Category: Complementary and Alternative Therapies

What is it?

Osteopathy is a system of therapy founded in the 19th century based on the concept that the body can formulate its own remedies against diseases when the body is in a normal structural relationship, has a normal environment and enjoys good nutrition. Osteopathy is particularly concerned with maintaining correct relationships between bones, muscles, and connective tissues. The practice of osteopathy often includes chiropractic-like adjustments of skeletal structures.

How does it work?

Many osteopaths see their role as facilitating the body's own recuperative powers by treating musculoskeletal or somatic dysfunction. These are the eight major principles of osteopathy and are widely taught throughout the international osteopathic community.

  1. The body is a unit.
  2. Structure and function are reciprocally inter-related.
  3. The body possesses self-regulatory mechanisms.
  4. The body has the inherent capacity to defend and repair itself.
  5. When the normal adaptability is disrupted, or when environmental changes overcome the body’s capacity for self maintenance, disease may ensue.
  6. The movement of body fluids is essential to the maintenance of health.
  7. The nerves play a crucial part in controlling the fluids of the body.
  8. There are somatic components to disease that are not only manifestations of disease, but also are factors that contribute to maintenance of the disease state.

Is it effective?

Osteopathic manipulative treatment has previously shown that it could have some benefit as an adjunct to standard psychiatric treatment of women with depression. To date there is minimal research in the effectiveness of osteopathic intervention for the treatment of PTSD.

Are there any disadvantages?

With general osteopathic treatment disadvantages may include tiredness or soreness for a few days afterwards but this often subsides quickly. Some of the disadvantages associated with specific osteopathic manipulation may be local discomfort, increased neck pain, headache, thoracic pain, altered sensation, dizziness, tiredness or radiating discomfort. Infrequent, but potentially serious side effects may include vertebrobasilar accidents (VBA), strokes, spinal disc herniation, vertebral and rib fractures, and cauda equina syndrome. Therefore, appropriate assessment and tests should be carried out by the therapist prior to manipulation.

Where do you get it?

Trained professionals can be found on the Australian Natural therapy and Osteopathy Australia web sites. While these strategies are pursued, it is also important that the person with PTSD is under the care of a certified health professional.

What are the evidence limitations?

There is currently no explicit evidence to support osteopathic intervention as an independent intervention for PTSD. Much of the evidence base is derived from lower levels of evidence such as expert opinion and clinical experiences. Therefore interpreting this evidence should be undertaken with caution.


Based on the current lack of high quality evidence, the use of osteopathic treatment for PTSD cannot be recommended based on the current research evidence. More research is required. It may be considered as an adjunct to other PTSD interventions, such as psychological and pharmacological interventions.

Key References

Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health 2007, ‘Australian guidelines for the treatment of adults with Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Practitioner Guide’ National Health and Medical research Council, viewed 11 December 2008,

Plotkin, BJ, Rodos, JJ, Kappler, R, Schrage, M, Freydl, K, Hasegawa, S, Hennegan, E, Hilchie-Schmidt, C, Hines, D, Iwata, J, Mok, C & Raffaelli, D 2001, ‘Adjunctive osteopathic manipulative treatment in women with depression: a pilot study’, Journal of American Osteopathic Association, vol. 101, pp. 517-523.

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