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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Here you can find some of the most frequently asked questions about osteopathy and their answers:

    Can anyone call themselves an osteopath?

    The title ‘osteopath’ is protected by law, and only those included on the Register are entitled to practice as osteopaths. Unregistered practice is a criminal offence in the UK.

    Can I claim on my private medical insurance?

    Many private health insurance policies provide cover for osteopathic treatment. It may be possible to claim for a course of treatment but you should check in advance with your insurance company before seeking osteopathic treatment, in order to confirm the available level of cover and whether you will need to have a referral from your GP or a specialist.

    Can I find out how long an osteopath has been registered?

    The date an osteopath was first registered with the General Osteopathic Council can be seen in the ‘Practitioner Details’ by searching here.

    Can I see an osteopath through the NHS?

    Most osteopaths work in the private sector, either alone or in a group practice, and some offer services through the NHS. In some areas, doctors are able to refer patients to an osteopath for treatment funded by the NHS.

    To find out if NHS treatment is available in your area, speak to your GP and/or contact:

    1. If you are in England – your local clinical commissioning group.

    2. If you are in Scotland – your local health board.

    3. If you are in Wales – your local health board.

    4. If you are in Northern Ireland – your local health and social service board. There is more information on who to contact in your region on the NHS website.

    Do GPs refer their patients to osteopaths?

    Yes. GPs refer patients to osteopaths where they believe this intervention would be beneficial. Referral guidelines are provided by the General Medical Council.

    Do I need a GP referral to see an osteopath?

    Most patients ‘self refer’ to an osteopath for treatment. Although referral by a GP is not necessary, patients are encouraged to keep both their GP and osteopath fully informed, so that their medical records are current and complete and the patient receives the best possible care from both healthcare practitioners.

    How do I know if an osteopath is registered?

    All osteopaths must be registered with the General Osteopathic Council. You can use the Register to check whether your health professional is currently registered.

    What can I expect on my first visit to an osteopath?

    At the first consultation, the osteopath will compile a full case history of your symptoms, as well as asking for information about your lifestyle and diet. The osteopath may also observe you making some simple movements to help them make a diagnosis. You will usually be asked to remove some clothing near the area of the body to be examined.

    Osteopaths are trained to examine areas of the body using a highly-developed sense of touch, known as palpation, to determine conditions and identify the body’s points of weakness or excessive strain. Osteopathy is a ‘package’ of care that includes skilled mobilising and manipulative techniques, reinforced by guidance on diet and exercise. The osteopath will discuss with you the most appropriate treatment plan, estimating the likely number of sessions needed to treat your condition effectively.

    If the osteopath thinks that your condition is unlikely to respond to osteopathic treatment, you will be advised about how to seek further care. Osteopaths are skilled in diagnostic techniques and trained to identify when a patient needs to be referred to a GP.

    What training do osteopaths have?

    Undergraduate students follow a four or five-year degree course combining academic and clinical work. Qualification generally takes the form of a bachelor’s degree in osteopathy – a BSc(Hons), BOst or BOstMed – or a masters degree in osteopathy (MOst). Many osteopaths continue their studies after graduating. Osteopaths are required to update their training, skills and knowledge throughout their working lives, through our continuing professional development scheme.

    Who sets the standards of training and practice for osteopaths?

    The standards of osteopathic training and practice are maintained and developed by the General Osteopathic Council, the profession’s statutory regulator established under the Osteopaths Act 1993.

    What do osteopaths treat?

    Osteopathy focuses on the diagnosis, management, treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal and other related disorders without the use of drugs or surgery. Commonly treated conditions include back and neck pain, postural problems, sporting injuries, muscle and joint deterioration, restricted mobility and occupational ill-health.