Visiting an osteopath

Here, we explain what happens when you visit an osteopath, what a treatment is likely to cost and how to find a local osteopath.

Osteopaths consider each person as an individual. On your first visit the osteopath will spend time taking a detailed medical history, including information about your lifestyle and diet. You will normally be asked to undress to your underwear and perform a series of simple movements.

Osteopaths use their hands to identify abnormalities in the structure and function of a body, and to assess areas of weakness, tenderness, restriction or strain. By this means, your osteopath will make a full diagnosis and discuss with you the most appropriate treatment plan, estimating the likely number of sessions needed to treat your condition effectively.

Then they work with your body’s ability to heal itself. They will usually start any treatment by releasing and relaxing muscles and stretching stiff joints, using gentle massage and rhythmic joint movements. The particular range of techniques your osteopath uses will depend on your problem.

The first treatment generally lasts about 45 minutes (to allow for case history taking and diagnosis) and subsequent treatments tend to last around half an hour. Osteopaths also offer added exercises and health advice, to help reduce the symptoms and improve your health and quality of life.

The osteopath should make you feel at ease during your consultation and explain everything that is happening. Do ask questions at any time if you are unsure or have any concerns.

If you have private health insurance it may be possible to claim for your treatment. You will need to ask your insurance company about the available level of cover and whether you need to be referred by your GP or a specialist.

Is referral from a doctor necessary?

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. Osteopaths are skilled in diagnostic techniques and trained to identify when a patient needs to be referred to a GP.

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