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To use the title osteopath (where the profession is regulated) one must have a professional license and be registered with the regulating body, after completing a 4 or 5 years degree. It has similarities with other health care degrees but we place more emphasis on palpatory anatomy, musculoskeletal clinical medicine and models of the inter-relationship between structure and function. A proper degree must include a minimum of 1000 hours of supervised clinical practice at an osteopathic clinic where the student treats patients under the guidance of experient professionals. By law, all osteopaths must be registered with ACSS (Autoridade Central dos Sistemas de Saúde), there isn’t yet in Portugal a Professional Council as the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC) in the UK. It is a crime for someone to entitle himself as an osteopath if not registered. In Portugal, osteopathy is regulated, look for registered osteopaths with a professional license. 

BSc (Hons) Osteopathy it’s a “bachelor in science of Osteopathy with honours”, which is the equivalent to a ‘Licenciatura’ in Portugal. The British Medical Association recommends osteopathy when appropriate.

The short answer would be: they apply manual-based techniques according to clinical objectives, agreeing to a line of philosophical principles based on human individuality.

Osteopathic treatment is not only focused on symptoms but addresses the parts and functions of the body that may have caused or are contributing to the non-self-resolution of the problem. This approach includes an educated appreciation of the patient's emotional and cognitive factors to these symptoms or concerns. The osteopath tries to know the problems presented to us also from a biopsychosocial point of view. Ideally, will have the ability to collaborate with other professionals and health systems, for the best benefit of the patient.

Osteopaths treat the person, not their symptoms.

According to the General Osteopathic Council, these are the most common indications to osteopathy:

• Generalized pain and discomfort.
• Joint pain, including osteoarthrosis.
• Biomechanical and postural issues.
• Cervicogenic and other types of headaches.
• Occupational overuse syndromes.
• Cramps.
• Digestive issues.
• Sciatic pain.
• Muscular spasms.
• Neuralgia and neurologic compressions.
• Anxiety and inability to relax.
• Sport related lesions.

Besides the above, the osteopath can help to detect the possibility of a more serious health problem and refer to other health professionals or integrate a multidisciplinary team in the patient’s best interest.

Read more in What can Osteopathy claim to help and also Research in Osteopathy

If you want to know whether osteopathy can help you, Contact me.

No. quite different.  Osteopathy is a primary care health profession, completely autonomous in its diagnosis, treatment, and management of the patient’s complaints. The intervention follows a distinctly philosophical approach, centred on the person and not on the disease, which makes it different from other healthcare professions, such as physiotherapy. They have in common the application of manual techniques. It is possible that an osteopath also becomes a physiotherapist, as the opposite as well, if the professional concludes both degrees.

In my view, both professions can (and should) work together, within their specific field, for the benefit of the patient.

There are countries where the profession is regulated and has been taught for many years, making it more established in society with more experienced professionals. We have the case of the United Kingdom where it is taught for over 100 years and it is regulated since 1993. As an opposite, we have Spain where it is not even regulated (there is no institution that defines what is an osteopath and therefore verifies the quality of the teaching and the professionals), and anyone can call themself an osteopath and work as one, which can be damaging for the profession and the general public. In Europe, there are 11 countries where the profession is regulated, you can know more here:  Regulation of Osteopathy in Europe.
In Portugal, the regulation of osteopathy as a primary-contact and independent profession was implemented in 2013. Osteopathy is already being taught in 9 higher education institutions. It is expected that with time, Portugal can better and better osteopathic care, following the example of the most experient and regulated countries. There are many other countries, where osteopathy is regulated, like the USA, Canada, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc…

Osteopathy is completely autonomous, but the intervention on the patient’s complaints may benefit from a multidisciplinary approach where different clinicians use different methods to help the patient. Each profession requires profound study and dedication as in a 4 years degree (full-time). Someone that entitles himself as osteopath, chiropractor, acupuncturist, and homeopath should have a minimum of 16 years of studying in higher education and a professional license for each profession. Ideally, each one should try to be dedicated to their own profession, achieving the best care that that profession can provide. It is important to have a network of professionals of other health care approaches when we think that will benefit the patient.

If you don’t have references from someone you trust, try to look for the academic and professional background and the specific experience of the osteopath in your particular complaint. All osteopaths (that had appropriate training) are generalists, but with time, experience, and continuous development they will develop a specific vocation for particular areas of the human phenomenon and how osteopathy can intervene.
Regarding the academic specific terms for each profession, I believe it is useful to describe them:
Certification or diploma is not higher education and not a proper degree, it is only professional training.
Degree or postgrad belongs to high education. To have a postgrad without a degree is a perversion of the term and shouldn’t be called postgrad. D.O. in Europe means a diploma – professional training, in the USA it means Doctor in Osteopathy, which is higher-education. Osteopaths should make easily available information about their education and experience.

Everyone (apart from some very specific conditions) can be helped by Osteopathic Medicine, from newborns to the elderly. Also in professional or recreative occupations, there aren’t restrictions but specializations, Osteopathy can help people from all areas, musicians, dancers, drivers, athletes, students, office workers, etc…
If you have any doubts on how osteopathy can help with your activity, Contact me.

As in any other physical examination, it is likely that you will be asked to remove/change some clothes, for your comfort, it is advisable to wear comfortable clothes. Usually, it’s easier if wearing shorts above the knee and in the case of women, a sports bra.

Yes, if you wish you can bring someone that will stay in the treatment room with you (unless the health authorities advise not to). In the case of under 18 patients, it is compulsory the presence of a legal tutor during all appointments.

Some techniques might cause some discomfort during the treatment and eventually during the following two days. The osteopath should inform the patient on what can they expect during and after the treatment. In most cases, the treatment causes no pain during or after the consultation.

No, it is not necessary. The osteopath has the training to diagnose, treat and manage the patient’s complaint. If during the examination the osteopath finds some evidence of the need for the patient to be seen by another health care professional, he should write a case presentation letter and give appropriate advice to the patient. 

Although it is not necessary, the collaboration between health professionals may be beneficial for the patient.


The number of treatments necessary varies according to the type of problem presented as well as the person being treated. The osteopath, at some point, should be able to tell how many visits may be needed.

The cooperation of the patient with the advice, exercises, or postural changes suggested can also play a role in the time a problem takes to go away.

No, it’s not even part of the basic academic education of an osteopath. The professionals that perform massage therapy are massage therapists (of all the different types and kinds), rehabilitation Nurses, and physiotherapists. The osteopath, after reaching a diagnosis, uses manual techniques to normalize the state of the tissues (i.e. muscles, tendons, nerves…), but not as a protocol (same to everyone), as it happens with a massage. Usually, the osteopath won’t use oils once it will interfere with the correct application of techniques. 

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