What is an osteopathic treatment ?

Preparing for your osteopathic appointment

Juliette_metivier_osteopathe_voisins_le_bretonneux_78_bureauYou don’t need much preparation for you first osteopathic treatment however; you might want to know a few facts :

  • You will probably be asked to undress down to your underwear, shoes included. Please wear something you feel comfortable in, and do not mind wearing in front of your osteopath. Teenagers or kids can wear sports bras or shorts that are stretchy and not restrictive.
  • Don’t hesitate to bring any medical investigations done previously such as x-rays, ultrasounds, scans or anything relevant to your pain.
  • An osteopathic treatment can make you feel very relaxed or/and tired. So going to work or even driving long distances afterwards can be difficult.
  • In order to help your body recover from treatment, carrying out physically demanding activities should be avoided for the next three days.



What happens during an osteopathic appointment ?

An osteopathic session lasts about 45 minutes and consists of three stages.

1. The case history

During the first consultation, your osteopath will ask many questions about your symptoms. Some of these questions include when and how did the pain occur, the nature of the pain, the relieving and aggravating factors. The osteopath may ask you some questions that may appear irrelevant to your problem; however, it helps the osteopath sharpen the possible diagnosis.

The osteopath will also want to know about your general health, sports activity, job, family life, past medical history, previous injuries and illness, etc.

All this information will help the osteopath decide what he needs to focus his attention on during the treatment as well as what kind of treatment approach will be used. Do not avoid saying any embarrassing details; your osteopath probably has heard it all before!


2. The clinical examination and tests

Your osteopath will conduct a full osteopathic examination. It includes active and passive movements (such as bending forwards, on the sides, moving your head, lifting your arms/legs). The examination usually starts with the patient standing, followed by sitting and then laying. Osteopathy is a hands-on treatment so it will also involve some palpatory techniques to determine the location and origin of your pain.

If necessary, some clinical tests may need to be carried out. This may involve diagnostic, orthopaedic or neurological tests which will help the osteopath understand better your condition.



3. The treatment 

At the end of the examination, your osteopath will give you their finding and diagnosis of your pain or symptoms and suggest the treatment approach that they would like to perform on you.

If you don’t understand or want to know more, don’t hesitate to ask. Your osteopath will explain with more anatomy or physiology details. If you are uncomfortable with the techniques suggested by the osteopath, don’t hesitate to ask more questions about the aim or the technique or to ask for an alternative treatment plan.

As said previously, osteopathy is a hands-on treatment. It includes soft tissue, stretching, repetitive rhythmic movements, gentle cranio-sacral treatment, mobilisation and/or manipulation. Most osteopathic treatment is gentle and painless but some techniques on tender areas may cause some discomfort. In any case, report the pain level to your osteopath and he will be careful to make you as comfortable as possible.

Through the treatment, the osteopath will ask you to lie down on a table, on the side or lie on your front depending on which area needs treatment.


Side effects of the treatments

traitement_osteopathique_78During the treatment, the osteopaths aim is to positively make changes to the body’s musculoskeletal, nervous, arterial and lymphatic systems. By restoring balance between those systems, the body might feel disorientated for a few days.

This can exhibit itself by the following symptoms or signs:

  • mild soreness for a day or two after treatment (similar to post-exercices muscle soreness)
  • redness around the area that has been treated (due to improved blood supply)
  • tiredness, drowsiness and headaches
  • nausea or bloating particularly after visceral treatment


A rare but possible side effect can be the aggravation of your symptoms. It can last for a few days and disappears altogether; however, call your osteopath if you have any inquiries.

Your osteopath will most likely warn you about the possible effects of the technique applied during the treatment. The best way to avoid them is to take a small nap afterwards, rest as much as possible,  drink plenty of water and stretch.


Follow up treatments

Sometimes, a single treatment is enough. Nevertheless, the amount of treatments required depends on a few factors such as the general health of the patients, lifestyle, etc. Most conditions can be relieved in two to three treatments.

  • During an acute episode of pain, your osteopath will usually suggest up to two further osteopathic treatments, usually within a week’s interval.
  • A maintenance treatment usually involves a single regular treatment every few month while a preventive treatment is once a year.


In the case of referral
If your osteopath thinks that your condition would not benefit from osteopathic treatment, they will advise you to seek more appropriate help. They may refer you to your GP, to get some X-rays, to a podiatrist, to an orthopaedic surgeon before returning to the clinic.