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"Osteopathy is the knowledge of the structure, relation and function of each part of the human body applied to the correction of whatever interferes with its harmonious operation." 
- George V. Webster, D.O., 1921

In Ontario, Osteopathic Manual Practitioners maintain, improve or restore the normal physiological function of interrelated body structures and systems, and, enhance the body's natural ability to health itself. They use various manual assessment and treatment techniques and modalities to help people of all ages and backgrounds who suffer injury, pain or other health concerns by easing the pain, reducing swelling, improving tissue mobility and promoting efficient healing.  Restricted  or constricted areas of the body - areas which are not moving normally or are "strangled" or "squeezed" may exist in the following systems:

  • musculoskeletal
  • respiratory
  • cardiovascular
  • digestive
  • reproductive
  • nervous

Osteopathic Manual Practitioners seek to identify and then gently ease the restrictions or constrictions so the body can function normally again.

Manual osteopathy is based on 4 basic principles:

  1. Each structure in the body supports the body's functions. If a structure is damaged, out of place, or otherwise not working properly, the body will not function at its best.
  2. The natural flow of the body's fluids – lymphatic, vascular, and neurological – must be preserved and maintained.
  3. The human body is the sum of its parts. Its physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and cognitive systems don't work independently - they work in harmony.
  4. When the body has no restrictions, it has the inherent ability to heal itself.

Who Provides Osteopathy?

Please note that Osteopathic Manual Practitioners are not osteopaths (osteopathic physicians)

Osteopathy is a treatment philosophy which seeks to identify areas of the body that are restricted or constricted, then gently ease these restrictions so that normal function can resume.

Definition of Osteopathy: Osteopathy applies the knowledge of the structure (anatomy) and function (physiology) of the body, to all diseases, disorders and dysfunctions. Osteopathic manual practitioners use their hands and provide a gentle “manual” approach, consistent with the osteopathic philosophy, to identify the causative factor of the problem and restore order to all of the systems: musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, reproductive, or nervous system.

Man is composed of matter, movement, and spirit. - A.T. Still, Founder of Osteopathy

As a philosophy, there are many techniques and different approaches that the Osteopathic Manual Practitioner may utilize, but their practice demandsthat the body be addressed as an integrated unit through principles in practice and respect be given to all of the components of the patient: Body, Mind, and Spirit.

In recent years, there has been increasing interest in the use osteopathic health care - a broad range of holistic, client-centred, healthy approaches, including a drugless, hands-on, non-invasive method of assessment and treatment. Understanding osteopathic health care can be confusing as different countries use disparate terminology and permit diverse practitioners with various educational backgrounds.  Health care professional legislation, regulations and policies are substantially different from one jurisdiction to another.

The World Health Organization recognizes that the practice of osteopathic manual therapy, a component of osteopathic health care, as distinct from other manual therapies such as physiotherapy and chiropractic, despite the fact that there is some overlap in the techniques and interventions that are used. There are two groups of professionals who practice osteopathic health care (osteopathy) and utilize an osteopathic approach - Osteopathic Manual Practitioners and Osteopathic Physicians.

Osteopathic Manual Practitioners have extensive education and training in traditional manual osteopathic practice.  They assess and treat patients using only manual techniques.  They are not physicians and they cannot prescribe medication or perform surgery.  In Ontario, Osteopathic Manual Practitioners can be recognized by the professional designation D.O.M.P. or DOMTP (if educated in Ontario) which signify that the practitioner holds a Diploma in osteopathic manual practice or by other designations (if they were educated outside of Ontario).  To be an active or affiliate member  of the OAO, the applicant for membership must be a graduate of a Board-approved osteopathic educational institution and educational program.   Some OAO members were educated in other countries and were regulated health care professionals with the right to call themselves an "osteopath" in their own country.  The OAO will consider applicants to be eligible for membership if they are registered with the regulatory college as an “osteopath” in their own country.  Throughout Canada there are approximately 800 Osteopathic Manual Practitioners, most of whom practice in Quebec and Ontario. The education  required to become an Osteopathic Manual Practitioner is also available in many other countries including the United Kingdom, Russia, Australia, Greece, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Israel, Portugal, Switzerland, Scandinavia, and New Zealand.  In some of these countries, such as the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, an "osteopath" is a protected (restricted) title which can only be used to describe the regulated health care professional who practices osteopathic health care (osteopathy).

Osteopathic Physicians are graduates of an osteopathic medical school or college in the United States.  They receive a Doctor of Osteopathy or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree in the Unitied States. The education needed to become an osteopathic physician is not available in Canada. In Ontario, only a member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) is permitted to use the title "osteopath" as per the Medicine Act, 1991. Thus, the small number of  U.S. education osteopathic physicians who are members of the CPSO can be described either as osteopaths or osteopathic physicians.

Your Appointment with a Manual Practitioner

Your Appointment with a Manual Practitioner

At your first appointment, the osteopathic manual practitioner should always:

1. Conduct a thorough survey of your health

The practitioner might want to learn a lot about your current and past health, to find out:

  • what problem is bothering you now
  • what general health issues you have, if any
  • what medical treatments you have had throughout your life

2. Give you a physical examination

The manual practitioner should examine you physically to check your condition and make sure it is safe for you to receive osteopathic treatment. They may also assess the systems and structures of your body that may be related to your complaint, such as

  • your posture
  • your gait (the way you walk)
  • the motion of your joints

The practitioner should also palpate various areas of your body to learn about

  • the tone of your tissues (their strength and tension)
  • whether there are any restrictions
  • your biorhythm

It's a good idea to wear loose clothing, such as shorts and a T-shirt or sports bra.

3. Develop a treatment plan

Together, you and your osteopathic manual practitioner should review the results of your health survey and physical examination. Based on all this information, the osteopath should propose a treatment plan for you.

  • check to see the results of your previous treatment
  • reassess the areas to be treated\
  • use one or more of the osteopathic treatment methods, depending on what you need Your body needs time to adapt to each treatment, especially if your problem is chronic.

A week is usually enough time for your body to adapt, so in most cases treatments are given once a week or once every 2 weeks. As your condition starts to improve, you will need treatments less often. 

Manual Osteopathic Treatment Methods

Osteopathic Manual Practitioners identify, assess, and treat the body's structures and rhythms using a gentle, hands-on approach. This fundamental technique is called osteopathic palpation. Manual practitioners spend many years developing the very sensitive sense of touch they need to master osteopathic palpation.

Osteopathic palpation is what makes manual osteopathy different from other forms of therapy. Manual practitioners use it in the 4 major treatment techniques:

1. Soft Tissue Manipulation

The practitioner uses soft tissue manipulation in many different ways. In general, they use it to evaluate the condition of tissues and to help the body's fluids (such as blood and lymphatic fluid) flow smoothly. Keeping fluids flowing smoothly reduces harmful fluid retention and makes the body's immune system more effective.

Fascia is tissue found in all parts of the body. It connects all of the body's structures at both superficial and deep levels. Practitioners evaluate the fascia to find areas of restriction, and then use soft tissue manipulation to make sure the length and tension of the fascia are properly balanced.

Throughout the treatment, osteopaths keep checking on the state of the body's tissues. If one technique isn't working to correct a restriction, they use another approach instead. Above all, osteopathic manual practitioners try to restore health without over-treating.

2. Osteopathic articular technique

Osteopathic Manual Practitioners use this technique to:

  • reduce muscle spasms near a joint
  • ease neurological irritations around a joint
  • make joints more mobile
  • reduce pain and discomfort

The articular technique involves gently moving 2 joint surfaces. Before doing this, practitioners carefully prepare the soft tissues around the treatment area. They also move the patient into a position that will minimize, or eliminate the energy and force needed to perform the manoeuvre. Many patients find this technique less forceful than joint manipulations.

click is sometimes heard when the correction is made. This is nothing more than the synovial fluid moving through the joint.

The osteopathic articular technique is a very small component of osteopathy. Patients who do not want to have this (or any other) technique performed on them are encouraged to discuss their concerns with their practitioner. Osteopathic Manual Practitioners can use other methods to achieve similar results.

3. Cranial osteopathy

This is the most gentle osteopathic technique, and it requires the most experience to use effectively. To learn this technique, Osteopathic Manual Practitioners undergo years of intensive training. Through this training, their hands become sensitive to the cranial mobility and develop great precision in utilizing cranial technique.

Osteopathic manual practitioners use this gentle technique to assess and treat the mobility of the skull and its contents. They may also use it to assess and treat the spine, the sacrum, and other parts of the body.

The goal of this technique is to adjust the body’s physiology by restoring balance to the circulation of the blood and other body fluids. Practitioners do this by treating the body's inherent biorhythm. Practitioners trained in this technique can feel this rhythm in the patient's head, spinal cord, and in the sacrum and the rest of the body. Osteopathic Manual Practitioners use the biorhythm to assess the patient's condition, and they may modify it during treatment.

4. Visceral manipulation

Osteopathic Manual Practitioners use visceral manipulation to treat organs and viscera of the body, including:

  • lungs
  • heart
  • liver
  • spleen
  • kidneys
  • stomach
  • pancreas
  • intestines
  • bladder
  • uterus

Patients may feel pain in one or more of these organs, or the viscera may be less pliable than it should be. Osteopathic manual practitioners gently move the structures themselves and the fascia (connective tissue) that surrounds them to restore full movement.

Most patients treated with visceral manipulation feel only gentle pressure of the osteopathic manual practitioner’s hand. But the corrections are powerful enough to improve the mobility of an organ, improve blood flow, and help the organ function more effectively.

The above (and many other) osteopathic manual techniques and approaches are used in a coordinated and rational fashion to slowly adjust the patients anatomy and physiology towards normal, so that the patients body can heal itself.

Why Choose Osteopathy?

Osteopathic manual practitioners assess and treat your body as a whole, because:

  • symptoms sometimes show up in a different part of your body from where the problem actually is
  • there may be several factors contributing to the symptoms you experience

Osteopathic treatment is efficient, which helps to minimize the number of visits you need.

Practitioners go through many years of training to develop their highly refined palpatory skills.

Note: It is important that you speak with your medical doctor for the complete diagnosis of any medical condition.

For further information please visit the Ontario Association of Osteopathic Manual Practitioners at or Osteopathy BC at