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Osteopathy appointment? What to Expect!

Updated: Jun 10, 2022

As an Osteopath, my role is to make a patient's journey as easy and pleasant as possible. Knowing exactly what to expect at your initial Osteopathic consultation, can help you to feel prepared and relaxed, ensuring you get the best out of your care.

Most of you have seen a Physiotherapist or Chiropractor at some stage in your life and it's great to hear more and more patients have had at least one course of successful Osteopathic treatment in the past. It seems that awareness of holistic care is growing in popularity worldwide. Osteopaths have built a good reputation as healthcare professionals and physical therapists.

Osteopaths treat all parts of the body, not just backs and we look at all soft tissues, not just bones! Muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, name it! UK Osteopaths study a Bachelor of Science degree- 4 years of training and 1000 hours of clinical placement ( supervised experience treating), before we graduate. We study modules in Anatomy, Physiology, Neurology, Pathology and Sports Rehabilitation, Nutrition, Pharmacology and more...

I plan to also do a blog highlighting some fundamental differences and similarities between Osteopathy and other manual musculoskeletal healthcare professions, namely Physiotherapy and Chiropractic. Stay tuned!

One of the first questions patients ask before their first ever appointment is, "What do I wear?" Treatment is aimed at restoring mobility and easing pain so massage, mobilisations and stretching is best achieved when there is greater access to regions of pain in the body and connecting areas. Usually shorts and a sports bra enables this and towels are provided. Treatment is often in a private room with the door closed for privacy.

You may be required to fill in a registration forms with your details. A signature is usually required as written informed consent is a legal requirement in Osteopathy for physical examination and treatment to take place. All details are confidential as per GDPR regulations.

The initial consultation involves questions relating to your presenting complaint and medical history. I email both the registration and initial consultation form across prior to a patient's appointment to enable me to be prepared, make sure treatment will be safe for you and to save more time for further questions, physical examination and treatment when in session.

Based on all the information provided and after a thorough physical examination, your Osteopath will form a working hypothesis (a temporary diagnosis), along with a treatment plan. Your Osteopath may explain to you what is going on with your body, possibly also using props or images.

Exercises and stretches may be prescribed though sometimes this is not provided till the second or a later Osteopathy treatment as it can be too much for the body to deal with at first. Treatment already has a stimulating effect towards healing and sometimes the inflammatory response it causes is too intense to have had manual therapy and go straight into rehabilitation if you are stiff and sore, so trust what your Osteopath decides to do. Treatment may be uncomfortable, but it's not supposed to be painful and can always be adjusted to a more comfortable pressure for you.

Sometimes it is possible to address more than one area of pain in the body (Osteopaths view the body as a whole), however the main complaint will need the most "hands on" time usually in the first visit, as patients are often very stiff and sore in this area. It all depends on the nature of your pain- how severe the presenting complaint is and how much time there is available.

Some of my appointments are often 15-30mins of rehab followed by 30-45mins of treatment, or completely hands on, but the type of therapy provided is tailored to a patient's needs and preferences.

If a patient with poor posture has been the way they've presented or in pain for months or for years and years, of course, there will be no overnight cure and it may take longer to get out of pain but usually some relief will be felt with each Osteopathy appointment.

The number of follow up appointments you'll need will vary and depend on several factors, including the severity of your diagnosis, how long you've been in pain, management between onset and initial Osteopathy consultation, your tissue response (dependant on your age and health/circulation), and not forgetting your compliance towards exercises and advice outside of treatment time. Some people need 3 closer sessions, others need 6 based on the latter.

A common misconception is that Osteopathy treatment alone will alleviate pain- it may significantly ease symptoms initially but manual therapy is only a short term solution as a person's lifestyle habits may affect recovery by maintaining symptoms and/causing flare ups/

For example, strenuous and improper heavy lifting or having a sedentary lifestyle/job can slightly counteract the positive effects of Osteopathic treatment. Therefore you will be shown how to overcome, or rather work with these barriers and you will be provided with appropriate aftercare advice, tailored to your presenting complaint.

The best results are achieved with team work, so the best recipe for success is to combine Osteopathy treatment with home rehabilitation/ after care advice.

Healing is not linear, therefore it is not uncommon for flare ups to occur, even when good progress has been made in the first couple of appointments. These flare ups may be demoralising and frustrating but your Osteopath will help you to manage them effectively and to maintain the right mindset to prolong healing.

A good Osteopath will empower you to manage symptoms yourself at home so after a few treatments, the frequency of care reduces as your pain reduce. You will then be advised to only to visit for an "MOT" every month/ every few weeks. This is often a recommendation as prevention is better than cure- a general motto of Osteopathy.

Some form of continuation is optional and can prevent nasty flare ups, and helps you to remain feeling supple and "well" once we've entered the "wellness" phase. Think of the healing journey as having 3 stages: "Repair (reduce pain), Rebuild (get stronger) and Wellness (stay out of pain)".

One fantastic principle Osteopaths go by is that the body is its own healing chest, meaning that Osteopathy does not heal you but it simply provides your body with the tools and care it needs to heal itself.

Osteopathy is a wonderful, holistic and non-invasive practice, combining Art and Science. Most of the time, patients feel empowered with tips and advice they can use for the rest of their lives and even my "regulars" coming in for MOTS every now and then, are no longer reliant on care.

I hope this information was useful. Please do share this blog post to help to increase awareness or with anyone you think will benefit from Osteopathy!

As always, if you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Thanks. Looking forward to working with you soon :).

Kind regards,


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