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Undergraduate students follow a four or five-year degree course combining academic, clinical and practical lessons. The qualification generally takes the form of a bachelor’s degree in osteopathy – a BSc(Hons), Bost or BostMed – or a masters degree in osteopathy (Most). Many osteopaths continue their studies after graduating.
Osteopaths are required to update their training throughout their working lives. They must complete at least 30 hours of continuing professional development per year.
The title ‘osteopath’ is protected by law, and only those included on the register are entitled to practise as osteopaths. Unregistered practice is a criminal offence in the UK.
Most patients ‘self-refer’ to an osteopath for treatment. Although referral by a GP is not necessary, patients are encouraged to keep both their GP and osteopath fully informed, so that their medical records are current and complete and the patient receives the best possible care from both healthcare practitioners.
Osteopaths have trained for many years in clinical medicine, neuromuscular skeletal pathology, biomechanics, anatomy and physiology. The case history and testing protocols (including palpation) lead to a diagnosis being made which does not usually need an X-Ray or MRI (as this would not change the prognosis or treatment plan) . In cases where this may be warranted, the patient may be referred to a consultant specialist or to their GP for further investigations.
As with any treatment, whether it be manipulation and massage to stretches and exercise, there is the possibility of a little soreness for anything up to 72 hrs. This may be where the tissues respond to movement and techniques that they are not accustomed to when in a state of dysfunction.