Osteopathy is a relatively young profession, although its roots can be traced back through the bone-setting tradition. Ancient Egyptian and Asian cultures used manual interventions, and spinal adjustment is documented in the time of Hippocrates.
Osteopaths are continually practising and refining their skills. Their knowledge is passed on from one generation to the next via the teaching schools and in group practices.
Having been helped by an osteopath, patients go on to recommend the approach to others in need: this is the best kind of approval and referral, as it is entirely genuine (not contrived by those with a vested interest).
In spite of, or perhaps due to, the strength of tradition within the profession, there has been little activity to conduct large scale research into the efficacy of osteopathy. Large scale trials are extremely costly, and with no ‘product’ to market at the end, funding for such ventures is hard to come by.
However one such study, the UK back pain exercise and manipulation trial (UKBEAM 2004) confirmed that patients receiving manipulation as well as exercise and advice did better, both short and long term, than those that did not. This trial included 1334 participants. Two smaller RCTs, in 2012 and 2013, concluded that osteopathic manipulative treatment was effective in reducing the symptoms of low back pain.
Another indicator of best practice are the NICE guidelines for osteoarthritis (Feb 2008). They recommend the use of manual therapy (manipulation and stretching), and strengthening exercises and advice, as part of the intervention package.
The National Council for Osteopathic Research (NCOR) is currently collating and undertaking research within the profession (www.ncor.org.uk) – click here for their latest evidence updates.