Osteopath: who he is and what he does

Osteopath: who he is and what he does

The osteopath is a professional figure able to prevent and treat different types of ailments and pains through manual techniques

In recent years, the professional figure of the osteopath has assumed great importance. All thanks to the benefits that can be obtained following sessions in which manipulative techniques are used.


  • Training and recognition
  • Who is the osteopath
  • What the osteopath does
  • What does an osteopath's session consist of

Training and recognition

Although it is a health prevention system approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), in Italy osteopathy has not yet received official recognition: on the one hand it was officially "identified" as a health profession on 22 December 2017 with the 'approval of the Ddl Lorenzin on the Reform of Orders and Trials, in fact, on the other hand, it is still awaiting the publication of the implementing decrees, which will allow osteopathy to officially become a health profession recognized by the Italian State and to activate, therefore, a university course and an ad hoc professional register.

At the same time, however, in July 2015 the European Standard on Osteopathy (EN16686) was formally approved, a shared document to establish standards at European level in the field of education, training and practice of the professional figure of the osteopath. In this way, it was possible to counteract the phenomenon in which unskilled professionals defined themselves as osteopaths and specialization schools provided inadequate training courses.

The Register of Osteopaths of Italy (ROI), the most representative and oldest Association of professionals in the sector at national level, also actively participated in the drafting of the standard, which includes among its members professionals from training courses and institutes in in line with European standards.

So let's see who the osteopath is, what they do and what a treatment consists of.

Who is the osteopath

The osteopath is a professional figure who deals with the treatment of pain and ailments related to muscles, connective tissues, bones, through the use of manipulative techniques. The goal of his activity is to help the patient feel good and regain health: all through an approach that does not start from the classic symptoms, rather from the causes that generated the pain. This is because it frequently happens that the true cause of pain is located in an area far from the area where the pain is felt.

The osteopath's work refers to osteopathy, founded in the late nineteenth century by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, an American surgeon. This medical discipline is based on principles according to which the state of human health can be influenced by factors that can undermine the delicate internal balance that usually exists between the parties.

When this happens, the body responds by manifesting aches and pains that can also occur in multiple areas of the body, not necessarily adjacent to the point of origin. And this is where the osteopath intervenes, acting with the aim of eliminating the imbalances of the body – through specific manipulation techniques – also exploiting the self-regulation and self-healing mechanisms of the human body.

What the osteopath does

The osteopath therefore performs non-invasive manual treatments that do not involve the use of drugs. The therapy is based on the skilful use of the hands that put pressure on the patient's body to treat the areas involved in pain. In some cases, the practitioner may also associate personalized physical exercises with manipulation techniques.

This type of approach allows the osteopath to treat and prevent disorders that can occur at any age (including pediatric) and to collaborate in synergy with other medical disciplines such as physiotherapy, but also pediatrics, gynecology, gastroenterology, cardiology, ophthalmology.

The osteopath's activity finds application in different fields. Specifically, it intervenes on related disorders:

  • to the musculoskeletal system. Pain related to poor posture, for example, but also back pain, neck pain, sprains, muscle contractures, carpal tunnel syndrome, spinal disorders, tendinitis are to be included. In addition, this long list also includes accidental physical trauma or injuries resulting from physical activity;
  • to the circulatory and lymphatic system. The osteopath acts by intervening where necessary to restore the correct functioning of both systems that contribute to the circulation of liquids in the various systems of the body and to favor the elimination of waste;
  • to the digestive system. For example constipation, gastroesophageal reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis;
  • to the neurological system. In this case, the osteopath can work to improve headaches, sometimes disabling, or sleep-related disorders;
  • to the reproductive system. Some examples are menstrual pain or post partum syndrome.

The osteopath's manual therapies are also applied in the case of pregnancy with beneficial effects regarding problems characteristic of this phase of a woman's life. There is certainly no shortage of physical changes and the treatments carried out can help problems of a vertebral, muscular, inguinal, lumbar, digestive nature as well as fluid retention.

The osteopath can also work on scars, in particular those with adhesions of the fascial planes and which in some way limit lymphatic or blood circulation.

What does an osteopath's session consist of

To establish the appropriate therapy for the patient, the osteopath begins by taking a careful medical history and acquiring information about the symptoms and areas where pain is felt. Once you have collected as much data as possible and have listened to the patient's medical history, the professional makes the appropriate assessments and proceeds with the tests he deems necessary. To do this, the osteopath examines the body as a whole, not focusing exclusively on the painful area.

At this point, everything is ready to start the treatment that does not make use of the support of electro-medical devices, but exclusively of manual techniques that are applied on the structures considered relevant for the professional. The techniques used by the osteopath vary according to the therapy, however the following can be distinguished:

  • techniques for working on the bones of the skull. In this case, the osteopath intervenes on small movements of the skull to balance the tensions present inside;
  • structural techniques. These are those movements that are carried out to improve the functionality of the musculoskeletal system. These include the well-known "cracks" which require a certain dexterity and caution in the movements;
  • visceral techniques. Through the pressure of manual movements made on the bowels, the osteopath can improve its functionality together with that of the musculoskeletal system to which it is strongly connected.

Therefore, the osteopath can manually act on the whole body using specific techniques to prevent and treat ailments or pain affecting the main systems. However, this type of manipulation may not be indicated in case you are going through the acute phase of a disease or during the rehabilitation process of a part of the body following a surgical intervention. If in doubt, it is advisable to ask your doctor or a professional for a consultation.

Category: Welfare
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