European definition of osteopathy

In the practice of osteopathy, medical, osteopathic and scientific knowledge is used to apply the principles of osteopathy to the diagnosis and treatment of patients.

The goal of osteopathy is to improve and support all aspects of health and healthy development. Osteopathic treatment can be prophylactic, curative, or supportive.

Osteopaths analyze and evaluate the patient's functional processes and use generally accepted principles in the individual diagnosis and treatment of the patient.

The generally accepted rules include:

– the human being is a dynamic functional unit whose health is influenced by the body and mind; if one part is changed in the system, it will affect the balance of the whole pattern;

– the body has self-regulation mechanisms and heals itself in a natural way; the human being is always trying to regain his own dynamic balance and establish homeostasis;

– structure and function are interrelated at all levels of the human being.

The osteopathic approach to healthcare is patient-centered and focuses on the patient's health, not disease.

Scientific rigor and evidence-based practice are an important part of patient treatment and case management.

Osteopaths use manual contact to identify and evaluate movement in all structural and functional aspects of a patient, identifying and addressing changes in function and movement that impede health.

Osteopathy aims to induce and promote the internal mechanisms of self-healing and self-regulation of the body; respects the relationship of body, mind and spirit in health and disease.

The terms osteopathy and osteopathic medicine are sometimes used interchangeably. Osteopathy is an independent field of healthcare. Osteopaths can also cooperate with people practicing other disciplines.

Osteopathy is based on principles drawn from human physiology, anatomy, embryology, and other medical sciences. Due to the complexity of the human body, there are many different models that are used in osteopathy.

The models show how the osteopath tries to influence the patient's physiological responses. The models used in osteopathy include: a biomechanical model, a cardio-respiratory model, a neurological model, a biopsychosocial model, and a bioenergy model. These models influence the collection of diagnostic information and the interpretation of the significance of the results of structural examinations in the patient's general health. Typically, the combination of models is appropriate for the individual patient and tailored to his differential diagnosis, comorbidities, other therapeutic regimens and response to treatment.

Osteopaths are trained to consider the patient as a whole, and the way patients are presented for treatment will be influenced by their individual physical, mental and emotional health. A highly developed sense of touch and attention to complex systems as an individual is typical of an osteopathic approach.

Models of osteopathy


The biomechanical model views the body as an integration of somatic components that relate to each other as a mechanism of posture and balance. Highlights or imbalances within this mechanism can affect dynamic function, increase energy expenditure, alter proprioception (the sense of relative position and movement of adjacent body parts), alter joint structure, impede neurovascular function, and alter metabolism. This model employs therapeutic approaches, including osteopathic manipulation techniques to restore proper posture and balance, and to make effective use of musculoskeletal components.


The neurological model takes into account the influence of spine facilitation, proprioceptive function, the autonomic nervous system and the activity of nociceptors (analgesic fibers) on the functioning of the neuroendocrine immune network. The relationship between the somatic and visceral (autonomic) systems is of particular importance. This model uses therapeutic approaches, including osteopathic manipulation techniques, to reduce mechanical stress, balance nerve inputs, and reduce or eliminate nociceptive urge. This is sometimes referred to as the craniosacral model.


The bioenergy model recognizes that the body seeks to maintain a balance between energy production, distribution and expenditure. Maintaining this balance supports the body in its ability to adapt to various stressors (immunological, nutritional, psychological, etc.). This model uses therapeutic approaches, including osteopathic manipulation techniques, to address factors that have the potential to deregulate energy production, distribution or expenditure.


The respiratory / circulatory model deals with the maintenance of the extracellular and intracellular environment through the free supply of oxygen and nutrients and the removal of cellular waste. Tissue stress or other factors disrupting the flow or circulation of any body fluid can affect tissue health. This model uses therapeutic approaches, including osteopathic manipulation techniques, to address dysfunction of respiratory mechanics, circulation and body fluid flow.


The biopsychosocial model recognizes various psychological reactions and stresses that can affect patients' health and well-being. These include environmental, socioeconomic, cultural, physiological and psychological factors that influence the disease. This model uses therapeutic approaches, including osteopathic manipulation techniques, to address the effects and responses to various biopsychosocial stresses.