Osteopathic medicine is the integration of medicine and osteopathy as described by osteopathic principles.
Its definition becomes dependent on its use, with different specialists finding it influences their work in different ways.
For example, up to 25% of a GP’s work concerns musculoskeletal problems. Osteopathic-assessment and treatment techniques will significantly improve general practice diagnosis and management, potentially reduce referrals and can lead to immediate pain-relieving advice or treatment within the consultation. In some cases it aids diagnosis and management of pain not obviously related to a musculoskeletal dysfunction – such as headaches or thoracic pain.
Rheumatologists using their developed osteopathic medical diagnostic skills may reduce expensive tests and imaging techniques and offer a quicker route to the correct treatment. Specialists in other fields – orthopaedics, sports and exercise medicine, rehabilitation, anaesthetists specialising in pain management, occupational health – find osteopathic medicine makes a significant contribution to the way in which they work. In all cases, providing better clinical diagnosis, reduced patient anxiety, and gives NHS patients access to treatment not commonly provided in the NHS.
Sometimes it is not until doctors engage with the idea of osteopathic medicine that they can clearly identify the potential of its application, and realise that it often changes the way they approach more traditional medical problems.
Highlighting these areas does not infer failings within the specialities, merely that a diagnosis based on the concept of somatic dysfunction rather than pathology, in the first instance, expands the differential diagnosis options and leads to treatment using osteopathic medical techniques.
It is the unique blend of functional anatomy, biomedical knowledge, osteopathic medical skills and medical expertise in a specific field that derives the best results from osteopathic medicine and makes the combined qualifications of medicine with osteopathy so valuable.