Osteopaths use a variety of techniques to help correct abnormal
physical conditions which include back and neck pain, headache, physical
injuries to bones, joints and muscles, and many other physical and
A wide variety of treatment techniques are used, which could include
manipulation and mobilisation to joints and soft tissues, muscle energy
stretches and cranial-sacral therapy. The Osteopath will use appropriate
treatment, after fully assessing the patient.
Osteopaths are front line health professionals and work with other
registered health professionals including general practitioners,
specialists and radiologists to provide the best service to their
Osteopaths are able to treat ACC claims patients without referral
from a medical doctor and refer for x-rays and to other health
professionals if required.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an osteopath?
Osteopaths are primary healthcare practitioners (like GPs and
pharmacists). Primary healthcare covers a broad range of health
services in the community – including diagnosis and treatment, health
education, and disease prevention and screening.
Osteopaths have a particular interest in evidence-based diagnosis and
treatment of the neuro-musculoskeletal system, and in pain management –
often (but not always) through manual treatment. Osteopaths work in
collaboration with other healthcare providers to ensure patients receive
holistic health and well-being advice and treatment.
How are osteopaths trained?
To qualify as an osteopath, trainees must complete post-graduate
education (a minimum of 4 years of training). The curriculum generally
• Building knowledge of musculoskeletal health and osteopathic approaches to healthcare
• A deep level of clinical sciences, including anatomy, physiology, and pathology
• Critical thinking
• Ethical and legal practice
• Safe and effective communication
• Practising culturally safe osteopathy
• Ongoing and increasingly complex application of skills and knowledge in supervised clinical practice.
How do I know if my osteopath is competent?
Osteopaths cannot practise in New Zealand unless they are registered
with the Osteopathic Council of New Zealand (OCNZ), and hold a current
practising certificate issued by the OCNZ.
The OCNZ is a statutory body which is established under the Health
Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (HPCA Act). This law covers
the regulation of around 20 different professions. It includes doctors
(who are regulated by the Medical Council) and nurses (who are
regulated by the Nursing Council).
To obtain registration with OCNZ, an applicant for registration must
meet legal criteria, including demonstrating that they have a
qualification recognised by OCNZ. Once registered (a one-off process),
osteopaths must also apply each year for an annual practising
certificate. Again, they are required to meet legal criteria to satisfy
the OCNZ that they are competent to practise osteopathy.
You can look up your osteopath on our online register.
If you can’t find the person you are looking for, please let us know so
that we can check whether the person is registered. It is unlawful for
a person to call themselves an osteopath unless they are registered
What if I have concerns about an osteopath?
In our experience, concerns can often be resolved by raising the
matter directly with the osteopath. This is particularly the case if
you’re unsure about a treatment the osteopath wants to provide, or why
they want to provide it.
If you’re comfortable doing so, we suggest that you raise your concerns
with your osteopath in the first instance, and ask them to provide you
with more information to see if they can address your concerns.
If you do not feel comfortable talking directly to your osteopath, you
might want to email them, or raise a complaint through the practice.
Alternatively, you can:
• Contact the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) at www.hdc.org.nz (free phone 0800 11 22 33) to discuss your concerns with its free Advocacy Service, or to make a complaint;
• Contact us to make a
complaint. Please note that if you contact us, we are legally required
to refer your complaint to the HDC in the first instance.
What is the Osteopathic Council?
The OCNZ is a statutory authority (i.e., an authority that is created by
law) that is responsible for ensuring that osteopaths are fit and
competent to practise. Our primary purpose is public protection – we do
not represent osteopaths; the representative body for osteopaths is
Osteopathy New Zealand.
There are normally 8 Council members on the OCNZ, made up of 6
osteopaths and 2 lay members. Applications for a position on the OCNZ
Council are made to the Ministry of Health, and appointments to Council
are made by the Minister of Health.
As well as providing a place for the Osteopathic Council to communicate
with our registrants, our website is also an important tool to help us
provide information and communicate with the New Zealand public.
If you would like to know more about the Osteopathic Council, please have a look at our ‘About the Council’ page.
We also have a dedicated section of our website for patients and the
public. To learn more about osteopathy, to find an osteopath in your
area, or if you would like to notify us of concerns you may have about
an osteopath, please see our page for ‘Patients’