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About osteopathy

This page provides an overview of what osteopathy is, what osteopathic treatment involves and the regulation of osteopathy.

This information is also available in Welsh: Ynglyn ag osteopathi

An osteopath welcoming a patient for an appointment

What osteopathy is

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.

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.

Preventing unregistered practice

The osteopathic title is protected by law. It is against the law for anyone to call themselves an osteopath in the UK 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 Register. For information about what to do if you think someone is practising as an osteopath but is not on the Register, see our Protecting the title 'osteopath' page.

Further information

For details of osteopathic standards of practice see the Standards section. 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 sportspeople. 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.


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