Skip to content

Osteopathy: Study claims the controversial alternative medicine can help musculoskeletal disorders

Osteopathy: Study claims the controversial alternative medicine can help musculoskeletal disorders

Osteopathy only helps if you suffer from aches and pains, according to a review of the evidence.

Experts say the controversial treatment may be even better than seeing a physio for patients with musculoskeletal conditions.

But there’s no evidence that it benefits children or against migraines or irritable bowel syndrome, researchers say.

Osteopathy – first developed in the 1800s – is considered as dubious at best by critics.

The practice involves the gentle manipulation of the tissues and bones of the body, moving, stretching and massaging a person’s muscles and joints.

The assessment, conducted by Italian osteopaths, was based on dozens of studies involving approximately 3,750 volunteers.

Independent experts told MailOnline that most of the primary studies in the review have limited reliability due to “serious methodological issues.”

Italian osteopaths and medics claim 'promising evidence' that osteopathy can help relieve conditions such as back, neck and chronic non-cancer pain

Italian osteopaths and medics claim ‘promising evidence’ that osteopathy can help relieve conditions such as back, neck and chronic non-cancer pain

Professor Edzard Ernst, a world-renowned expert on alternative medicine, formerly at the University of Exeter, said the findings are “contrary to science and common sense.”

He said they should be taken with “a grain of salt.”

Osteopathy is considered an ‘allied health profession’ in the UK and patients in some parts of England can be referred for the practice by NHS GPs.

There are 5,000 registered osteopaths across Britain. Private sessions can cost around €40.

The review, published in the BMJ Open, analyzed nine previous review papers by osteopaths or physicians trained in osteopathy.

It was led by Donatella Bagagiolo, of the Higher School of Italian Osteopathy in Turin.

What is osteopathy and does it actually work?

Osteopathy is concerned with restoring and maintaining balance in the body’s neuromusculoskeletal systems.

Practitioners say that abuse, injuries and stress can all upset the fine balance between the various body systems: muscles, joints, ligaments and nerves.

The goal of the osteopath is to restore and maintain balance and provide relief from unnecessary aches and pains.

Some even claim it can help other unrelated problems, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), asthma, and impotence, but there’s no evidence that this is the case.

Patients may be referred to osteopaths by GPs on the NHS depending on the area they live in.

An NHS spokesperson said: ‘There is some evidence that osteopathy can be effective for some types of neck, shoulder or lower extremity pain, some types of headaches and recovery from hip or knee surgery.

“There is only limited or no scientific evidence that it is an effective treatment for conditions unrelated to the bones and muscles (musculoskeletal system), including asthma, menstrual pain and digestive disorders.”


Papers discussed the effectiveness of osteopathy in treating low back, neck and chronic non-cancer pain.

They also evaluated its effects on pediatric conditions — including cerebral palsy and scoliosis — migraines, tension headaches and irritable bowel syndrome.

They found that osteopathy is more effective than other approaches in reducing low back, neck and chronic non-cancer pain. Ms Bagagiolo described the results as ‘promising’.

Other approaches included no treatment at all, physiotherapy and other alternative medicine.

But there was “inconclusive evidence” that osteopathy helped with one of the other conditions, the team claimed.

Ms Bagagiolo said the studies — based on small sample sizes — yielded conflicting findings.

The researchers wrote: ‘This review suggests that osteopathy could be effective in treating musculoskeletal disorders, particularly those related to…low back pain in pregnant women or those who have just had a baby.

In contrast, no convincing evidence was obtained from analyzing the efficacy of osteopathy on pediatric conditions, primary headache and IBS.

Nevertheless, based on the low number of studies, some of moderate quality, our review emphasizes the need to conduct further well-conducted systematic reviews and clinical studies… to confirm and further explore the potential use of osteopathy in patients. expand. a number of conditions and their safety.’

However, experts criticized the study.

Professor Ernst told MailOnline: ‘Osteopathy is based on outdated assumptions that go against science and common sense.

‘Most primary studies of osteopathy face serious methodological problems that limit their reliability.

‘That is why the evidence of an overview of systematic reviews must be taken with a large grain of salt.

“Even with those conditions for which osteopathy appears to be supported by encouraging evidence, we must be clear that it is never the best therapy available yet.”

Osteopathy involves the use of stretching, massage, and various movements to increase joint mobility, relieve muscle tension, and reduce pain.

Practitioners strive to increase blood flow and help the body heal in certain areas.

Some practitioners also claim that osteopathy can help patients with IBS, migraines, and even excessive crying in babies. Belly rubbing babies and cranial osteopathy – massaging the head – are common in clinics that claim to help the problems.

Source link