Is osteopathy evidence based?

Yes and No.

The practise of osteopathy is experience based and evidence informed. To elaborate: evidence relates to the treatment of named conditions; if your osteopath has diagnosed you with such a condition, they will be informed by the current evidence when formulating your treatment plan. However, in order to prioritise the treatment of you, as an individual, osteopaths are frequently looking to identify a range of physical and lifestyle factors which, when combined, can form a complex and unique interaction of influences predisposing and maintaining your complaint. As the most reliable evidence is gained by statistical analysis of large cohorts, ‘complex interactions of numerous factors’ unfortunately do not lend themselves to high quality evidence.

By choosing not to define themselves as evidence based, osteopaths are able to provide treatment based on what they believe will have the most beneficial effect for you, rather than for the average person. A simple example of this would be a patient suffering from ‘tennis elbow’; the evidence suggests that treatment should be focussed on reducing local inflammation at the elbow joint, advice which would of course be followed. However, in this particular case, it may be that this overuse injury of the elbow has resulted from dysfunction of the shoulder or wrist. The osteopath would be able to identify this, based on their experience of how the joints of the upper extremity should be interacting with one another, and they would work to address this underlying cause of the injury alongside the treatment of its symptoms. Rest assured that treatment at Tyneside Osteopathy is always based upon scientific principles and logic surrounding the study of anatomy and physiology.

There is also growing evidence for osteopathic treatment in a range of different situations. Current NICE guidelines given to GPs recommend spinal manipulation, as practised by osteopaths, in the treatment of low back pain. The UK BEAM trial has shown that spinal manipulation improved outcomes for patients with low back pain beyond those achieved with traditional ‘best care’ (further benefit was achieved when spinal manipulation was then followed with exercise).

If you would like more information on current research in the field of osteopathy, the National Council for Osteopathic Research (NCOR) website is a great place to start.

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