FAQ - Osteopathy

What training & education do osteopaths receive?

In Australia, osteopaths receive between 4.5-5 years of university education.

Students graduating from University.

We learn practical & theoretical information in areas including:

  • The sciences of the human body including anatomy, neuroscience, physiology, pathology, biomechanics

  • How to perform general medical examinations, such as checking blood pressure. These skills help us to screen for potential illnesses that require medical attention.

  • Radiology, which allows us to read, interpret and refer for imaging such as x-rays

  • Many elements of osteopathy

  • Exercise prescription and rehabilitation


What's an osteopathic approach?

Osteopaths have principles that tend to guide their thinking. On a very basic level, these are:


  1. A holistic (all-encompassing) approach to the functioning of the body

  2. Treatment is tailored to the unique elements of the individual

  3. There is relationship between the structure and function of the body

  4. The body tries to return keep everything in balance and it is forever adapting and compensating. This is process is called ‘homeostasis’

  5. The body has self-healing mechanisms

As practitioners, we don’t ‘heal’ the body, but we try to improve the healing process and help restore balance. Some of our intentions include:

  • Reducing pain and symptoms

  • Improving function and movement

  • Improving blood supply and nutrients to affected areas

  • Supporting venous and lymphatic fluid return

  • Improving nerve transmission


Source: DiGiovana, E.L., Schiowitz, S., & Dowling, D.J. (2005). An Osteopathic Approach to Diagnosis and Treatment. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins


Osteopaths are evidence-based practitioners, and we try to use science to guide what we do. However, science can’t answer everything. So we have to mix the application of science with creative thinking and problem-solving skills.


Science offers us a base to identify the black and white boundaries while our other skills help us shade the space between to help comprehend the full picture.

A brain demonstrating the difference between science and art.

What's the difference between osteopathy, chiropractic & physiotherapy?

Each of the professions offers private practice services, but physiotherapists also work in hospitals.


Each of the professions train their practitioners to recognise signs and symptoms that require medical attention.


We find that the publics perception of each profession is generally something along these lines:

  • Chiropractors primarily perform HVLA/adjustments.

  • Physiotherapists focus on exercise prescription & massage/mobilisation.

  • Osteopaths use a combination of HVLA and other techniques such as massage/mobilisation

Various hands reaching upward with unique shapes.

In reality, there is often great overlap between within each profession because:

  • In private practice, each of the professions are generally trying to help with the same issues as covered here.

  • There is no absolute ‘best’ way or ‘one size fits all’ answers as evidence and theories are forever changing in this field.

  • Irrespective of which profession knowledge may have come from, everyone has the opportunity to ‘borrow’ from the same bank of knowledge to improve what they’re doing.

Consequently, the practitioners between each of the professions tend to adopt their own preferred way to practice. This is based on what they’ve been exposed to, what they’ve learnt and find works best for each patient.

Rule of thumb: expect every practitioner to be different, like every patient is different. Find a practitioner that works for you & preferably one that keeps up to date with evidence & best practice guidelines.


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