Osteopathy, the physical manipulation of the body’s tissues and bones, may help to relieve pain associated with musculoskeletal conditions, according to new research published in BMJ Open

The researchers analysed data from nine systematic reviews or meta analyses conducted between 2013 and 2020, including 55 primary trials and 3,740 participants.

Osteopathy could help to relieve chronic non-specific lower back pain 

The reviews reported on the use of osteopathy in a wide range of conditions, including acute and chronic non-specific low back pain, chronic non-specific neck pain, chronic non-cancer pain, primary headache, and IBS.

The studies compared osteopathy to other forms of complementary medicine, including dummy treatment (placebo), sham osteopathy, light tough therapy, no treatment, waiting list, conventional treatment and physiotherapy.

While the researchers found "promising evidence" that osteopathy can help to reduce pain and improve physical function in adults, there was limited evidence on the effectiveness of osteopathy for use in children with various conditions, ranging from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to asthma and infantile colic.

Similarly, the evidence supporting osteopathy for the treatment of migraine and IBS was limited or inconclusive. 

More research needs to be done to confirm the findings 

The authors of the study say the results indicate that osteopathy could be "effective in the management of musculoskeletal disorders", specifically in regard to chronic non-specific lower back pain and lower back pain in pregnant women, or those who have recently had a baby.

“In contrast, inconclusive evidence was derived from [systematic reviews] analysing osteopathy efficacy on paediatric conditions, primary headache, and IBS,” they add.

However, since the researchers were only able to analyse a limited number of studies, some of which were of "moderate quality", they say more research needs to be done to confirm their findings. 

As they explain: "Our overview highlights the need to perform further well-conducted [systematic reviews] as well as clinical trials (which have to follow the specific guidelines for non-pharmacological treatments) to confirm and extend the possible use of [osteopathy] in some conditions as well as its safety."