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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Osteopaths

Mātanga pona

Osteopaths see people from infancy to old age. They relieve pain, and help you achieve and maintain good health and independence. Most osteopaths also treat ACC injuries and can register your claim.

Osteopaths can help with short-term and chronic (persistent) pain. They can also help with poor flexibility, such as not being able to turn your head when driving, or not being able to put your shoes on easily.

What osteopaths do

Osteopaths use gentle techniques like joint mobilisation to increase the range of movement, stretching tight tissues and soft tissue massage to improve fluid flow and release tension in muscles.

Before treating you, they will ask you questions about the problem you have and get your full medical history. They will then examine you and create a treatment plan. You may be fully clothed or partially undressed for the examination. You should wear loose clothing to your appointment.

They examine you by using their hands to palpate (feel) which areas or joints aren't working well and how tense or relaxed your individual muscles are. Palpation is a technique where the osteopath feels the flow of fluids, the texture of tissues and the structural make-up of the body. They also check for swelling and inflammation.

The osteopath then gently applies stretching and joint mobilisation to specific areas of your body. This aims to improve the flow of blood and other fluids and the motion of tissues, and to improve muscles and joints that aren't working properly.

An appointment usually lasts 30 to 45 minutes. The osteopath may give you exercises to do at home.

The osteopath may also refer you to a specialist or your general practice team or for X-rays or ultrasound.

Osteopaths can help treat:

Osteopaths can also check babies to make sure their muscles and joints are moving evenly and freely.

Osteopaths are trained to recognise conditions that cannot be helped by osteopathy. In these cases, they will refer you back to your general practice team.

Finding an osteopath

You can search for an osteopath on the Osteopathic Council of New Zealand website or Healthpoint.

A doctor can refer you to an osteopath but you can also visit an osteopath without a referral.

Qualifications and training

Osteopaths are master or bachelor degree graduates. They do 1,000 to 1,500 hours of supervised clinical training as undergraduates.

Some osteopaths do further training in areas such as the treatment of children, pain management, rehabilitation, the treatment of older people or acupuncture.

All practising osteopaths are registered with the Osteopathic Council of New Zealand and must hold a current annual practising certificate.

Osteopaths who qualify overseas must complete a one-year programme to show they're competent to practise in New Zealand.

Written by local osteopaths. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2022.

Page reference: 363169

Review key: HIOST-363169