When visiting an osteopath for the first time, it is natural to feel a little unsure of what to expect. The following information explains what happens and will hopefully answer any questions you may have. If you have any other concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact the practice by telephone, prior to attending your appointment.
Osteopaths are healthcare professionals who are specifically trained in diagnosing health issues. At the start of your first appointment, your osteopath will ask you questions about your medical history and lifestyle, as well as any symptoms you may be experiencing. This is very important as it will help them to make an accurate diagnosis and suggest appropriate treatment.
They will write down what you tell them in your records. These will be treated as confidential in accordance with standards of practice set out by the General Osteopathic Council and the GDPR Act 2018. If you wish, you may request a copy of your notes.
Your osteopath will need to examine the area(s) of your body causing discomfort. Sometimes the cause of the problem may be in a different area to the pain, (For example, pain in your lower arm may be linked to the nerves in your neck) so they may need to examine your whole body. They will need to feel for any tightness in the muscles and stiffness in the joints and may need to touch these areas to identify problems. They will explain what they are doing as they go along.
If you are uncomfortable with any part of this, you have the right to ask them to stop at any stage, without prejudicing your future treatment.
You are also welcome to ask a friend or relative to accompany you and be present throughout your appointment.
What to Wear
As with any healthcare appointment, it may be necessary for your osteopath to ask you to remove some clothing. This is so they can see and touch the areas of the body causing you concern. Your osteopath will want you to feel at ease, therefore if you feel uncomfortable undressing to your underwear then please bring along or wear alternative clothing, such as shorts and a t-shirt that will enable them to work effectively. If you need to change, your osteopath will leave the room to give you the privacy to do this.
Your osteopath will make a diagnosis and discuss a course of treatment with you. This may involve further visits for manual therapy – a range of gentle hands on techniques that focus on releasing tension, stretching muscles and mobilising joints. Together with exercises that you can do at home and helpful advice designed to help you relieve or manage your pain, keep active and maintain the best of health. They will discuss the likely cost of this and ask for your consent to begin treatment.
If your osteopath thinks that treatment isn’t suitable for you or your problem then they will explain this to you and discuss what you should do next.
Is Treatment Painful?
Osteopaths work with your body rather than imposing ourselves on it so most treatment should be comfortable and pain free. If there are knots in your muscles that need loosening, then there may be some discomfort but we will always work with you to make sure that this is at a level that you are happy with.
People are often worried about ‘manipulation’ of the spine. This is where a quick movement is put through a joint and you may feel or hear a ‘click’ or ‘pop’. This isn’t painful or uncomfortable. The noise is just a bubble of gas or air popping in the joint: it is not from bones or discs being put back into place! Its effect on the body will let the joints move more freely and the muscles around the joint relax.
A minority of patients may feel some short-term soreness after treatment. If this is the case, then it generally lasts no longer than a few hours or a day after which you should feel a whole lot better than before you came for treatment.
Training and Regulation
You can be confident that your osteopath has the highest level of training and expertise, and will provide a safe and effective diagnosis and treatment for you. In the UK, the osteopathic profession is regulated by the General Osteopathic Council and osteopaths are trained to degree level, taking a minimum of four years, including over 1000 hours of contact time with patients at undergraduate level.
Osteopaths are also recognised by the NHS as Allied Health Professionals and play a critical role in the diagnosis, treatment and care of people of all ages.