Osteopaths use various techniques, which are administered by hand, to treat health conditions including back pain, sports injuries, and repetitive strain injuries.
Osteopaths diagnose and administer treatment for numerous medical conditions. They treat patients who are suffering from a range of problems including back pain, arthritis, sports injuries, postural problems from working or driving and migraines. Conditions such as these can cause debilitating pain and may disrupt the day-to-day life of a client. Osteopaths will firstly examine the client by using their hands to identify weak points in the body and areas which have come under excessive strain and stress. Once diagnosis has been successfully made, osteopaths will use various techniques, including thrust manipulation, which can help to improve the mobility of a client and will ease pain as well.
Osteopathy is an established medical field and many people use it to treat their health complaints, either as an exclusive treatment or alongside treatment by drugs. Osteopaths believe that the natural tendency of the body to remain healthy and heal minor complaints can be interrupted by imbalances which may occur in the musculoskeletal system. As well as using their hands to ease the pain and discomfort of clients, osteopaths may also offer medical advice and words of comfort. They can also help their clients draw up health plans, including exercise plans and eating plans.
The gender ratio for this career is relatively balanced, which may surprise some people. Unlike careers in alternative medicine, which tend to attract more women than men, an equal ratio applies to the position of an osteopath, which is more closely aligned with medicine which has a purely scientific basis. Most osteopaths are self-employed but some choose to work through well-established health clubs.
Since the majority of osteopaths are self-employed, it is relatively difficult to estimate typical salaries with any great level of accuracy. However, as a typical guide, osteopaths usually charge their clients between £25 and £35 per session. Each session may last between half an hour and several hours. However, this price may rise depending upon the osteopath’s experience and reputation. Ultimately, osteopaths will typically earn between £15,000 and £50,000 per year.
Typical tasks performed by osteopaths include:
- Providing a welcoming and comfortable environment for the client
- Making the client feel at ease
- Taking a detailed but sensitive case history of each client
- Listening to the medical complaints of each client
- Making initial assessments, including taking the client’s blood pressure
- Observing the physical movements of the client to help make a successful diagnosis
- Performing a physical examination of the client, using palpitations to identify weaknesses and stresses and strains
- Using soft tissue techniques
- Using gentle release techniques
- Drawing up health and lifestyle plans for the client
- Providing general medical advice
- Updating and organising patient records
- Referring patients to other medical experts if this is necessary
- Working with complex medical equipment to help the client
In order to start working as an osteopath, individuals must register with the General Osteopathic Council. This council runs eight schools and different courses of various lengths are on offer. All are degree courses and vary in length from four to five years. Good GCSE grades will be expected along with at least two good A levels in science subjects. Some mature applicants already have first degrees, particularly in subjects such as biology, physiotherapy, physiology, and medicine. For more information on becoming registered with the General Osteopathic Council, have a look at their official website. In order to register with the council, individuals will need to prove their physical fitness by gaining an official medical certificate of fitness.
SkillsOsteopaths should possess the following skills:
- A good sense of touch
- Good hand-eye coordination
- Good communication skills
- Good interpersonal skills
- The ability to listen and pay close attention to detail
- Good physical fitness
- Sound medical knowledge
- Good organisational skills
- Good diagnostic skills
- Good problem-solving skills
- Business awareness
- Administration skills
Osteopaths are usually self-employed and so many work from their own home. However, other osteopaths choose to work from private health clubs or leisure centres. Increasingly jobs are becoming available in the NHS and in private and public companies. Regardless of their choice, the working environment is likely to be comfortable, since clients need to feel as relaxed as possible during their consultation. Some osteopaths may travel to the homes of individual clients, particularly if they are unable to move without inducing pain.
The working hours can be irregular, since the number of hours worked per week will differ from time to time. Some clients may only be able to make appointments during the evening or at weekends, so osteopaths need to remain flexible. The job can be stressful, since many clients offload their emotional problems as well as their physical problems and working in any medical environment can cause anxiety. However, most osteopaths find their job very rewarding and consistently interesting.
It is not necessary to gain relevant experience prior to making an application to train as an osteopath. However, any experience in a caring role or a medical role will be useful and you could try to organise work experience with a local osteopath, or ask for the opportunity to shadow them for a day or two.
Whilst many osteopaths are self-employed, other major employers include:
- Private leisure centres and recreational facilities
- Chain leisure centres, such as Cannons
- Large therapy centres
- The NHS
- Local health authorities
- Large companies which offer staff medical centres
Osteopaths may choose to switch their working environment but stay in their particular profession. However, others may choose to specialise in a specific technique after several years performing general procedures. Some osteopaths decide to start teaching at one of the approved training schools. These individuals will be responsible for teaching those who need to earn the relevant qualifications which will allow them to become registered osteopaths. Alternatively, individuals may decide to go into the field of research, in order to deepen knowledge about osteopathic techniques.
Lizzie Richardson has been working as an osteopath for approximately two and a half years.Before becoming an osteopath, she worked as a recruitment consultant. Lizzie attended the British College of Osteopathic Medicine for four years, during which time she studied numerous modules. The course itself was primarily focused upon medicine and science, with thorough teaching provided on Anatomy and Physiology (a module which required students to perform dissections), Pathology, Clinical Diagnosis, Naturopathy, Nutrition, Exercise Prescription, Massage, and Practical Osteopathic techniques.
Lizzie works from a private practice which she has established in her own home but she also works in a branch of Cannons, a major UK health club chain. Approximately eighty-five per cent of her customers make appointments with Lizzie through Cannons, with the other fifteen per cent arranging personal appointments in her private practice at home. She has found that it has been difficult to set up a private practice from home and success is purely reliant upon word of mouth and good advertising. Whilst setting up her private practice has been rewarding and a real challenge, Lizzie prefers working in Cannons.
During a typical day at work, Lizzie treats patients, who book appointments which last for thirty minutes. These appointments include progress updates, physical examinations, further diagnoses, various treatments, and subsequent advice on all aspects of healthcare. Lizzie enjoys meeting people and helping them feel better. Furthermore, each day brings different challenges and no appointment is ever the same. The only downside to the job, in Lizzie’s opinion, is that it can be lonely at times.
Lizzie had some useful words of wisdom for those wishing to become osteopaths. Whilst there is a lot of competition, individuals should not be dissuaded from pursuing their ambition. It is often difficult to find work in a practice after becoming qualified as an osteopath and she therefore believes that it can be worth taking the risk and trying to set up your own private practice. According to Lizzie, whilst training to become an osteopath, it is essential to take full advantage of the advice provided by clinical tutors as well as the teaching on offer in the numerous sessions. It is also important to build as large a contact list as possible whilst studying.
With regards to career progression, Lizzie is about to enrol on a Pilates course. This will allow her to use techniques from Pilates with her patients. She is also considering taking a course in Cranial Osteopathy in the near future.