Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ's About Osteopathy

These are just a few of the common questions we get asked about osteopathy and our treatments. If you have any other questions not answered here please contact our clinic and one of our osteopaths will be pleased to help you. Please click on one of the headings below to read the answers to your questions:

What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is the science of locating tension and abnormal movement in the spine and body, the art of reducing their impact and the philosophy of all things natural!

How does osteopathy work?

Osteopaths correct and restore proper function to your Spine, joints, muscles, and blood circulation so your body can heal itself - naturally! Tension in the body caused by tight muscles or joints can starve organs and tissues of blood. They also interfere with the drainage of waste products so there is a build up of toxins. Also misaligned vertebrae treatment by an osteopath (spinal bones) can irritate or compress nerves which carry vital information to and from your brain. A common interference to the nervous system is the 24 moving bones of the spinal column. A loss of normal motion or position of these bones can irritate or impair the function of the nervous system. This can disrupt the transmission of controlling nerve impulses. When under the proper control of your nervous and circulatory system all your tissues and organs are designed to resist disease and ill health. Since the primary focus of your care is to restore normal flow of blood and improved nervous system function, osteopathy can have a positive effect on many health conditions not normally thought of as "back" problems. Specific spinal adjustments, soft tissue techniques, massage, cranial and other gentle techniques can improve joint mobility decrease muscle spasm, reduce nerve interference and improve circulation increasing your health!

What is osteopathic manipulative therapy “OMT?”

OMT is the art of using specific force in a precise direction to adjust a specific joint that is “locked up” or not moving correctly. This helps to rerun the bones to a more normal position and restores movement. The purpose of the safe procedure is improved spinal function, blood circulation, nerve transmission and better muscular tone.


The adjusting techniques are applied using the hands. Some are quick while others require a slow constant pressure.


After years of training and clinical experience, each osteopath becomes highly skilled in a variety of techniques to adjust your body.

What makes the sound during an adjustment?

Lubricating fluids separate the bones of each spinal joint. A British research team have revealed that the sound you hear results from gas rushing in to fill a partial vacuum when the joint are slightly separated.

Can I adjust myself?

Since an adjustment is a specific force applied in a precise direction to specific joint it is virtually impossible to adjust oneself. Worse damage may occur by making an already unstable area even more unstable. Even osteopaths must consult a colleague to have their spine adjusted. It is possible to turn or bend or twist in certain ways to create a "popping" sound. Unfortunately, this type of joint manipulation is usually counterproductive, often making an already unstable area of the spine even more unsteady. Adjusting the spine is not for amateurs!

Are all patients adjusted the same way?

No. The osteopath evaluates each patient’s unique problem and develops an individual custom tailored care programme. This is based on years of training, experience, patient’s age and health goals.

Will OMT make my spine too loose?

No. Only joints that are not moving well are adjusted. This allows weakened muscles and ligaments to stabilise and heal.

Is osteopathy safe?

Yes! That’s because it’s delivered by a registered Practioner and risk factors are identified before any treatment is given!


Osteopathy has been proven to be remarkably safe, much safer than taking painkillers or surgery. The Royal College of General Practitioners issued guidelines for GP’s, which recommends manipulation (as performed by osteopaths), for the relief of acute low back pain.


Risks are considerably low when compared to medical care due to drugs and surgery. Positive proof is that fact that doctors malpractice insurance are on average 10 to 14 times higher! Your osteopath will explain possible risks of treatment and discuss any concerns you may have prior to commencing with treatment.

Do I have a slipped disc?

Your discs serve as a connector, spacer and shock absorber for your spine. However due to the way it attaches to the spinal bones it can’t “slip”. It can tear, bulge, thin, dry out or worse, rupture. This can be painful since the soft centre leaks out putting pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. While results can’t be guaranteed, many patients have avoided surgery or depending on pills by choosing osteopathy.

Do I have a pinched nerve?

Many patients consult an osteopath because they believe they have a pinched nerve. In fact a pinched nerve is rare. While commonly associated with the spine, pinched nerve (compressive lesion) is actually rare. Researchers suggest that only 1% to 15% of spine related problems are caused by direct pressure of bone on nerve tissue! This can result in numbness, burning, or a "pins and needles" feeling More frequently nerves are irritated (facilitative lesion) stretched, scraped or have their blood supply reduced by a loss of spinal curves, malfunctioning spinal joints, tight muscles or inflammation. This can distort nerve messages sent between body and brain and can cause numbness, pins and needles or unhealthy alterations to the organs and tissues.

What is somatic dysfunction?

Maybe you’ve never heard of somatic dysfunction. That’s ok. There probably was a time when you’d never heard of AIDS or BSE!


Somatic dysfunction is a term used by osteopaths to describe asymmetry or misalignment, restricted movement and tissue changes in the body. It occurs when a body part is stressed beyond its normal capacity which leads to damage and degeneration. For instance Vertebral somatic dysfunction “VSD” occurs when there is damage to your spine which could lead to a disturbance of blood flow or nerve impulses in your body, cause tight muscles or even a misalignment of your spinal bones. When these changes interfere with the body’s healing mechanisms ill health and disease can occur.

How do you get somatic dysfunction?

There are 3 causes. Physical, such as accidents, repetitive motions, poor posture, lack of exercise and incorrect lifting! Emotional such as anger, grief and fear or chemical causes such as drugs, pollution and poor diet. somatic dysfunction may also occur from a difficult birth. The baby may be injured as the head is compressed pushed or pulled down the birth canal. The small bones of the head can become fixed or misaligned.

Can somatic dysfunction clear up on its own?

Yes! Fortunately our bodies have the ability to self correct many of these problems. However today’s lifestyle is a constant source of somatic dysfunction and not all of them can be resolved by the body. Some intervention is needed to start or allow the healing process to work. Therefore you need to see an osteopath for a thorough examination.

How do I know if I have somatic dysfunction or Vertebral somatic dysfunction “VSD”?

You can have somatic dysfunction and not even know it!


Like early stages of tooth decay or cancer, somatic dysfunction can be present before warning signs appear. Osteopaths are trained to detect early signs of degeneration long before symptoms occur. For instance an examination of you spine may show restricted movement, altered tissue texture and tone, changes in skin temperature or a misalignment which are all signs of VSD Nearly everyone gets VSD - it’s a hidden world wide epidemic. For this reason you need to have your body and spine checked just as you get your eyes, teeth and blood pressure checked. Most people MOT there cars more than there spine! Most people have a misguided notion that being healthy is about not having any symptoms but consider those with high blood pressure or undetected cancer or tooth decay. They may feel fine but there not healthy.

How many treatments will I need?

The number of treatments varies with each patient and their individual health goals.


Problems that you have neglected may require ongoing care for optimal function. Other acute problems may only require a few visits. In any event visits become less often as your spine and body stabilises. But it is important to remember that each visit builds on the one before. Chronic cases may require months or even years of treatment.

How about painkillers?

Today’s lifestyle calls for an “instant fix” for every health problem. Too often we say we have no time to be ill or that we can’t let an ache stop us. It’s time to put your priorities right! Painkillers may help you feel less pain, but they do not address the underlying cause of the pain they just cover up the symptoms. In fact, excessive use of painkillers for common ailments, such as headaches, can actually make your headaches worse. Even worse they can cause adverse affects such as liver or kidney damage! Remember pain is a signal from your body that something is not right. Painkillers may also have serious side effects, osteopathy is a much safer way of managing your pain and overall health! Furthermore, if you continue to ignore the cause of your pain, irreversible premature degenerative changes may result. osteopathic care is aimed at resolving the underlying cause of the pain and then keeping you in better health. Don’t bury your head in the sand go and see someone who will take you seriously - see an osteopath for the expert help you need.

How long will I need care?

After patients get the relief they want, many choose to continue with some periodic care. These patients show up feeling great. The visits help support the final stages of healing and help detect and resolve new problems before they become serious. Osteopathic care is preventive care! Just as you must continue to brush your teeth and have regular dental visits to keep them for a life time, taking care of your body is also a life long process of eating right, exercise rest and regular osteopathic care.


Many patients who are active, have stressful jobs or want to be there very best, find that a schedule of preventative visits are helpful in the maintenance of good health.


Some patients seek osteopathic care only when they are in pain. While this crisis management is usually more costly and time consuming our office stands ready to help all patients and respect their decisions.


How long you decide to benefit from osteopathic care is up to you!

Why do children need osteopathic care?

Significant trauma to the spine and skull can occur at birth and so many have their new borns checked. Preliminary studies suggest that colic unusual crying, poor appetite or ear infections can be signs of spinal cord distress.


Paediatric care is extremely gentle and modified to the Childs needs. Many childhood complaints are brushed off as “growing pains” can often be traced to some dysfunction of the body or spine. Regular check up can identify and avoid health complaints later in life.

How long until I fell better?

Some patients have instant relief. Others discover it can take weeks or months. Many factors can affect your recovery such as your age, how long you’ve had the problem, severity and keeping your appointments.


Whilst every patient reacts differently, your osteopath will be able to advise you on your likely recovery time. In most cases you will feel a definite change for the better early on in your treatment plan. Most patients do express feeling “better” or “lighter” after just one or two treatments, but in general, the longer you’ve had it, the longer it will take to get it sorted. Your commitment to the recommended treatment plan, home exercises and any diet or lifestyle adjustments will also determine your treatment outcome and your long term benefits from osteopathic care.

Am I too old for osteopathic care?

More and more people are consulting osteopaths in their later years. With concerns about over medications and side effects of drugs, safe natural osteopathic care is growing in popularity. Many people are told to put up with their pain due to their age. Good news you don’t have too! Restoring better body and spinal function can help improve mobility, vitality and endurance. As we get older and wiser the simplicity and effectiveness of osteopathy becomes more and more obvious.

Can I speed up the healing process?

While there are no short cuts to better health there are many things you can do. Although movement is important to aid healing proper rest is vital. Give your body the rest it needs and avoid sleeping on your stomach. Proper nutrition is more important than ever so make sure you eat balanced meals and if you’re overweight now might be a good time to slim down and decrease stress to your body. Also make sure you sit and lift correctly. Perhaps most important is to keep your appointments and follow your osteopath's recommendations.

What training do osteopaths get?

Today’s osteopaths are well educated. They undertake an intense 4 - 5 year full time degree course with specific emphases on anatomy, physiology, pathology, neurology, X- rays, spinal adjusting and soft tissues techniques, not to mention the 1,500 clinical experiences under the guide of qualified osteopaths. This demanding curriculum prepares osteopaths to locate the disorders in the body and spinal misaligments.


To graduate with an honours degree, each candidate passes a demanding Examination. Then, osteopaths apply to a governmental or professional licensing board before being granted the privilege to practice.


Due to the osteopath Act 1993 it is now illegal for someone to call themselves an osteopath unless they have undergone training at an approved school, so you now have the same safeguards as when you visit a doctor or dentist.


Osteopathic education never ends, many complete post graduate training.

Does it really work?

YES! Health Which 1997 found that osteopathy is the most widely used discipline in complementary therapy. Osteopathy achieved an amazing 96% overall satisfaction whilst 92% of patients felt osteopathy had improved their condition.


The House of Lords Committee recently acknowledged there is scientific evidence to support osteopathy. Our patients are our best evidence. Ask someone who has seen an osteopath.


Prominent researchers compared osteopathic manipulative therapy “OMT” with standard care for low back pain. The research in The New England Journal of Medicine 1999 states that “Given the known and potentially serious affects and costs of nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs, the achievement of pain relief, function and satisfaction with less use of medication and physical therapy suggest an important benefit of OMT.” They also state that “most patients improved” and 90% of patients were satisfied. The OMT group also used less muscle relaxants.

Do osteopaths treat more than bad backs?

Because osteopaths mainly treat Spinal dysfunction it is generally misconceived that osteopath’s treat back pain only. This is not so, indeed many treat a variety of conditions such as those listed below.


Sciatica/shooting pain down legs
Pain due to pregnancy
Children's clinic
Arthritic pain
Digestive problems in adults
Minor sports injuries


And much more...

What We Offer

Eltham Osteopathy

Our Contact Details

Thank you for visiting our website. Please find all of our contact information below:

  • Eltham Health Clinic, 93 Eltham Hill,
             Eltham, London, SE9 5SU

  • 020 8294 1113