About Osteopathy

Osteopathy is an allied health profession and a patient-centred healthcare discipline that supports a whole-person approach to all aspects of health and healthy development, principally by the practice of manual (hands-on) assessment, management, and treatment of musculoskeletal symptoms and conditions. Practitioners are skilled in manual, non-invasive therapeutic techniques for assessment and treatment and may work in close collaboration with medical doctors and other healthcare professionals to assure a multidisciplinary approach to patient care.

Osteopathy is suitable for persons of all ages who have acute or chronic pain, soft tissue and/or joint issues related to diagnosed conditions and other health concerns without diagnoses. The practice is often used in rehabilitation, such as after an accident or surgery, to ensure patients can return to their normal activities as soon as possible and their improve quality of life. Osteopathy is recognized as a distinct manual therapy and practitioners work closely with patients to encourage optimal recovery or rehabilitation as they heal from illness, disease, injury, or long periods of inactivity.

Osteopathic Treatments & Techniques

Osteopathic practitioners use a range of hands-on techniques for most areas of the body. These include but are not limited to soft tissue mobilization, superficial and deep tactile pressure, mobilization or manipulation of joints, and softer sustained touch techniques.

Treatments are individualized for the person depending on their issue and goals for recovery and may look different from person to person, or treatment to treatment.

Assessment is an ongoing part of treatment to ensure progress and to make changes to the treatment plan as needed. Consent is ongoing and your practitioner may check in with you throughout the treatment.

Insurance Coverage

Group health insurance (extended health) benefits paid by private health insurance companies often include the services provided by Osteopathic Manual Practitioners who are OAO members. Contact your benefits administrator to determine if osteopathic manual treatment is covered in your benefits.

The Ontario Association of Osteopathic Manual Therapists (OAO)

The OAO is committed to fostering the practice and professional advancement of osteopathy by promoting the highest, safest level of osteopathic manual practice. OAO members are dedicated to safe and effective osteopathic treatment.

OAO members undergo a stringent evaluation and application process to demonstrate the required competencies, knowledge, skills, judgment, and ability to meet the exceedingly high standards expected of this professional practice.

Monica is Vice President of the OAO, a voluntary, not-for-profit professional association, promoting the practice of osteopathy and maintaining the standards for safe and effective treatment. She chairs the Research Committee, and is a member of several other committees.

This year the OAO is celebrating 25 years and Osteopathy is celebrating 150 years as a profession.

Osteopathy and Regulation

"The practice of (non-medical) manual osteopathy is not currently recognized as a regulated health profession under the Ontario Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991, or any other legislation. Regulated health care professions have a defined scope of practice under profession-specific Acts.

There is no law that defines a scope of practice for osteopathy. However, many OAO members are regulated health care professionals, such as nurses, massage therapists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists, who have sought additional education and training in order to provide manual (non-medical) osteopathic assessment, care and treatment. Some of our members are graduates of osteopathy educational programs in Europe where the practice of osteopathic manual practitioners is regulated and practitioners can legally use the title “osteopath” in their home country.

Group health insurance (extended health) benefits, which are paid by private health insurance companies, often include the services provided by Osteopathic Manual Practitioners who are OAO members. Please contact your benefits administrator for information about your group plan, benefits and limitations with respect to coverage for the services of an Osteopathic Manual Practitioner who is an OAO member.

The OAO is working to create the necessary documentation to submit to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, as required, on behalf of our membership. The process leading to regulation often takes several years to complete. Once successful, our members will be regulated health care professionals in Ontario, in addition to osteopathic physicians, who are regulated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario." Ref: https://www.osteopathyontario.org/site/about/regulation

Choosing Your Osteopathic Practitioner

Because manual osteopathy is not currently recognized as a regulated health profession in Canada, not all practitioners who claim to be osteopathic manual practitioners are educated equally.

If you are thinking of seeing an osteopathic manual practitioner in Ontario, please check their qualifications and association membership.

Education minimums:

  • Canadian: Diploma 4 years (min) + research project (part-time) on top of prior health education.
  • International: Equivalent to the Canadian diploma described above, or a Bachelor or Masters degree in Osteopathy from a university.

Association membership:

  • Active in pursuing recognition and regulation of the profession
  • Continuing education requirements and complaint investigation mechanisms
  • Covered by extended health insurance through their association

Why Do Qualifications Matter?

A primary reason most healthcare professions are regulated or seek government oversight is to mitigate risk to the public. When persons are able to claim qualifications they haven't achieved, it puts you at greater risk for harm, can lead to you spending money on ineffective treatments, and can delay treatment for issues that would be flagged and referred by a well-trained practitioner.

The OAO provides a list of osteopathic practitioners who a members because they meet a minimum standard of education and understand the risks and benefits of treatment, and the obligations of association membership.

Got to https://www.osteopathyontario.org to find out more.

Osteopathy and Research

Research in musculoskeletal therapies is fairly extensive, and yet most of the results are limited in application to real world clinical settings. It's a challenge to do research in complex treatment scenarios that are individualized for each person. That said, research in the osteopathic profession is increasing at a rapid rate and exploring some alternative avenues like patient reported outcomes, and the neurological and contextual effects of touch. You can keep abreast of developments and changes on the OAO Research Page.

Examples of Osteopathic Research Resources

The International Journal for Osteopathic Medicine (IJOM) is the official research journal for the Ontario Association of Osteopathic Manual Practitioners and Osteopathy BC, as well as international societies including the UK, Australia, Germany, and Sweden.

The journal is peer-reviewed and aims to publish a broad scope of high-quality research articles and review papers representing the diverse practice and science of osteopathy. Subjects include basic science research, clinical epidemiology, and health social science in relation to osteopathy and neuromusculoskeletal medicine in both qualitative and quantitative designs.

The Centre for Osteopathic Medicine (COME) Collaboration
“COME is a non-profit foundation looking to establish international and multidisciplinary partnerships initially as a launching pad for discussing ideas and concepts and, in the long-term, to pursue grant funding, high quality research, clinical and health care support.”

The National Council for Osteopathic Research (NCOR)
“NCOR was established in 2003 to provide leadership and unity in osteopathic research development. NCOR aims to improve the osteopathic evidence base using different means including providing strategic leadership and collaboration, engagement and education, communication, development, and sustainability.”

Osteopathy Europe
“The Osteopathy Europe Research Committee … works to disseminate research relevant to osteopathic practice and to facilitate collaboration across the osteopathic research communities in Europe."

"Osteopathy Europe has funded a pilot study to support the collection of Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs), to measure the effect of osteopathic care for patients as part of daily practice. This information is collected directly from patients by an independent research organisation, as evidence for osteopaths in the United Kingdom (UK) and mainland Europe.”