What can I expect when I visit an osteopath?

Osteopathy is a patient-centred, system of healthcare and as such the osteopath with tailor the treatment to your needs. As a regulated healthcare profession your safety and wellbeing is of  prime concern, your appointment is confidential and your consent will be sought for both assessment and treatment. A first appointment generally lasts about 45 minutes to an hour to allow the osteopath adequate time to:

  •  Listen and ask questions about your problem, your general health, other medical care you are receiving or medication you are taking, and record this in your case notes. The osteopath may also wish to view previous relevant scans or tests you have received.
  • Examine you properly. It is likely the osteopath will ask you to remove some of your clothing, often down to your underwear. Tell your osteopath if you are uncomfortable about this. Your osteopath may suggest that you wear shorts or gym-wear to help you feel more comfortable or close fitting clothes so they can still assess you adequately. You should expect privacy to undress and you can ask a friend or relative to accompany you and be present throughout your treatment.
  • Ask you to make simple movements and stretches to observe your posture and mobility. Because of the body’s structure, pain or stiffness you are experiencing in one part may be linked to a problem elsewhere.
  • Examine the health of the joints, tissues and ligaments using their hands and a highly developed sense of touch called palpation.
  • Osteopaths are highly trained practitioners and may also examine cardiovascular and neurological structures and even organs as part of their assessment of your health.

Your osteopath will also check for signs of serious conditions they cannot treat and may advise you to see your GP or go to hospital. In this instance they may wish to speak to your doctor or provide you with a letter explaining what they believe to be the problem.

Diagnosis and treatment

Osteopathy specialises in the diagnosis, management, treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal and other related disorders.

Your osteopath will give you a clear explanation of what they find (their diagnosis) and discuss a treatment plan that is suitable for you. Your osteopath will discuss the likely number of treatments to start noticing a change in the symptoms. The treatment plan may well involve recommendations of stretches/exercises and lifestyle changes to complement the treatment given.

Treatment is hands-on and osteopaths are highly skilled in a range of techniques from careful manipulation of the joints, soft tissue massage, and more subtle tissue and joint unwinding techniques. Your osteopath will explain why they propose a certain approach to treatment for you, but you can always ask if you would prefer a certain technique not to be performed as there are always options for other ways to treat you. Ask questions at any time if you are unsure what you have been told or if you have any concerns.

Osteopaths work very hard to make treatment as painless as possible, but you may experience some discomfort during and after treatment due to the condition you are presenting with. Your osteopath will warn you if they think that the technique that they are about to use is likely to be uncomfortable and will stop if you tell them that you are feeling too much pain.

Following treatment about half of patients report some mild soreness in the area of their body that was treated, this is not considered abnormal, and is commonly associated with the body adjusting to working in a new way, these symptoms will usually go away within 48 hours. If you experience serious or unusual symptoms after treatment you should contact your osteopath straight away for advice.


Osteopaths generally work in private healthcare and payment is usually made at each appointment.  Some insurance companies cover osteopathic treatment, however you will need to find out from them their terms for this and also find out from your osteopath if they are registered with your insurance company.