Osteopathy is gaining more and more supporters, and yet the manual healing method with its holistic approach is controversial and not recognised everywhere. We show where it can help and where it has its limits.

Osteopaths can feel tension in the body and gently release blockages, treating the musculoskeletal system and internal organs with their hands only. They view the body as a unit and try to activate its self-healing powers. Their work is based on cause-and-effect chains, the basic idea that the musculoskeletal system, skull and spinal cord, as well as all internal organs, are all linked as a system, connected by fine tissue networks – the fasciae. Osteopaths thus often find the cause of pain far away from the symptom, in a completely different part of the body. Knee problems might be treated by dealing with the hips or back, or migraines viewed as a problem with blood flow in the liver. More and more patients are turning to osteopaths as an attractive alternative to conventional medicine. Critics point out the lack of studies backing up their claims, and the profession is not officially recognised everywhere. Yet researchers around the world are increasingly able to prove the positive effects of osteopathy. We travel to the USA, birthplace of osteopathy, as well as to Europe, and show what happens under the osteopath’s hands, where the manual healing method can help and where it has its limits.