Osteopathy is a primary care profession focusing on the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal disorders. Commonly treated conditions include back, neck and shoulder pain, upper and lower limb problems, neck related headaches, minor sport and work-related conditions and arthritic pain.

Osteopaths employ techniques to restore mobility, function and blood flow to help the body to heal itself. Most will incorporate soft tissue, joint mobilisation; spinal and peripheral joint manipulation and neuro-muscular procedures.

Treatment does not target symptoms only but also addresses the parts of the body that have caused the symptoms. Osteopaths take a holistic approach and believe that the whole body will work well if it is in good structural balance.

To qualify as an osteopath requires at least four years' study for an undergraduate degree. This is similar to a medical degree, but with a greater emphasis on anatomy and musculoskeletal medicine. It includes more than 1,000 hours of training in osteopathic techniques. After graduation, osteopaths are required to complete continuing professional development (CPD) courses to retain their registration.

Patient safety is of paramount importance; by law, osteopaths must register with the General Osteopathic Council and it is an offence for anyone to use the title if they are not registered.

Osteopaths are skilled in diagnostic techniques and trained to identify when a patient needs to be referred to a GP. Increasingly they work alongside GPs and other healthcare professionals, providing treatment both privately and through the NHS.

For more information about osteopathy or to find a fully qualified, registered osteopath visit www.osteopathy.org

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