Types of Osteopathy

Osteopathy has evolved into a tree with many branches since Andrew Taylor Still founded it in the late 1800s. So I’m going to give a brief explanation… stay with me for this!

There are different types of osteopathy which means some practitioners follow a branch and specialise in that type. There is a type of osteopathy to suit everyone but not every practitioner will be a good fit for every patient. This is why it’s so important to read about your osteopath and pick someone who’s online profile resonates with you, or better yet, give them a call and speak to them, ask some questions!

All osteopathic branches are based on Still’s theories and principles. One of the main theories being that in order for the body to achieve optimal health, all parts of the body should work together harmoniously. Another being that the human body holds everything it needs to heal itself. This is where osteopathy comes in: it is a form of manual treatment designed to encourage the bodys’ self-regulatory mechanisms to defend, repair, and remodel itself. To achieve this, a wide range of techniques can be used which fall under the osteopathic umbrella, these can categorised into types of osteopathy.

Structural Osteopathy

This is the most common style of osteopathy largely due to to it being the foundation of osteopathic training. Emphasis is on manual techniques that focus on improving the mechanical workings of the body by affecting the musculoskeletal system. This is achieved using stretching, massaging, joint articulation, mobilisation techniques, manipulations.

Classical Osteopathy

This approach is based on integration of the anatomical systems through ‘body adjustment’. Osteopathy was originally seeking to treat systemic illness such as typhoid rather than the sports injuries which is what we are better known for treating now. Classical osteopathy is more closely rooted in principles and philosophies from A. T. Still, the founder of osteopathy and John Martin Littlejohn who developed oseopathy and introduced it to England in 1911. Body Adjustment is a routine that involves the whole body, with more specific treatment being directed where needed as considered appropriate by the practitioner. This is a very simplified explanation of classical osteopathy, for more info you can read it here.

Cranial Osteopathy

A subtle approach to osteopathy, cranial treatment is something that is best experienced than described. Gentle but powerful, this technique works with fluid dynamics and small movement obstructions in the bones of the head and face, seeking to encourage the body’s self-correcting mechanisms to help things to change. It is the choice treatment for many osteopaths who work with babies and small children especially when strains and compressions during birth events are part of the presentating symtoms.

Visceral Osteopathy

The relationship between the physical structure of the body and the organs has been well documented and referred pain from organs to the rest of the body, known as ‘viscero-somatic pain’ has been researched extensively. This has lead to more exploration into somato-visceral pain where the heart, lungs or digestive system are experiencing pain due to a dyfunctional musculoskeletal system. This pain is often caused by tension held in the organs due to poor diet, lifestyle stresses, stationary postures, scar tissue, etc. Techniques are often aimed at improving digestive tract movement, breathing mechanics, and lung and internal organ function. Like cranial, with which it goes hand-in-hand with, it is often a more gentle approach.


There are often large crossovers between each approach so it is hard to label specific techniques as fitting into one box or another (technically everything is structural!) and many osteopaths use techniques from more than one approach. After all a combination of techniques is usually required as an osteopath treats the body as a whole unit. Some osteopaths choose to dip in to some boxes more than others which is decided on their training, experience, preferences and interests.

Where Does Wisbey Osteopathy Fit Into This?

Think of me like a deck of pokemon cards (which I’m now hoping is a reference everyone will understand…) My base pack is primarily structural which is how I have practiced for a number of years. However I have a great interest in visceral osteopathy so I have spent time on expansion packs including knowledge and treatment techniques from a visceral approach to boost my deck. I’ve happened upon a cranial deck but I don’t have many cards that go together so I very rarely use those because I have no upgrade cards, but I do plan on getting another expansion pack or two on cranial osteopathy because it is useful, interesting and, like most other osteopaths, I am a curious being and can’t resist the urge to learn more. Anything to increase my osteopathic power! I have nothing on classical osteopathy except a basic cheat sheet on how to use it, but I’ve got no expansion packs for classical osteopathy so I don’t use it.

If you got this far and still have questions then I am happy to have a chat! Please call on 07506461919, or email on info@wisbeyosteopathy

Photo by Joyce McCown on Unsplash

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