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Osteopathy is statistically the fastest growing health profession in Australia and boasts an almost 100 per cent graduate uptake.

While it remains one of the smallest of the 14 health professions registered under the national scheme, the profession has increased from about 300 osteopaths 10 years ago to now reaching almost 2000 registered osteopaths practising across Australia.

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Osteopathy Australia chief executive Antony Nicholas said the profession has grown at a significant rate in the past few years in line with an increasing number of people experiencing back problems, arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions.

“There’s been a much bigger drive from health consumers around taking care of themselves,” he said.

“The whole manual therapy area has grown substantially, whether that’s physiotherapists, chiropractors or osteopaths, all of which have quite an overlap in their scopes of practice.”

With three universities in Australia producing up to 150 osteopathy graduates each year, and higher intakes expected in the next few years, Mr Nicholas said the profession will continue to grow in Australia.

“About 75 per cent of the profession is just in Victoria and New South Wales, and although there are about 140 osteopaths in Queensland, the rest of the states have less than 50 osteopaths, so there’s a huge area for the potential growth and expansion of the profession in all those other states,” he said.

“We’re hoping that by about 2020 we will be closer to the 3000 mark. We would like to see some new courses starting in Queensland or Western Australia or even in the Northern Territory.”

Mr Nicholas said most students who choose osteopathy as a career path have come into contact with the manual treatment either directly or through a family member’s treatment experience.

“We are quite pleased that it’s about a 100 per cent graduate employment,” he said.

“Ninety-eight per cent of osteopaths will work in private practice and we are seeing an increasing trend of osteopaths also working in corporate ergonomics, a few in aged care or corporate health but the vast majority are working in private practice either in multidisciplinary allied health clinics or osteopathy-specific clinics.”

Mr Nicholas, who is also deputy chair on the Allied Health Professions Australia board, said despite the growth in the profession, there’s still a level of misunderstanding about the work of osteopaths among the public and other health practitioners.

As part of Osteopathy Awareness Week, from April 19-25, the national professional association representing the nation’s osteopaths is working to promote the profession and the benefits of osteopathy.

Osteopaths complete a minimum of five years’ university training in anatomy, physiology, pathology, general medical diagnosis and osteopathic techniques and treat back and neck pain, sports injuries, headaches, whiplash, postural problems, sciatica, knee and heel pain, shin splints, occupational injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome.

“The core philosophy of osteopathy is about structure governs function and what they mean by that is that if the muscles are relaxed and loose and the joints aren’t constricted then the body can move more freely, so the lymphatics can move more freely, so the circulation and all that works better, so therefore the body can heal itself better,” Mr Nicholas said.


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords