Osteopathy is mainly used to treat a variety of musculoskeletal problems, and half the workload of osteopaths consists of helping people with back pain. The therapy has had great success in treating both chronic and acute back pain. However, osteopaths say that the techniques can also relieve conditions such as bronchitis, constipation and premenstrual tension.

Osteopathy is also used to strengthen the immune system. If you have asthma, osteopaths can help you by using manipulation to open the chest, stretch the diaphragm and improve posture. A separate, but related, discipline, known as cranial osteopathy, was developed in the 1950s by a doctor. Curso de Osteopatia is an American osteopath who studies under the founder. He became particularly interested in the bones of the skull, which are separate in babies but become fixed adults.

He found that these bones were still capable of some movement in adults and that pressing these bones could produce strong physical and emotional reactions. He developed a theory that stated that cerebrospinal fluid flows in rhythmic pulses. By gentle manipulation of the skull, cranial osteopathy can discover any irregularities in these pulses and restore the flow to its natural rhythm.

Osteopaths prefer to use the term pediatric osteopathy rather than cranial osteopathy, which they say can be confused with crania sacral therapy, which is not true osteopathy. Many childhood ailments, practitioners say, can be traced back to unresolved strains experienced during birth which can lead to nervous disorders and behavioral problems. Babies have a drive toward the normal, so the sooner the osteopath gets his hand on a baby the better. Osteopaths aim to rebalance the body to enable the child to harness his or her own vital force.