Why does research into Osteopathy matter?
Research matters because these days research is applied to all medical treatments to ensure that they are effective. The old “snake oil” cures are a thing of the past. Nowadays we have what’s called “evidence based medicine”, meaning that there is evidence that the treatment actually works. This might sound blindingly obvious, but it was not always the case, and in the past doctors regularly used treatments which we would now consider quite dubious.
A person who goes to a doctor or other health professional for treatment is in a potentially vulnerable state, so it is important that they can have the confidence that the treatment they receive will not be ineffectual or, worse, damaging. The registered health professions, including Osteopathy, are regulated by a governing body to protect the safety of the public. The General Osteopathic Council (known as GOsC) governs osteopaths. As well as regulating the professional standards of osteopaths, the GOsC works protect the wellbeing of the patients. So this is why it’s important to show that Osteopathic treatment is effective and people can feel confident in their osteopath.
There is research evidence for the effectiveness of Osteopathy.
Existing research evidence for treatment of musculoskeletal problems using Osteopathy does show that it is effective for back pain.
The NHS now accepts and recognises our approach, and in some areas of the UK patients can be referred for osteopathic treatment by their doctor. You can read more detail on the NHS Choices website. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends it as a treatment for this condition as part of a manual therapy package.
The GOsC carries out research and surveys, particularly in the areas of public perceptions and expectations, professional boundaries and issues relating to regulation and complaints.
The National Council for Osteopathic Research (NCOR) undertakes and promotes research about osteopathy and communication of evidence to the public. One of their ongoing projects is the collection of responses from patients via the Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROM) questionnaire to gather a body of survey information about how patients feel after treatment.
The Institute of Osteopathy, which is the professional membership organisation for registered osteopaths, supports NCOR and its research as well as promoting information about Osteopathy to the public.
Cochrane UK is part of a not-for-profit global network who produce accessible health information. They produce systemic reviews, which are the highest standard in evidence based healthcare research, on many topics including Musculoskeletal. They publish a blog called Evidently Cochrane which is very readable and informative.
Spreading the word.
Osteopaths themselves are aware that many people don’t really know what osteopathy is or how it works, so they are keen to spread the word. The hashtag #OsteopathyWorks is now widely used in tweets and blogs so that information is easy to find.
Recently, osteopath Freya Gilmore set up a website for information on research, questions and testimonials called Does Osteopathy Work which provides a readable set of articles and is growing as people contribute to it.
Osteopaths want more research.
Osteopaths want more research evidence to show what is effective and to weed out what isn’t effective. Along with the GOsC, we want to offer treatment that is proven and we want to show people that they are in safe in our hands. This blog just briefly touches on sources for further information, but hopefully shows that there is a growing body of evidence and continuing focus on finding and using evidence to improve osteopathic healthcare.