Osteopathy for arthritis


Osteopathy is an approach that some people use to treat their arthritis symptoms. The information below will help you understand more about this therapy, if it can help with your symptoms of arthritis, and how to find a provider.

What is osteopathy?

Osteopathy takes a whole-body approach to disease prevention and health. It is a hands-on (manual) form of complementary therapy based on the following principles:

  • The body is an integrated unit of mind, body, and spirit

  • The body has an innate ability to heal itself

  • The structure and function of the body are interrelated

Osteopathy is focused on the idea that multiple layers of the body, including soft tissue, muscles, and bones can cause or complicate illness when not in alignment.

an osteopath practicing on an arm

How does osteopathy work?

An osteopath or osteopathic manual practitioner uses their hands to manipulate the joints, spine, and muscles to improve circulation and affect the body’s nervous and lymphatic systems. This treatment can involve stretching, applying gentle pressure, or resistance. As with all treatments, osteopathy carries certain risks, which can include stiffness for 24 to 48 hours after treatment, to more severe pain or other complications.

Can osteopathy be used to treat arthritis symptoms?

While osteopathy has been in practice for more than a century, more research is required to determine whether it is helpful in addressing arthritis symptoms. According to a 2017 study that reviewed research on osteopathic manual therapy (OMT), there was not enough evidence available to determine how effective it may be for arthritis.

If you are interested in trying osteopathy to address arthritis symptoms, speak to your doctor or rheumatologist first to determine whether it might be an appropriate complementary treatment option for you.

How do I find a provider?

There are two main types of practitioners of osteopathy: Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) and Osteopathic Manual Practitioners.

An osteopath practicing on a womanA Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, sometimes known as an osteopathic physician, has graduated from an accredited College of Osteopathic Medicine in the United States or another country. Like a medical doctor (M.D.), they can prescribe medications, use medical imaging to diagnose and treat health conditions, and even perform surgery.

Currently, there are no colleges of osteopathic medicine in Canada, though there are a small number of D.O.s who received training elsewhere that are currently practicing in Canada. The titles “osteopath” and “osteopathic physician” are protected terms in many regions in Canada, meaning, only someone who has received the proper training can use those titles.

There are several colleges in Canada that teach osteopathic manual practice, where a person can earn a Diploma of Osteopathic Manual Practice (Dip.O.M.P.) or a Masters in Practice of Osteopathic Manual Sciences (M. O.M.Sc.). Unlike D.O.s, they are not licensed to practice medicine.An osteopathic manual therapist uses hands-on therapy focused on improving a patient’s circulation and mobility, reducing pain, and improving the overall function of their body.

Manual osteopathy is not a regulated health profession in Canada, so make sure to learn about a practitioner's credentials before booking an appointment.