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An osteopath is a practitioner of the approach to healthcare named osteopathy (or osteopathic medicine), which emphasises the importance of the musculoskeletal system on general health.

Osteopaths are trained to use various healthcare interventions and technologies depending on the location of their training. In the U.S., osteopaths are trained at osteopathic medical schools. They are fully licensed physicians, with the same practice rights as physicians who carry an M. D. degree. Osteopathic physicians earn the degree of Diploma of Osteopathy or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.).

Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) is a form of manual therapy that includes an array of physical treatments, and in particular joint manipulation. OMM is taught at all osteopathic medical schools in the U.S., usually as an elective speciality. However, the practice of OMM has decreased in recent years, apparently due to limits placed by managed care.[citation needed]

Additional notes by country

Outside of the U.S., most osteopaths are not physicians, and therefore most use drug-free, non-medical interventions. As a result of the emphasis given to the importance of the musculoskeletal system on health during their training, and their lack of prescribing rights, European, and other non-medical osteopaths provide predominantly OMM to their patients.


Osteopaths trained in Canada, while once generally recognized as medical doctors, are not recognized as such by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. At present, there is no accredited College of Osteopaths recognized by the RCPS, and therefore no creditable doctorate can be granted in Canada. However, the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons (and others) does recognize Osteopaths trained at accredited medical colleges in the U.S. and grants medical doctor-equivalent status to such Osteopathic Doctors. [1]

Training in Osteopathy is given in Canada by such schools as the Canadian College of Osteopathy[2], and is overseen by the Canadian Council of Osteopathic Examiners, an accrediting body recognized by the Alternative Medicine Examiners Council of Canada.[3] This body, however, is not empowered to license "Doctors" in the Canadian regulatory system, and the Canadian Osteopathic Association continues to undertake efforts to become recognized by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.[4] Canadian osteopathic training is more oriented around holistic or naturopathic medicine and is more akin to European osteopathy than American, as osteopathy organizations in Canada did not go through the same transformations as did those in the U.S. as a result of the Flexner Report.

Chiropractors, in canada, can be primary care physicians, and often chiropractors will be paired with allopathic or naturopatic doctors as alternatives to traditional osteopathy. The practicality of this combination provides some practical regulatory inertia against the efforts of osteopaths to become accredited in Canada.

United Kingdom

The Osteopaths Act 1993 gave professional status to osteopaths and set up the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC) to provide for the regulation of professional standards for osteopathy. GOsC established 'Recognised Qualification' (RQ) criteria for training establishments offering osteopathic programmes of study. Only those with RQ status (such as The College of Osteopaths)can then have their successful graduates placed on the Register of Osteopaths maintained by GOsC.


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