About osteopathy

If you have any questions about the safety and quality of osteopathic treatment, below you will find plenty of information that should help.

If you have any questions then feel free to phone me, or email austin.plunkett.osteo@gmail.com and we can discuss how I can best help you.

You may also want to book an appointment or find out where I practice.

What is osteopathy?

Osteopathy is a hands-on physical therapy. It usually involves stretching muscles and moving joints. I may also offer advice on exercise, diet, lifestyle changes, and more besides.

Osteopaths train for 4 years, learning what can go wrong with the body and how to best help. The term "osteopath" is legally protected, meaning osteopaths have to be listed on a register, similar to doctors, dentists, and other healthcare practitioners.

Who can osteopathy help?

Almost anyone. I personally treat patients aged anywhere between childhood and old age. Some osteopaths treat babies and children; personally I work with anyone who can discuss their treatment with me, so I don't work with babies and very young children. Anyone who is legally a minor or child must be accompanied by their legal guardian.

Reasons people seek osteopaths include muscle pain, joint stiffness, "trapped nerves", sports injuries, and much more. Typically people think of osteopaths as helping with back pain, but we also help with knee pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, wrist and elbow pain, and ankle pain. I can help improve your sporting performance, and help you prepare for and recover from surgery.

If you are in any doubt as to whether I can help you then please phone or email, and we can discuss.

Who monitors quality of osteopaths?

Osteopaths are required to continue studying throughout their careers, in order to keep their knowledge and skills up to date. The General Osteopathic Council monitors this and ensures all osteopaths are capable of very high quality patient care, and conduct themselves professionally.

What should I expect in my first appointment?

Typically I will ask you why you've come to see me, and talk with you about whatever is giving you bother. I will also ask you about your medical background in case there's anything I need to be aware of. Usually I ask patients to undress to their underwear, although this isn't always necessary and you are not obliged to do so if you prefer not to. Some patients bring shorts and a t-shirt to wear during treatment. I'll ask you to move around, and I will want to move your limbs for you too — osteopathy is "hands on"!

In any treatment with me — or with any healthcare practitioner — the patient comes first. So if you are ever uncomfortable, or have a question, or want to stop treatment at any time, you are welcome to let me know.

Do osteopaths click joints?

Sometimes, yes — but not always.

Most people are familiar with "cracking knuckles" or clicking knees — moving a joint to deliberately produce a popping noise. This is called "joint manipulation". Osteopaths spend several years learning how to manipulate nearly every joint in the body. Sometimes joint manipulation makes a joint feel looser, and makes stiff muscles feel more relaxed.

Some patients do not like having joints clicked or cracked or popped, and I will never do it if that's your preference.

There are thought to be some risks with joint manipulation, and I will always talk about those risks with you beforehand. Joint manipulation is not always appropriate, and I will always discuss with you why it may or may not be useful for you.

Remember, there are risks with just about every possible form of therapy, from massage to surgery, from acupuncture to psychotherapy.

How many appointments will be required?

That varies from person to person, but typically most patients find significant improvement after between 2 and 3 treatments. Some patients like to have a regular appointment every 2 or 3 months or so.

I will always discuss with you how many appointments will be appropriate, and you are under no obligation whatsoever to take any appointments after the first one. All patients are free to cease treatment at any point. I appreciate that osteopathy isn't free! So I will always check if you're happy to continue treatment.

If you have any queries about if osteopathy will help you, and how much it will cost, the best thing to do is to get in touch with me.

Do I need a referral from my GP?

No, you don't need to be referred from your GP. Osteopaths usually work in private practice, so you can visit us directly. At my Paddington clinic I offer discounts to patients who arrive with a letter from their GP, but you certainly don't need one.

How long do I have to wait for an appointment?

Not long! If I'm free then I may be able to see you on the day. Otherwise I should be able to refer you to a colleague within one working day.

Can you refer me for a scan, or for surgery?

Only if necessary, and typically through your GP.

Osteopaths do occasionally refer people for X-rays, MRI scans, ultrasound scans, and other forms of medical imaging. Sometimes this would be privately, and may cost between £50 and £350 depending on what imaging is required. However if I feel imaging would be useful I would typically write a letter to your GP, with your permission, asking if they agree. This way the NHS would provide the scan, and you would not have to pay.

I may also write to your GP, with your permission, if I feel you would benefit from seeing a consultant — someone specialising in joints, diseases, imaging, surgery, and so on.

I will always discuss with you any need for referral, and what benefit this may bring to your osteopathic treatment.

Osteopaths do not refer people by request; only after careful examination and assessment might referral be an option.