What is osteopathy?

Osteopathy is a manual medical discipline (both diagnostic and therapeutic) which treats the body as a whole, the individual in his entirety, and searches for tissue damage - whether joint, muscular, ligament or visceral.

One of its distinctive characteristics is that it essentially seeks to achieve the preservation or (relative) optimisation of vital bodily functions (by activating the body’s self-healing ability or strengthening its auto-regulation). Whereas, for example, allopathic medicine is firmly geared to the struggle against disease and its symptoms by external means (medication, surgery, etc.).

This enables us to appreciate the complementarity between the allopathic medical approach and osteopathy, and recognise that the two fields are not at odds with each other.

However, due to their specific nature, complexities and respective development, they are rarely carried out by the same therapist.

After carrying out an anamnesis and a clinical examination of the patient, the osteopath determines whether his skills are appropriate for treating the condition (differential diagnosis or diagnosis of exclusion), or if another opinion, medical treatment, or even further conventional medical examinations are required. In this case, the patient is then advised to consult his general physician, or the most suitable health professional.

If appropriate, the osteopath continues the session and carries out an osteopathic diagnosis (≠ medical diagnosis), which consists of establishing a lack of joint/tissue mobility (or motility), which is linked to an osteopathic lesion (or somatic dysfunction); this loss of mobilities (or motilities) may be the origin of, or relate to, the outbreak of disease(s) and or a functional disorder(s).

On the basis of this diagnosis, the objective of the osteopathic treatment is to restore optimal mobility (or motility), which corresponds, in principle, to a distinctive physiological state in each individual.

Using reasoning based on the anatomy and physiology, or even embryology, the objectives we are searching for can be defined as follows :


    Find the element which hinders the normal maintenance or restorative process of the patient’s health;


    Readjust these elements manually (structural techniques, direct or indirect manipulations: fascial, visceral, cranial approach, etc.);


    Allow the whole body to re-establish its natural balance (homeostasis) and its relative health.

From a practical point of view, two types of manual techniques are used by osteopaths:


Firstly, the structural approach brings together the manipulative techniques (by joint manipulation (cracking), or using articulatory techniques, or muscular energy, etc.)


Secondly, the functional approach is based on listening to the body: the osteopath uses his hand to follow the tension in the organism and untangles, or ‘unrolls’ it using various techniques (fascial, Jones/Sutherland techniques; as well as visceral and cranial techniques, etc.).

These two methods are complementary and the osteopath must be able to draw upon them according to the therapeutic indications and his skills.

Osteopathy can be defined as the improved status of customary biomechanical connections of any given individual. These connections are considered essential factors in the emergence, maintenance and restoration of one’s state of health.

Definition put forward by M. Rocques D.O. ; Apostil n°15, p39-40.

To explain the somatic dysfunctions that a patient may display, different causes may be envisaged; they may also be the consequence of

  • A traumatic past which induces mechanical blockages;
  • The use of all types of drugs, including abusive or inappropriate use of medication; physical or intellectual overload;
  • A poor posture;
  • Incorrect or unhealthy eating habits;
  • Stress, moral or intellectual distress

As long as these causes of dysfunction are not taken into consideration, the therapeutic results, (whatever the adopted therapeutical system), are deemed unclear or unreliable. Therefore, the osteopath’s approach consists of re-establishing a mechanical and physiological balance in his patient, but he also aims to resolve any other potential difficulties, guiding the individual towards more relevant and appropriate assistance.

Like any therapeutic discipline, osteopathy is not an exclusive practice that is able to resolve every condition;

It must be used in conjunction with other skills, such as fields of specialisation in allopathic medicine, dentistry, psychology, chiropody, nutrition, hygiene, etc.

For over a century, osteopathy has represented, for osteopaths but predominantly for patients who have been or are being treated, or have turned to it, an effective means to resolve or to ease certain physical conditions, and achieve a significant improvement in the overall quality of life.