An osteopath


An osteopath is an individual who has completed an appropriate education in osteopathy and continues to demonstrate the required standards. (example: CEN Standard)

Osteopaths provide therapeutic treatment of disorders in the musculoskeletal system to patients with physical issues such as back pain, joint pain, and digestive disorders. They mainly use manipulation of the body tissues, touch, stretching, and massage techniques to relieve the patients` pain and promote a healthy lifestyle.

Osteopaths typically perform the following duties:

  • take detailed case histories from new patients, including both general health (lifestyle and diet) and specific symptoms
  • assess the patient’s general posture and check for restrictions or tensions in joints or muscles by asking them to perform a series of active movements
  • undertake physical examinations by using a highly refined sense of touch (palpation) to identify any restricted, weak or strained areas of the body
  • make a working diagnosis and plan treatment in partnership with the patient
  • provide appropriate treatments using soft tissue techniques, gentle release techniques, and other appropriate methods, such as cranial osteopathy
  • make lifestyle and dietary recommendations to patients in areas such as posture, eating, exercise, and relaxation
  • refer patients to their doctor or other specialists, if required
  • maintain accurate and up-to-date patient records.

Minimum qualifications

A Bachelor of Science (BSc) or a Master of Science (MSc) from an accredited university is often the minimum requirement to work as an osteopath. Courses typically last four to five years and are a combination of academic, research, and over 1,000 hours of patient-facing clinical training. This intensive medical training brings osteopaths an in-depth knowledge of anatomy, physiology, psychology, and pathology combined with clinical examination techniques.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Osteopath is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Osteopath career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to osteopath.

herbal therapist
physiotherapy assistant
shiatsu practitioner

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of osteopath. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of osteopath with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

traditional chinese medicine therapist
occupational therapy assistant
specialist chiropractor

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of osteopath.

  • Musculoskeletal anatomy: The human musculoskeletal system, comprising of the skeleton, muscles, cartilage, tendons, joints and other connective tissue that supports and binds tissues and organs together. The human musculoskeletal system’s primary functions, such as supporting the body, allowing motion, and protecting vital organs.
  • Health care legislation: The patients` rights and responsibilities of health practitioners and the possible repercussions and prosecutions in relation to medical treatment negligence or malpractice.
  • Health care occupation-specific ethics: The moral standards and procedures, ethical questions and obligations specific to occupations in a health care setting such as respect for human dignity, self-determination, informed consent and patient confidentiality.
  • Therapeutic massage: Massage techniques used to relieve pain and alleviate other symptoms associated with a number of different medical conditions.
  • Scientific research methodology: The theoretical methodology used in scientific research involving doing background research, constructing an hypothesis, testing it, analysing data and concluding the results.
  • Osteopathy: The type of alternative medicine which manipulates the body`s muscle tissues, joints and bones.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of osteopath.

  • Provide osteopathic diagnosis: Provide a diagnosis and an inter-disciplinary or osteopathic treatment/management plan by performing an interview, working with patients to identify physical problems and difficulties resulting from illness, injury, disability or aging and by performing an examination.
  • Empathise with the healthcare user: Understand the background of clients` and patients’ symptoms, difficulties and behaviour. Be empathetic about their issues; showing respect and reinforcing their autonomy, self-esteem and independence. Demonstrate a concern for their welfare and handle according to the personal boundaries, sensitivities, cultural differences and preferences of the client and patient in mind.
  • Record healthcare users’ progress related to treatment: Record the healthcare user’s progress in response to treatment by observing, listening and measuring outcomes.
  • Monitor patients’ progress related to treatment: Observe and report on healthcare users’ response to medical treatment, monitoring their progress or decay on a daily basis and modifying the treatment procedures whenever necessary.
  • Apply deep tissue massage: Apply precise techniques and pressures to bring changes to specific tissue layers in the body.
  • Provide health education: Provide evidence based strategies to promote healthy living, disease prevention and management.
  • Contribute to the rehabilitation process: Contribute to the rehabilitation process to enhance activity, functioning and participation using a person-centered and evidence-based approach.
  • Undertake healthcare examination: Assess the healthcare user’s physical state, taking detailed information on previous injuries, surgery, general health, resources and lifestyle into account.
  • Develop therapeutic relationships: Maintain the individual therapeutic relationship to engage the individual’s innate healing capacities, to achieve active collaboration in the health education and healing process and to maximise the potential of healthy change.
  • Apply person-centred care: Treat individuals as partners in planning, developing and assessing care, to make sure it is appropriate for their needs. Put them and their caregivers at the heart of all decisions.
  • Diagnose musculoskeletal conditions: Identify the patient`s orthopaedic injuries such as fractures, dislocations, torn ligaments, sprains, and strains, tendon injuries, pulled muscles, ruptured disks, sciatica, low back pain, and scoliosis, arthritis and osteoporosis, bone tumours, muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy, club foot and unequal leg length, abnormalities of the fingers and toes and growth abnormalities.
  • Follow-up on healthcare users’ treatment: Review and evaluate the progress of the prescribed treatment, taking further decisions with the healthcare users and their carers.
  • Comply with legislation related to health care: Comply with the regional and national legislation that is relevant to one`s work and apply it in practice.
  • Listen actively: Give attention to what other people say, patiently understand points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times; able to listen carefully the needs of customers, clients, passengers, service users or others, and provide solutions accordingly.
  • Conduct gross examination of tissues: Examine the diseased tissues with the naked eye, or with the help of a magnifying glass or stereo microscope.
  • Prescribe treatment for musculoskeletal injuries: Prescribe non-invasive procedures for injuries, immobilising fractured bones with the use of braces, splints, and casts and recommending therapeutic exercises, medication and nutritional supplements.
  • Ensure safety of healthcare users: Make sure that healthcare users are being treated professionally, effectively and safe from harm, adapting techniques and procedures according to the person’s needs, abilities or the prevailing conditions.
  • Maintain treatment records: Keep accurate records and file reports related to the prescribed treatment or medication.
  • Work in multidisciplinary health teams: Participate in the delivery of multidisciplinary health care, and understand the rules and competences of other healthcare related professions.
  • Develop osteopathic treatment plans: Develop new osteopathic treatment plans and review existing components such as osteopathic manual therapy, manual therapy of soft tissue and other tissue, therapeutic range of motion, therapeutic rehabilitative exercise and the application of technological equipment (ultrasound, traction, electrical and light modalities).

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of osteopath. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Orthopaedics: Orthopaedics is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • General medicine: General medicine is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • Human physiology: The science that studies the human organs and its interactions and mechanisms.
  • Kinetics: The study of movement and its causes.
  • Neurology: Neurology is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • Pharmacology: Pharmacology is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • Food science: The study of the physical, biological, and chemical makeup of food and the scientific concepts underlying food processing and nutrition.
  • Biomechanics: The use of mechanical means to understand the function and structure of biological organisms.
  • Human anatomy: The dynamic relationship of human structure and function and the muscosceletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, urinary, reproductive, integumentary and nervous systems; normal and altered anatomy and physiology throughout the human lifespan.
  • Endocrinology: Endocrinology is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • Dietetics: The human nutrition and dietary modification for optimising health in clinical or other environments. The role of nutrition in promoting health and preventing illness across the life spectrum.
  • First aid: The emergency treatment given to a sick or injured person in the case of circulatory and/or respiratory failure, unconsciousness, wounds, bleeding, shock or poisoning.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of osteopath. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Obtain healthcare user’s medical status information: Gather healthcare user information through various sources such as questioning the healthcare user, caregiver, or healthcare professional to obtain information on the patient`s health and social status, and interpreting records made by other health care professionals when appropriate.
  • Take and analyse blood pressure: Take blood pressure of a patient and interpret the test result by using medical equipment such as a blood pressure monitor.
  • Advise patients on health and lifestyle issues: Advise patients on issues related to health and lifestyle, such as exercise, nutrition, and sleep habits.
  • Advise on healthy lifestyles: Promote healthy lifestyles, preventive measures and self-care by strengthening empowerment, promoting health and enhancing behaviours and therapeutic compliance, providing patients with the adequate information in order to support compliance with and adherence to prescribed treatments, medication and nursing care.
  • Conduct physical examinations: Conduct physical examination of healthcare users, looking for signs of dysfunction and sub-optimal function and analysing the patient`s systems, posture, spine and reflexes.
  • Collect healthcare user’s general data: Collect qualitative and quantitative data related to the healthcare user’s anagraphic data and provide support on filling out the present and past history questionnaire and record the measures/tests performed by the practitioner.
  • Interact with healthcare users: Communicate with clients and their carer’s, with the patient’s permission, to keep them informed about the clients’ and patients’ progress and safeguarding confidentiality.
  • Create a diet plan: Plan and implement a personalised diet plan to best improve an individual’s body movement.
  • Promote exercise programmes: Develop and apply strategies to motivate clients to engage in an exercise programme.
  • Refer healthcare users: Make referrals to other professionals, based on the healthcare user’s requirements and needs, especially when recognising that additional healthcare diagnostics or interventions are required.

ISCO group and title

3259 – Health associate professionals not elsewhere classified

  1. Osteopath – ESCO
  2. Osteopath | Health Careers
  3. Osteopath job profile | Prospects.ac.uk
  4. Featured image: Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels
Last updated on March 21, 2023

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