Osteopaths use a variety of techniques to help correct abnormal physical conditions, which include back and neck pain, headache, physical injuries to bones, joints and muscles, and many other physical and functional disorders. It recognises the critical link between the structure of the body and the way it functions and works across the lifespan.

Osteopaths use a gentle manipulation technique to assist healing by focusing on how the skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves, circulation, connective tissue and internal organs function together as a holistic unit.

Although many osteopaths use manipulation as an adjunct to treat many illnesses, there are no large controlled trials of the effectiveness of manipulation for conditions other than lower back pain. Several human trials have shown statistically significant benefits of manipulation for lower back pain but have been criticised for not adequately controlling for the placebo effect.

Osteopathy is generally regarded as a safe treatment, although you may experience minor side effects, such as:

  • Mild to moderate soreness or pain in the treatment area
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

These effects usually develop within a few hours of a session and typically resolve on their own within 1 or 2 days.

Osteopathy is not recommended if you’re

  • Taking blood-thinning medicines, such as warfarin, and you haven’t had a recent check-up.
  • Having a course of radiotherapy.

Make sure you talk to your practitioner about the extent of your arthritis, as direct application techniques may not be able to be performed in some cases.

What to expect at an appointment?
Various treatment techniques are used, including palpation (touch), manipulation and mobilisation to joints and soft tissues, muscle energy stretches and cranial-sacral therapy. The Osteopath will use appropriate treatment after thoroughly assessing the patient. Treatment is gentle and very rarely causes pain or discomfort. Osteopaths may refer you for x-rays if required.

How can I access an osteopath?
You can get in contact directly; you do not need a referral. Appointments may be ACC subsidised. Osteopathy training institutes may have a clinic on site offering discounted services to the general public.

Professional bodies
Osteopathic Council of New Zealand


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