What to expect from your osteopath
On this page we explain what happens when you visit an osteopath.
Listening and examining
Osteopathy is a patient-centred, system of healthcare. A first appointment generally lasts about 45 minutes to an hour to allow
the osteopath adequate time to:
- listen and ask questions about your problem, your general health, other medical care you are receiving or medication
you are taking, and record this in your case notes.
The information you provide will be confidential;
- examine you properly. It is likely the osteopath will ask you
to remove some of your clothing. Tell your osteopath if you
are uncomfortable about this. You should expect privacy to undress and a gown or towel should be provided. You can
ask a friend or relative to accompany you and be present throughout your treatment;
- ask you to make simple movements and stretches to observe your posture and mobility. Because of the body’s structure, pain or stiffness you are experiencing in one part may be linked to a problem elsewhere;
- examine the health of the joints, tissues and ligaments using their hands and a highly developed sense of touch called palpation.
Your osteopath will also check for signs of serious conditions they cannot treat and may advise you to see your GP or go to hospital. They should provide you with a letter explaining what they believe to be the problem.
Diagnosis and treatment
Osteopathy specialises in the diagnosis, management, treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal and other related disorders.
Your osteopath will give you a clear explanation of what they find (their diagnosis) and discuss a treatment plan that is suitable for you. They will explain the benefits and any risks of the treatment they are recommending. It is important to understand and agree what the treatment can achieve, and the likely number of sessions needed for a noticeable improvement in how you feel.
Treatment is hands-on and involves skilled manipulation of the spine and joints, and massage of soft tissues. Your osteopath will explain what they are doing and will always ask your permission to treat you (known as consent). Ask questions at any time if you are unsure what you have been told or if you have any concerns.
Self-help measures and advice on exercise may be offered to assist your recovery, prevent recurrence or worsening of symptoms.
Because of the physical nature of the treatment, it is not unusual sometimes to feel sore in the first 24-48 hours after treatment. Your osteopath will explain any likely reactions that you could expect. If you have any concerns it is important to contact the osteopath and ask their advice. It may require more than one visit before your problem is resolved. The osteopath will review your progress at each subsequent visit and seek your consent to any changes to your treatment plan.
Is referral from a doctor necessary?
Most patients ‘self refer’ to an osteopath for treatment.
Although referral by a GP is not necessary, you are encouraged to keep your GP fully informed, so that your medical records are current and complete. This will ensure your receive the best possible care from both health professionals. With your permission, your osteopath may send a report to your GP with details of your condition and treatment. You can also request a letter for your employer if this is helpful.
Extracted from The General Osteopathic Council website.