions of the back and neck.

 This page is reproduced by kind permission of the General Osteopathic Council