You may well feel uncertain when attending for an appointment with an osteopath for the first time. You will likely have lots of questions and this article attempts to answer the most common ones.
Osteopaths are independent professional practitioners, regulated by law and competent to assess, examine and treat people who walk in their door. Osteopath training is a bachelor’s degree – B.Sc. Osteopathy, or a master’s degree, taken at one of the nine training institutions in the UK. An osteopathy degree takes four to five years and consists of a mix of academic work and clinical practice.
Initially your osteopath will want to hear your medical history and aspects of your lifestyle. They will ask about what pain or other symptoms you are complaining of and make a formal record of your answers and their conclusions.
Your consultation notes are a legal document and confidential in accord with the regulations covering personal information stored by medical professionals. You can apply to get a copy of your notes if you wish, although there may be a charge for this.
After the osteopath has a good picture of your difficulties, they will want to examine the part of the body relevant to your condition. Leg pain may be related to the back, and arm pain to the neck, so the examination may include unexpected areas of the body. The practitioner will explain what they are going to do so that you can consent and not receive any surprises. If you are unhappy or uncomfortable at any time you should tell the osteopath and this won’t affect your treatment at any time.
Once the examination has been completed the osteopath will discuss their conclusions with you and ask for your consent to follow a course of treatment. Osteopath treatment often includes gentle manual therapy techniques to release muscle tension, stretch out tight muscles and increase joint range of movement.
You will very likely be given an exercise programme to follow at home, and advice on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It is common to have several appointments to ensure the treatment gets to the root of your problems and lasts over the longer term.
In some cases the osteopath will ask for further tests or scans, or may refer you to a medical practitioner if they are concerned about your health.
Will the Treatment Hurt?
Most osteopathic treatments are very gentle and all practitioners strive to minimise any discomfort you might feel. There may be some pain during treatment and the osteopath will inform you if they think you will be sore afterwards and for roughly how long. You can ask the osteopath to stop at any time if you feel the discomfort is too much.
After treatment it is common to feel some minor soreness where the treatment has occurred but this will settle within 24 to 48 hours in most cases. If you should develop increased pain or unusual symptoms you should consult your osteopath or GP.
What to Wear to an Osteopath Appointment
To examine you properly it is often necessary to remove some of your clothing so the body part concerned can be tested and treated. It’s important to feel relaxed so it’s worth wearing a singlet tee-shirt and to bring a set of shorts with you so that knee, hip and lower leg examinations can be performed.
You may wish to be seen by a male or female practitioner or to bring someone with you to your appointment. You could discuss this when you book your first session.
Do I need a Referral to see an Osteopath?
No, you don’t. People are referred by other professionals such as doctors and GPs, but you can book an appointment directly without this. You can search for an osteopath in your area by searching Local Osteo here. Osteopaths are independent practitioners who can safely assess and treat people who self-refer.
Osteopaths are mostly private practitioners and charge for their services. Many health insurance companies will pay for osteopathic treatment, but it’s wise to check with them first before booking your appointment. In some areas there is NHS funding which covers osteopathic treatment. To enquire about that, your GP practice or your local clinical commissioning group (CCG) are places you could contact.
Prices vary across the UK but the typical range is from £40 to £50 for the initial assessment and treatment, which lasts typically for 30-45 minutes. Follow up sessions are a similar price and last for 30 minutes.