Practice Whereas chiropractors are likely to crunch and click the bones, osteopaths are more likely to apply pressure to the soft tissue: the muscles, the ligaments, and the tendons.
“We’re principally concerned with the locomotion of the body,” explains osteopath John Betser. “We are looking at the bones, muscles, joints and ligaments, and how they do or don’t work together.”
Minimum qualification Four-year degree course.
Injuries treated Back and shoulder injuries, shin splints, plantar fasciitis. While osteopaths can treat the same injuries as other doctors, it is important to select an osteopath who is well versed in sports medicine and used to treating your specific injury.
When to go When a sudden or nagging injury won’t go away, particularly if the injury can be cured by manipulation of the muscles, ligaments and tendons.
What to expect On the first visit, an osteopath will ask questions and do a standard examination to diagnose the problem. Expect the doctor to touch the injury and stretch it to help pinpoint what is wrong. Osteopaths don’t always use manipulation to effect a cure, but their medical philosophy leads them in that direction.
Case study A club runner in his late 50s had a persistent injury in his right calf. Having visited a variety of specialists, he eventually consulted an osteopath, who discovered that the problem stemmed from a change of job a couple of years previously. At work he was standing for hours on end, always with his right leg slightly bent. As a result the calf muscle had started to shorten on that side.
Pressure applied to the lower calf enabled him to stand more symmetrically, thus reducing the tension in the right calf. More intricate stretches were prescribed and soon he was back to pain-free running.
Cost of treatment Most people consult an osteopath privately. But, as with chiropractic treatment, it is available occasionally on the NHS.
Contacts The Osteopathic Sports Care Association; 0870-601 0037; Osteopathic Information Service; 020 7357 6655; www.osteopathy.org.uk