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Osteopathy: concepts, foundations, foundations and applications





Osteopathy is a system of evaluation and treatment, with its own methodology and philosophy, which aims to restore the function of body structures and systems, acting through manual intervention on tissues (joints, muscles, fascias, ligaments, capsules, viscera, nervous tissue). , vascular and lymphatic). It was created by Andrew Taylor Still in the USA. The field of treatment of osteopathy covers the entire human body and can treat: sciatica, back pain, back pain, cervical pain, scoliosis, herniated disc, torticollis, sprains, tendonitis, epicondylitis, carpal tunnel syndromes, shoulder pain, joint problems temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and muscle tensions and contractures.




Society has been characterized by rapid economic, technological and socio-cultural changes. As a result, health sciences have evolved as a body of knowledge and knowledge of its own, which has epistemological foundations and is defined through scientific method and research. In this context TNC (Unconventional Techniques) - where osteopathy is inserted - have been affirmed as a complement to conventional medicine and as an important element in the practice of health care for the western population. The increasing popularity of TNCs calls for consideration of their framing in public health, and places osteopathy in the vast field of complementary therapies in the health sciences. Being versatile and versatile, Osteopathy views the body as a whole in its evaluation and treatment process, using soft tissue, bone, visceral and neural techniques, identifying the primary cause of the dysfunction.



Whether in the national context or in the international context, it appears that each institution and each course in the curriculum it offers places more or less emphasis on a particular area. It does so in accordance with its objectives, and the professional profile is defined according to the specificity and technical standards of each institution.


Osteopathy: What is it? What is it based on? How did it come about?

Osteopathy is an instrument at the service of manual therapists. This is a piece of health knowledge that emerged in the USA, with Dr. Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917). The term “osteopathy” originates from the Greek osteom (“bone”) and phatos (“effect from within”). Osteopathy then means the influence of the disease, its causes and its treatments. It is a system of evaluation and treatment, with its own philosophy and methodology, and its objective is to restore the function of body structures and systems. By focusing on manual intervention on the tissues (joints, muscles, fascias, ligaments, capsules, viscera, nervous, vascular and lymphatic tissue), it seeks to restore the lost mobility and balance that the skeletal, visceral and sacral cranial system needs while maintaining the elasticity of connective tissue throughout your systems.

Osteopathy is based on anatomy, physiology, biomechanics and semiology. It should not be considered esoteric, but rather Cartesian. Does not obey recipes. But rather it offers a treatment that is based on clinical examination and the patient's medical history.




The great purpose of osteopathy is to restore mobility to the structure, taking into account the anatomical, circulatory, hormonal and nervous environment, within the psychological context of each individual. It is an autonomous and independent system of diagnosis and treatment that promotes the minimization or resolution of structural and functional problems, always considering the interrelationships between mobility and motility of the organism.


Brief history of osteopathy and legislation in Portugal

In most European countries, osteopathy can be assumed in any profession. Great Britain was the first European country where the profession was officially recognized, notably in 1993 (Osteopaths Act 1/7/1993). In the United States of America the profession emerged as a medical specialty and developed independently, seeking to respond to the needs of the population, attracted by its simplicity and effectiveness. It has been officially recognized as a medical specialty in the US for over 50 years. In New Zealand it has been recognized as a profession since 1970 and in Australia since 1992. According to WHO (2008), in many developed countries, 70 to 80% of the population has tried some form of unconventional therapy (TNC). Thus, TNCs are increasingly being used within current health systems. This high and rising prevalence results in formal support for these practices (WHO, 2011).

In Portugal, Osteopathy was recognized as a therapeutic practice by the Basic Framework Law for Non-Conventional Medicines - Law 45/2003 of 22 August. The Assembly of the Republic also approved Resolution No. 64/2003 of 28 July. Through it, the Assembly recommended to the Government that:

  • to undertake the elaboration of a study indicating the type of organism and the regulatory method of the organization, ethics and teaching of osteopathy;
  • create a commission;
  • make sure the national courses;
  • believed the foreigners.

The process for the regulation of osteopathy in Portugal is currently underway, with proposals from various associations and federations to formulate a single document representing all professionals.

According to the proposal of Law No. 111 / XII / 2a PL 475/2012, approved by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers of August 22, "Osteopathy uses techniques of manual manipulation for disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Respects the relationship between body, mind and spirit, in health and disease.It emphasizes the structural and functional integrity of the body, and its intrinsic capacity for homeostasis. (...) Osteopaths use the understanding of the relationship between structure and function to optimize body self-regulation and practice includes counseling on eating habits, correct postures and exercise. "


What are the skills of an osteopath?

The osteopath should:

  • Evaluate / diagnose.
  • Adapt to the circumstances.
  • Ability to communicate with both patients and other health professionals, especially if they have been part of multidisciplinary teams.
  • Be able to apply the appropriate knowledge.
  • Be able to use new technologies.
  • To have at your disposal a bibliographic support that complements the evaluation and osteopathic treatment.



The professional and technical profile should be part (ITS, 2009):

  • Competence in assessing the patient's health status.
  • The ability to make differential diagnoses.
  • Dexterity in the use of osteopathic technique.
  • Capacities in interpersonal relationships.
  • The individual understanding of the patient in the biopsychosocial context.
  • The ability to autonomously initiate and plan osteopathic research from clinical practice.
  • Proper moral and ethical attitude or a health care profession.

This profile is directly related to the characteristics of osteopathy previously traced and results from a process that has been developing over the last decades. We assume that the profile is crucial to achieve the characteristics necessary for the practice of osteopathy.


Osteopathy sees the body as a whole. How is the diagnosis and treatment processed?

Osteopathy should be based on knowledge of the scope and influence of the disease, on the determination of its causes and on the selection of its manual treatments. It is not a matter of particularizing a local lesion of a particular bone, as osteopathy studies the internal effects that come from the structure.



Osteopathic treatment is always based on clinical examination that allows osteopathic diagnosis. From it, an osteopathic therapeutic act develops. This act is supported by techniques and exclusively manual. It assumes that any change in mobility of the locomotor system that decreases or increases mobility leads to a functional disorder which in turn may lead to a "pathological" condition, with or without osteopathic nature, as determined by patient assessment.


Pediatric osteopathy

Osteopathy can be applied to babies and children.


When should a pediatric osteopath be consulted?




  • Inborn torticollis
  • Excessive crying and irritability
  • Plagiocephaly: “flat head syndrome”
  • Skull and face asymmetry
  • Digestive Disorders: Regurgitation (reflux), cramps, hiatal hernia, gas, diarrhea, constipation
  • Breastfeeding and teething suction difficulties
  • Breathing Problems: Bronchitis, Asthma, Constipation, Pneumonia
  • Developmental delay: physical or cognitive, coordination and poor posture
  • Deficient immune system
  • Sleep and falling asleep disorders: agitation, nervousness
  • For deliveries using suction cups, forceps or cesarean section
  • Chronic disorders: otitis, tear duct
  • Postpartum checkup


What materials do osteopaths use most?

Osteopaths do not use many accessory materials because their work is essentially manual.

For diagnosis can use:


Tuning fork

To complement and / or perform the treatment can use:

Cold Effect Creams / Gels 

Hot Effect Massage Creams 

Hot Effect Balm

Functional Bandages - Tapes

Functional Bandages - Pre-Tapes

Functional Bandages - Cohesive Elastic


Hand Sanitizer

Gloves, commonly used when applying creams or skin is not full


What are the recipients of osteopathy courses?

This course is addressed to health professionals, doctors, physiotherapists, nurses, physical education graduates, podiatrists, acupuncturists, naturopaths, homeopaths, massage therapists, among other professionals with proven practice through certificates and professional experience.


Would you like to learn more about the subject "Osteopathy"?

We advise a study, edited, made by Professor Nuno Barreto, on which we based to write this article. Nuno Barreto, in his book entitled: "Practical Component in Osteopathy - Training Components in the Study Plan", by Exlibris Editions, states that the main purpose of this book is to serve as an exploratory and descriptive research study with a qualitative approach, with rationale of the practical component for the technical profile of the osteopathic professional. In this book, the author made a critical analysis of the study plans, used the secondary data collection for a documentary analysis and resorted to the interview and questionnaire technique as primary data in order to support a modern and demanding teaching on osteopathy.

Nuno Barreto holds a master's degree in pedagogical supervision from the open university of Lisbon. The field of supervision has made it known in recent years a great organizational development. It has been following the evolution of the education and training approaches of teachers and students, closely related to the professional development of both. It is up to everyone, and each of us, to reflect and evaluate their own practice so that in a reflective perspective we contribute to excellence in teaching the practical component in osteopathy.


You can also read more about Osteopathy, and related and more specific topics in the following articles:

Osteopathy in Autism Spectrum Disorder




Osteopathic approach to scarring adhesions





The neurofasciogenic model of somatic dysfunction




Physiological actions of vertebral manipulations on pain





You can also watch three videos related to Osteopathy:

Video 1 osteopathy. (

Video 2 osteopathy. (

Video 3 osteopathy. (


Source: BARRETO, Nuno - “Practical component in osteopathy - Training components in the syllabus”. Exlibris editions. Lisbon: 2016. ISBN: 978-989-8714-73-2

Catarina Vilela (nurse)