The background to osteopathy
Is osteopathy science-based?
With British science week coming up in the next few days, we look to see whether or not this practice has a basis in science.
But first let’s look briefly at what it is, and where it originates from.
The origins of osteopathy go back further than you might imagine. The practice was conceived of by an American named Andrew Still in the late 19th Century.
His underlying belief was that the body’s natural state is one of good health. As such he believed that the body has a natural capacity to ward off threats to the health of the body.
This ran contrary to the conventional wisdom that a doctor’s role was to restore the health of the patient.
Since its inception, it has invariably been seen as an alternative form of intervention.
The stem of the word ‘osteo’ means ‘relating to the bones’. At the heart of the treatment is a belief that by manipulating the structure of the body (the bones), you can help to restore good health.
What science says about osteopathy
The National Health Service consider the treatment similar to other ‘manual therapies’ such as physiotherapy.
The NHS uses a body called the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to measure the scientific validity of treatments.
NICE believes that manual therapy is of value for treating lower back pain and sciatica. They also believe that it may have value in treating osteoarthritis.
They are less confident that it can be used to help with some other conditions (though the jury is still out).
However, we must bear in mind that scientific research can be incredibly costly. Funds are not as accessible for the study of osteopathy as they might be for some more traditional therapies.
So the fact that NICE believe there is only limited scientific evidence of its ability to help with conditions such as asthma, that does not mean you won’t benefit.
In fact, the National Council for Osteopathic Research (NCOR) was set up in 2003. They aim to explore the role that osteopathy can play in health care.
They are a very important organisation looking to increase the level of clinical research in the field.
Whether or not there is a possible placebo effect to the treatment cannot be discounted. However, this is true for many types of treatment.
What evidence is there that osteopathy can help?
There is a long history of osteopathy in the UK. In fact, it was first introduced here just over a hundred years ago.
Whilst it was outside the mainstream for much of that period, it gained formal recognition from parliament in 1993 through the Osteopaths Act.
That practice is governed by the General Osteopathic Council within the UK.
They help to ensure that practitioners are highly trained.
A qualified osteopath is highly skilled at what they do. They can often help people with musculoskeletal problems. Many people approach an osteopath for the first time when other treatments have failed them.
So is osteopathy science-based? Whether the success of the treatments is fully verifiable by science is a moot point, but many people swear by the results.
If you are frustrated with the traditional treatments you have received, why not give osteopathy a try?