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Comprehensive Procedures and Checks an Osteopath Must Perform Prior to Patient Treatment.


an osteopath is treating the spine of a patient



Osteopathy is a branch of healthcare that emphasizes the role of the musculoskeletal system in health and disease. As a holistic and patient-centered approach, it requires careful and meticulous initial assessment of each patient before any intervention takes place. This article outlines the essential procedures and checks an osteopath must perform to ensure the safe, effective, and appropriate treatment of their patients.


Medical History Taking

The first step in the osteopathic patient evaluation process is taking a comprehensive medical history. This includes, but is not limited to, the patient's past and present illnesses, surgeries, medications, allergies, lifestyle habits (such as exercise, diet, smoking, and alcohol use), family history of diseases, and the review of systems. Understanding the patient's history provides context to their current health situation and aids in identifying any potential risk factors for certain conditions.


Chief Complaint and Symptom Analysis

After the initial history taking, the osteopath will delve deeper into the patient's chief complaint, the primary reason for their visit. It involves exploring the characteristics of any symptoms—duration, frequency, intensity, location, aggravating or relieving factors, and any associated symptoms. This step, often referred to as the HPI (History of Present Illness), aids in forming initial diagnostic hypotheses.


Physical Examination

The physical examination is an essential step in the osteopathic evaluation process. It includes:

  1. General Examination: The osteopath assesses the patient's overall appearance, vitals (heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and respiratory rate), and general indicators of health.

  2. Musculoskeletal Examination: Given the osteopath's specialized focus, an in-depth musculoskeletal examination is performed. This includes evaluating posture, gait, joint range of motion, muscle strength and tone, and identifying any areas of tenderness or pain.

  3. Osteopathic Palpatory Examination: This is a unique aspect of osteopathic assessment, where the osteopath uses their hands to evaluate the body's structure and function. It includes assessing tissue texture, tenderness, asymmetry, and restricted motion. Palpatory findings aid in diagnosing somatic dysfunctions – impaired or altered functions of the musculoskeletal system.

  4. Special Tests: Depending on the patient's complaints and findings from the above steps, the osteopath may perform special tests. These can include orthopedic tests, neurological tests, or tests to assess the function of specific organs or body systems.

Diagnostic Imaging and Laboratory Tests

If the history and physical examination suggest underlying issues that need further exploration, the osteopath may order diagnostic imaging (such as X-rays, MRI, or ultrasound) or laboratory tests. These tests can help to confirm or rule out certain diagnoses.


Formulating an Osteopathic Diagnosis

With all the information collected, the osteopath will then formulate an osteopathic diagnosis. This diagnosis considers the holistic interplay between different body systems and often identifies somatic dysfunctions that may be contributing to the patient's health problems. The osteopath must consider both structural and functional elements of health, and how these might interrelate with the patient's lifestyle, mental health, and overall wellbeing.


Treatment Plan Development

Finally, based on the diagnosis, the osteopath will develop a treatment plan. This plan will be discussed with the patient, including the recommended techniques (such as osteopathic manipulative treatment), the expected number of sessions, any lifestyle modifications, and the anticipated course of recovery.


The osteopathic evaluation process requires a thorough and systematic approach, encompassing a comprehensive history, an in-depth physical examination, and the formulation of a holistic diagnosis. These procedures and checks, under


Absolute Contraindications of Osteopathic Treatment

While osteopathy is widely recognized as a safe and effective treatment method for a range of conditions, there are certain situations in which osteopathic treatment is contraindicated. These are known as 'absolute contraindications,' and they include:

  1. Infection or Fever: Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) should not be performed on patients with active infections or fever, as it could potentially spread the infection to other parts of the body or exacerbate the patient's condition.

  2. Bone Fracture or Joint Dislocation: OMT should not be performed in the presence of bone fractures or joint dislocations, as it could cause further injury or delay healing. Osteopaths should await clearance from an orthopedic specialist before proceeding with treatment in these cases.

  3. Uncontrolled Cardiovascular Conditions: Conditions such as aneurysms, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and advanced heart disease can pose significant risks during OMT. Manipulation could dislodge a blood clot in the case of DVT or rupture an aneurysm, leading to potentially life-threatening complications.

  4. Certain Neurological Conditions: Patients with certain neurological conditions, such as myelopathy (spinal cord disease) or certain types of neuropathy, should not undergo OMT, as it could potentially exacerbate their symptoms.

  5. Osteoporosis: Severe osteoporosis is a contraindication for certain high-velocity, low-amplitude (HVLA) techniques due to the risk of fractures.

  6. Cancer: Active malignancies, especially those involving the bones, are contraindications for OMT due to the potential risk of spreading cancer cells or fracturing compromised bones. However, gentle osteopathic techniques may be useful for symptom management, given that they are performed under the supervision and recommendation of the patient's oncologist.

  7. Certain Skin Conditions: Open wounds, burns, or skin infections are absolute contraindications for OMT.

It is important to note that the presence of these contraindications does not exclude the possibility of any osteopathic treatment. Certain gentle techniques might still be applicable and beneficial, and each treatment should be individualized based on the patient's overall health condition, the potential benefits, and risks.

The role of an osteopath is not just to administer treatment, but also to ensure patient safety at all times. Comprehensive patient evaluation, understanding the contraindications, and sound clinical judgment form the cornerstone of osteopathic practice. As the profession continues to evolve, this commitment to patient safety and holistic care will remain fundamental to osteopathic philosophy and practice.

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