The Ultimate Guide to Osteopathy

The Ultimate Guide to Osteopathy

Osteopathy in Burlington Ontario at Fit For Life Physioterapy
People often talk about it like it’s magic. There’s a mystical, je ne sais quoi air around it. You maybe have heard someone say they saw an Osteopathic Manual Practitioner and they’re not sure what they did, but it worked! They have magic hands! And from the outside it may seem mysterious but it's a practice that’s based on principles, laws of nature, and reasoning. There's no magic in sight - but there are great results!

It’s common for people to seek out osteopathy as a last resort when nothing else has worked. Though osteopathy has been around since the late 1800’s, it’s still making its way into “mainstream” healthcare in Canada. So for some, the suggestion of going for osteopathic treatment can feel a little out there, or too alternative. Osteopathy not understood well by the general public, and yet it can help address so many issues and concerns.

There are so many people out there that can benefit from osteopathy, but don't that it could help, so we're here to pull back the curtain to help you understand what it is and how it can help you. 

Whether you’ve tried osteopathy before, or you’ve never heard of it before and are curious to learn more, keep reading to find out why osteopathy should be part of your health & wellness regime.

What is Osteopathy (and Why Does it Matter)?

Osteopathy is a profession that uses manual therapy to address the root causes of the symptoms and limitations you’re experiencing. Osteopathic Manual Practitioners use manual therapy to promote, re-establish and find health in the individual on all levels.

Osteopathy looks beyond symptoms and addresses the root cause of the symptoms you’re experiencing.  The practice of osteopathy is guided by 3 tenants: 

1. The Body is a Dynamic Unit: what’s happening in one area of the body will have an impact in other areas. The body works as a unit, each part contributing to the whole. This is why OMP’s look at the whole picture, what is a cause, what is an effect and what can be done to address the cause. 

2. The Body is Self Healing & Self Regulating: given the proper environment and circumstances the body will self heal and self regulate. Osteopathy aims to promote an environment where the body can do the healing. Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, the founder of osteopathy famously said “Find it, fix it, leave it alone.” Osteopathic treatment focuses on removing the barriers that are limiting your body’s ability to heal & regulate.

3. Structure and Function are Interrelated: each part of your body is designed for a specific job. Joints move in specific ways. Organs have specific functions. We have an anatomical structure, skeleton, muscles, and other tissues that are designed to work a certain way, but will also adapt to how we use them. Our bodies have to compensate - if they didn’t we would be in trouble! But when we compensate long term, and structures are doing jobs they weren’t designed for, we can end up in trouble. Osteopathic treatment considers how structure and function are acting upon one another, and uses manual therapy to remove the  barriers that are impeding ideal functioning.  

Osteopathic Treatment at Fit For Life Physiotherapy in Burlington Ontario

Classical osteopathy is principles based, meaning that it is not just a collection of techniques and a protocol to follow. It is application of the principles through a deep understanding of anatomy, physiology and mechanics which allows the practitioner to adapt techniques to provide individualized treatment to every patient. Two people who come in with shoulder pain will receive different treatments because although they both have shoulder pain, they have different bodies, different health histories, unique responses to manual therapy and therefore will need different treatments to address their pain. 

Two people with the “same pain” can have that pain for many different causes and may have completely different contributing factors! This is why osteopathic treatment does not just look at the symptomatic area, but the whole body and how it’s functioning (and where it’s not functioning so well!) as a unit! 

Osteopathy isn’t about chasing symptoms,  it aims to remove the barriers and restrictions that are causing your symptoms. How do Osteopathic Manual Practitioners do that? With a deep knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, combined with honed palpation skills they are able to find out what's not moving the way it should be, figure out why, and then work to restore movement to that area. 

SO why does osteopathy matter? Why should it be top of mind when you’re experiencing pain or limitation? Because it is a non invasive, conservative method of treatment that looks to remove the restrictions that keep you from moving and doing the things that you love. It will support you to be in your best health possible!

The History of Osteopathy (briefly… and abridged…) 

The roots of osteopathy were laid in Missouri, USA in the late 1800's.  Dr. Andrew Taylor Still discovered osteopathy in 1874 but tells of his first lesson in osteopathy taking place much earlier in his life when as a child he had a headache and laid down under a tree swing, put his head on the swing for support and found relief for his headache! 

Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, the founder of Osteopathy

Dr. Still’s lifelong curiosity and interest in nature kept him searching for solutions to the suffering of those around him. He experienced many losses in his life, not only in his work as a physician and while as a medic in the civil war but also in his personal life, including his first wife, and several of his children. His dissatisfaction with the medical profession and the risks associated with treatment options at the time lead him to explore non invasive and non pharmacological ways to treat people. 

He delved deep into human anatomy and understanding every aspect of each part of the human body. He became a functional anatomist and applied this knowledge along with his knowledge of the laws of nature to help treat people who were suffering without the use of drugs or surgery. His skills and successes grew to the point that he needed to train others in what he was doing so he could keep up with the demand. This lead to him eventually opening the American School of Osteopathy. 

Dr. Still and his colleagues paved the way for osteopathic practitioners of today. They petitioned state courts and were instrumental in osteopathy taking its place as a medical practice in the United States. Today there are continue to be osteopathic medical schools in the United States that train Osteopathic Physicians. 

In Canada, osteopathy has taken a slightly different course as a profession. Osteopathic Manual Practitioners in Canada are not medical physicians. OMPs in Canada focus exclusively on using manual therapy to help their clients address pain, limitation and issues. 

Osteopathic Manual what? Can’t We Just Call Them Osteopaths? 

In Ontario, the terms Osteopath, DO, and Doctor of Osteopathy are terms protected by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and can only be used by American trained Osteopathic Medical School graduates. 

Practitioners who graduate from Canadian Osteopathic schools use the title Osteopathic Manual Practitioner, or OMP. Though you will frequently hear people refer to their Osteopathic Manual Practitioner as an Osteopath, this is not the correct title! 

Osteopathic Manual Practitioners are not regulated health care professionals in Canada. They can voluntarily apply to become a member of OSTCAN, a national association that has rigorous standards for its members including education standars, a certification exam, professional development and continuing education requirements. It is through OSTCAN that Osteopathic Manual Practitioners receive a billing number which makes their services eligible to be covered under extended benefits plans that include osteopathy services.

At Fit For Life Physiotherapy our Osteopathic Manual Practitioners are graduates of the Canadian Academy of Osteopathy and are all members of OSTCAN.

What Can Osteopathy Help With? What Are the benefits? 

Just like any form of treatment, osteopathy won’t work for everyone and for everything, but it sure can help with a lot!

People of all ages, from the newest babies to the most experienced among us can benefit from osteopathic treatment and it can help with a wide variety of issues.

Picture a garden with an irrigation system. Now picture a kink or blockage in the tubing that delivers the water to the sprinklers. With some or all of the water prevented from getting to the garden, it's going to start to suffer. Flowers will start to droop and then drop leaves, things will stop growing. As soon as the kink or blockage is unclogged, and the proper supply of water returns, the garden can start thriving again! Our bodies are not so different from that irrigation system! When something is getting in the way of the function of an area it will not be able to perform to its greatest capacity. 

Using manual therapy, Osteopathic Manual Practitioners remove the kinks, blockages and restrictions that are preventing your body from functioning it's best. Now this kink or blockage could be muscles that are pulling and holding things in a position that doesn't allow the joints or other structures to do their job properly, or impacting how an organ is functioning. Osteopathic Manual Practitioners help facilitate an environment where the body can heal and function at it's greatest capacity! 

So with all that said, osteopathy can help address a lot of different issues that can be contributing to pain and limitation. 

Things like: 

  • Back and neck pain 
  • Shoulder, elbow and wrist pain 
  • Hip, knee and ankle pain 
  • Jaw pain 
  • Headaches and migraines 
  • Swelling and congestion 
  • Sports injuries 
  • Pre and post surgery care 
  • Digestive discomfort and issues 
  • New pain, persistent & longstanding pain 
  • Pain & limitation that have been resistant to other forms of treatment
  • Musculoskeletal issues
  • Spinal health
  • Traumatic injury
  • Reproductive issues
  • Respiratory health
  • Pain & limitation with movement, sports and activities 
  • Postural pain
  • Overall health and wellness 

Because osteopathic treatment aims to address what is causing your pain, limitation or issues, how much treatment and how often will depend on what you have going on. More longstanding and complex issues may need a longer course of treatment, while other issues may only need a few treatments. The goal is to get you to a place where you don't need treatment, or to find a treatment maintenance schedule that keeps you feeling your best without having to come in too often! 


Osteopathy is a profession that has been around for over a century helping people move well, live well, and be well! It is a practice based on principles, laws of nature and reasoning, that considers the whole person during treatment. Every treatment is adjusted to the patient on the table, and will be guided by their unique presentation and circumstances. 

Osteopathy has helped so many people feel better by addressing the root causes of their symptoms instead of chasing symptoms or providing band aid solutions that aren't going to stick. 

At Fit For Life Physiotherapy, osteopathy is part of our multidisciplinary approach to health.  Some of our clients come in strictly for osteopathic treatment, while others may be receiving osteopathic treatment in conjuction with other therapies. Our clinicians work together to make sure your treatment is comprehensive, cohesive and moves you towards your goals! 

We have 3 Osteopathic Manual Practitioners who are all members in good standing with OSTCAN and they're ready to help you feel your very best! 

Meet our team of Osteopathic Manual Practitioners

Marie Baker Osteopathic Manual Practitioner at Fit For Life Physiotherapy in Burlington Ontario Natalie Jakymyshyn Osteopathic Manual Practitioner at Fit For Life Physiotherapy in Burlington Ontario Ashley Sawala Osteopathic Manual Practitioner at Fit For Life Physiotherapy in Burlington Ontario
Marie Baker Natalie Jakymyshyn Ashley Sawala

Learn More About Osteopathy:

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between Physiotherapists, Chiropractors & Osteopathic Manual Practitioners ?

A number of different practitioners use manual (hands on) therapy to address client concerns. Chiropractors, Osteopathic Manual Practitioners and Physiotherapists are a few prominent examples. 

While there can be overlap in techniques, each discipline has it’s own approach and application of manual therapy.

Osteopathic treatment considers the body as a whole system and addresses concerns from this perspective. Osteopathy aims to address the root cause of symptoms and uses gentle hands on therapy to create an environment where the body can self heal and self regulate. 

Whereas Physiotherapists and Chiropractors may include other modalities in their treatment, Osteopathic Manual Practitioners exclusively use manual therapy. 

What should I wear to my osteopathy appointment?

You'll be clothed for the duration of your appointment. It's best to wear clothing that you can move comfortably in.

Do you need a referral to see an Osteopathic Manual Practitioner?  

You do not need a referral to see an Osteopathic Manuarl Practitioner. If you are interested in osteopathic treatment you can make an appointment as soon as you're ready! 

What our clients have to say about Osteopathy at Fit For Life Physiotherapy 

Winners of the Platinum award for Best Osteopathic Clinic in Burlington in the 2024 Burlington Post Readers Choice Awards! Thank you for trusting us with your care!