Osteopahic Council

Council has determined seven scopes of practice for osteopaths

(1) Scope of Practice: Osteopath

(2) Scope of Practice: Western Medical Acupuncture (WMA) and Related Needling Techniques

(3) Scope of Practice:Gerontology

(4) Scope of Practice: Pain Management

(5) Scope of Practice: Special Purpose

(6) Scope of Practice: Trainee Osteopath

(7) Scope of Practice: Visiting Osteopathic Presenter / Educator

Please click on each scope to see details.

Section 8 of the HPCA Act requires that health practitioners must not practise outside their scope of practice.

Extended Scopes of Practice

The purpose of an extended scope of practice is to permit holders of the general osteopathic scope of practice to extend their clinical skills. The Council wishes to make explicit that the prescribed qualification for the general osteopathic scope of practice is not adequate to ensure competent practice and protect the health and safety of the public for areas of practice where an extended scope has been developed.

 Philosophy and Principles of Osteopathic Treatment

The Council endorses the following philosophy and principles of osteopathic treatment:

The body is a unit.

  • Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated.
  • The body possesses self-regulatory mechanisms.
  • The body has the inherent capacity to defend itself and repair itself.
  • When normal adaptability is disrupted, or when environmental changes overcome the body's capacity for self-maintenance, disease may ensue.
  • Movement of body fluids is essential to the maintenance of health.
  • The nerves play a crucial part in controlling the fluids of the body.
  • There are somatic components to disease that are not only manifestations of disease but also are factors that contribute to maintenance of the diseased state.

Implicit in these philosophies is the belief that osteopathic intervention has a positive influence on the above.

Osteopathic Scope of Practice

Osteopaths are primary healthcare practitioners.  Central to the competent practice of osteopathy is an understanding of the role of the primary care team and referral routes within the primary care team and to hospital based services.

Osteopathy is a person-centred form of manual medicine informed by osteopathic principles.   Osteopathic medicine is not confined to historical osteopathic knowledge; rather osteopathic philosophies and concepts inform the interpretation and application of interdisciplinary knowledge and the basic medical sciences.  Osteopathic medicine is an evolving field of knowledge and incorporates new concepts as our understanding of health and disease progresses.

Osteopaths treat people and conceptualise health and disease within a broad holistic bio-psycho-social and environmental context. Osteopaths have a particular interest in conditions of the neuro-musculoskeletal system and the management of pain.  Osteopaths seek to prevent disease and promote health by empowering patients through sharing knowledge on lifestyle choices that improve health outcomes.

Osteopathic practice may be situated within a continuum of healthcare and wellness,with osteopaths applying evidence-based approaches to the management of named pathologies and conditions through to promoting wellbeing through supportive treatment.

The competent practice of osteopathy clearly requires broad diagnostic competencies and a differential diagnosis is required to determine if a structural diagnosis and the use of osteopathic manual treatment (OMT) is appropriate.  Although osteopathic practice is often defined by OMT, the practice of osteopathy is not limited to a structural diagnosis and OMT.  Whilst there may well be a somatic component to disease, OMT may not be a suitable or principal modality in every presentation.

Osteopaths work across the lifespan and may treat individuals from birth to old age, or deliver services in group settings.  Professional knowledge may be applied in a range of settings not limited to clinical practice, such as health promotion, education and research, health policy and healthcare management. 

Restricted Activities

Section 9 of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act (the Act) allows for specified activities to be restricted to registered health practitioners, in order to protect members of the public from the risk of serious or permanent harm. 

The following is a restricted activity:

Applying high velocity, low amplitude manipulative techniques to cervical spinal joints.

This is specific to cervical spinal joints - where the risk of stroke or death related to manipulation occurs. The wording "high velocity, low amplitude" is commonly understood by practitioners as a description of the dangerous element to this activity.



  • 2018 Regional Conferences

    Registrations are now open for our 2018 Regional Conferences.  Register early! There is an early bird fee available for each location. Auckland - 26 May 2018 Christchurch - 28 July 2018 Wellington - 10 November 2018 Registration forms here.   Agenda can be downloaded...

  • Child and Adolescent Health Recertification Programme

    Click here for OCNZ Recertification Programme letter   Click here for OCNZ Notice of New Recertification Programme: Child and Adolescent Health in Osteopathy   Click here for the Ara Institute of Canterbury information leaflet...

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