Osteopathy, the form of physical therapy whereby practitioners use ‘hands-on’ techniques to treat pain and dysfunction, is often misunderstood. Third Space Osteopath Henry Howe sheds light on what it is and how it can help in your training.


What: Osteopathy has its roots in the idea that the body has an innate ability to heal itself. We believe that by modifying our movement and wellbeing, and by assessing the body as a whole, we can resolve a number of today’s musculoskeletal conditions. Osteopathy is primarily found in private healthcare, but many Osteopaths work in conjunction with local GP’s, depending on your borough. Osteopathy is recognised by all major health insurance providers and has statutory regulation.

How: People often wonder how this type of treatment can help them. When we train we accumulate fatigue in our bodies and often develop compensation patterns to try and move more easily. Compensation of this kind is fine in the short term but can lead to stress being placed on parts of the body unequipped to deal with what we ask of them. Osteopathy can help with everyday recovery between sessions and can also identify movement compensations to avoid future injury. Osteopathy is also well equipped to manage occupational strains such as upper back tension and postural strains incurred at work.

When: Osteopaths are of greatest value when you are injured or dealing with bodily discomfort. Any musculoskeletal condition such as low back pain, joint-related pain and sport injuries are suitable for treatment by an Osteopath. Seeing an Osteopath allows you to explain your symptoms thoroughly before having your body assessed for potential causes. Generally speaking, you will receive treatment from an Osteopath but if your symptoms are cause for concern they are trained to recognise such cases and refer you if necessary. Many people see Osteopaths in an attempt to manage their conditions in a conservative way rather than going down the route of surgery and injection therapy.

Why: The difference between Osteopathy and Physio is a fairly contentious issue within musculoskeletal healthcare – and rightly so. Whilst the education of an Osteopath and a Physiotherapist differs greatly, the treatment and assessment you receive from each may not differ much at all. Osteopaths are generally known for being spinal specialists but in reality they are trained to treat most conditions a Physiotherapist will, and vice versa. Typically, the treatment you receive from an Osteopath will be more ‘hands-on’ and take into account how other joints in the body will affect the symptomatic area, whereas Physiotherapists tend to be quite ‘hands-off’ in their approach. That being said, therapists vary greatly and most of the best ones are working in a similar way; listening to people, diagnosing accurately and treating people based on healthcare science.

Some common misconceptions surrounding Osteopathy:

1. Osteopaths treat bone. Incorrect! Osteo does indeed mean bone in latin, but there really isn’t anything we can do to bones. The word osteo in our title comes from the way the founder of the practice studied anatomy – using skeletons.

2. Osteopaths crack joints. Incorrect! All Osteopaths treat very differently and many now use medical acupuncture as well as massage, joint mobilisations, manipulation (that’s the joint cracking) and exercise. Joint manipulation is not specific to Osteopaths and this is a technique also used by many Physiotherapists, Chiropractors and occasionally doctors.

3. Osteopathy is not recognised. Incorrect! Osteopathy is recognised by all major health insurance companies and is recommended for the treatment of low back pain. At this time there have been no further studies on other musculoskeletal conditions, but the same approach is generally used in other conditions such as shoulder pain and hip pain to positive effect.

4. Osteopaths keep you coming back for treatment. Incorrect again. Seeing an Osteopath can be an economical form of treatment – the multi-treatment block packages tend to be seen in Chiropractic care. Osteopathy works in the same way as Physiotherapy in this sense, with your treatment plan depending very much on your condition and how quickly you are healing.

Henry Howe is a specialist musculoskeletal Osteopath working at Third Space Canary Wharf. He is also a personal trainer and has a decade of experience within the health and fitness industry. He is known for keeping his patients as active as possible during their recovery process, ensuring no time is lost when injured.