Syndicat Professionnel des  
du Québec 
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What is osteopathy?

Osteopathy is defined as a manual therapist concerned with functional disorders of the human body. It is clearly distinct from other means of manual therapy. It should not be confused with physiotherapy or chiropractic.

Note: The osteopath, the body’s watchmaker, uses his or her hands in a variety of ways to establish an osteopathic diagnosis and provide treatment. By means of various mobility tests, whether at the articular (vertebral or peripheral), visceral or cranial level, he assesses the state of the various systems of the human body. In short, osteopathy is an art, a philosophy and a science.

An art, because it is a manual therapy based on specific, in-depth knowledge of the human body, and requires a precise, meticulous, exact touch, always measured out according to the patient and the pathology to be treated.

A philosophy, because it focuses on the whole person. It’s not so much the symptom that interests the osteopath as the cause that provokes it.

A science that encompasses anatomical, physiological, biomechanical and biological knowledge relating to the restoration and preservation of health.

The osteopath’s training will therefore include a detailed study of anatomy, biomechanics and physiology, as well as the learning of precise palpation techniques, thus fostering the development of palpatory sensitivity in his hands, his working tools.The osteopathic examination will also go beyond the specific examination of the various systems, assessing their interrelationships, both mechanical and neurophysiological, to ultimately discover the cause, the so-called primary problem.

Indeed, this primary problem can often give rise to a series of secondary problems and distant symptoms. These will only disappear once the cause has been effectively treated. Osteopathy is therefore not simply concerned with a symptom or a disease, but considers the patient as a whole, to be understood as a whole.As published in 1963 by the American Osteopathic Association, certain basic principles have developed in osteopathy since its origins:

The human body is a functional unit in which structure and function are mutually and reciprocally interdependent.
In the face of aggression, the body tends to react and heal itself, using complex systems in equilibrium.
The functional integrity of the body’s systems depends on blood and nerve supply.
The importance of the musculoskeletal system in the body goes far beyond its role as a support structure.
Certain somatic components of pathological conditions are not only an expression of the disease, but also play a part in the maintenance process.
This is why osteopathic art aims, through precise osteopathic diagnosis and adapted manual techniques, to treat functional problems, restore and preserve health, and prevent the onset of disease. It does not propose to cure degenerative, genetic, infectious or neoplastic pathologies. However, it can have an effect on the consequences of these pathologies (particularly pain), and can help the body to combat disease more easily. From then on, osteopathy will no longer be an etiopathic therapy, but a complementary palliative therapy that should not be neglected.

Osteopaths also advise their patients on lifestyle, rest, exercise, nutrition, posture and, in general, on any factor that could influence their physical, psychological or social well-being.


General: the main reason for consulting an osteopath is back pain. This back pain often has various origins, which the patient may not be aware of (visceral, cranial, central nervous system, peripheral…. etc.).

In all cases, the osteopath treats the mechanical aspect of the pain, restoring mobility to joints that are no longer mobile. As a preventive measure: to treat pain or restore lost mobility, which is already a sign that the body is no longer adapting to the joint and tissue restrictions accumulated by multiple traumas, whether physical or emotional.As a curative measure: we recommend regular check-ups (1 to 2 times a year), even in the absence of pain after a major trauma (fall, road accident, etc.), in order to maintain good health.


Despite its vast field of action, osteopathy does not claim to treat everything! It does not treat degenerative diseases (cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS…), genetic diseases (cystic fibrosis, myopathy…) or infectious diseases (tuberculosis, tetanus…), but it can provide support to try to relieve the patient.