To judge whether a health treatment is safe and effective, we need evidence gathered by conducting fair scientific tests.
What evidence is there?
Most research into techniques used in osteopathy tends to focus on general "manual therapy" techniques, such as spinal manipulation.
Manual therapy techniques are used by physiotherapists and chiropractors, as well as osteopaths.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines on managing lower back pain and sciatica state that manual therapy can be considered as a treatment option alongside exercise.
NICE also recommends manual therapy as a possible treatment option for osteoarthritis, but osteopathy isn't specifically mentioned.
There's only limited or no scientific evidence to support osteopathy as an effective treatment for:
- painful periods
- excessive crying in babies (colic)
- glue ear
- problems affecting the jaw (temporomandibular disorder)
- abnormal curvature of the spine (scoliosis)
When we use a treatment and feel better, this can sometimes happen because of a phenomenon called the placebo effect and not because of the treatment itself.
This means that, although many people treated by osteopaths report good results, it's not always clear how effective the treatment actually is for certain conditions.