The TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION (THE) reported yesterday that the British School of Osteopathy (BSO) has won university college title, meaning that it could be on the road towards full university status. University college title, awarded by the Privy Council on the advice of the Department for Education (DfE) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, is usually seen as a step towards full university status. The London-based BSO already secured degree-awarding powers and access to Hefce public teaching and research funding in 2015. The BSO will be known, from September, as the University College of Osteopathy.

The THE quoted me saying “Osteopathy is based on implausible assumptions, and there is no good evidence for its effectiveness. Yet osteopaths regularly make all sorts of therapeutic claims. These facts make the BSO not a candidate for becoming a university; on the contrary, such a move would significantly downgrade the credibility of UK universities and make a mockery of academia and evidence-based healthcare.”

Charles Hunt, the BSO principal, responded: “We recognise that for some of the things that some osteopaths are doing, there is very limited evidence [to demonstrate their effectiveness], and we need to gain more for that. But within medicine, there’s a lot of things that also do not have evidence for them, but some medical practitioners are doing [them anyway].”


The BSO principal should offer a course on logical fallacies and enlist as the first student in it, I thought when reading his response.

Anyway, having stated that “osteopaths regularly make all sorts of therapeutic claims”, I better provide some evidence. Perhaps another occasion for a slide-show?

Here are a few images I found on Twitter that are relevant in this context.

[please click to see them full size]

22 Responses to Osteopathy making a mockery of academia and evidence-based healthcare

  • The mind boggles as to what students actually get taught on a degree programme in this pseudoscience.
    What a waste of their time and money – and public money.
    The osteopaths will be delighted though, at the apparent legitimacy from gaining ‘university college’ status. As Edzard says, this could well be the precursor to full university status.
    More generally, I suspect we could be witnessing the start of a resurgence in degrees in woo in the UK, following the dropping a few years ago by most universities of degrees in mumbo jumbo, or more specifically homeopathy, that resulted from David Colquhoun’s expose of ‘quackademia’.

  • Well, what else will we have to sell to the rest of the world in our glorious post-Brexit future? (Other than cluster bombs…)

    • How about retaining academic integrity on principle alone? Perhaps not fashionable, but inherently worthwhile.

      • Higher education has been getting it in the neck for decades, mind, being largely reduced to an extended babysitting service for middle-class swing voters. I doubt this crap is even close to its endpoint, alas.

  • Actually, the best osteopaths function in a way that’s indistinguishable from physiotherapy. It’s true that the evidence base for physio is pretty slim too, but it doesn’t involve mystical quackery (apart from those deluded physiotherapists who have adopted acupuncture). The problem is (as usual) that their regulatory body does nothing about those who make outrageous claims

    • Just as chiro has done, osteo has (mis)appropriated modes of treatment from medically allied professions to try to give themselves a veneer of respectability. I would call it unprincipled thievery.

  • So I am to assume ‘Osteopathy’ (a DO in the US) is NOT an MD-equivalent-degree in the U.K.??
    Both my GP and general surgeon are DOs and practice identically to an MD…neither do any untoward theatrics.

  • In the US an osteopathic physician D.O. is a fully licensed physician with a professioal degree (D.O.). The medical training is according to the standard of M.D. which is a professional degree too.

    Osteopathic physicians receive a training in OMM (Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine) too to treat functional disorders of the movement apparatus. Their is nearly no evidence to this OMM and only about 5% of osteopathic physicians use OMM in their practice.

    European or Commonwealth osteopaths are totally different educated and are called “osteopathic manipulators” by osteopathic physicians of the States to point out the difference.

    European osteopathic manipulators use OMM plus “visceral osteopathy” which was added to OMM in the 1980 by French osteopaths and so called “osteopathy in the cranial field” or “craniosacral osteopathy”.

    Visceral osteopathy is the old Thure Brandt Massage in the version of the old French gynecologist Henri Stapfer who suggested to lift the organs to prevent uterus prolaps. There is no evidence to this at all. Such an approach has a risk to cause inner bleedings.

    Cranial osteopathy developed out of Mesmerism (magnetic healing) plus phrenology and was used to provide symmetric skulls.

    In the 1950 there were techniques for one to 4 osteopaths working on a child’s skull. As Upledger’s Cranio-sacral therapy took over that market cranial osteopathy switched it’s techniques to soft-touch too. It’s a nice experience but why call this a therapy?

    Their is no evidence to osteopathy in the cranial field at all and the explanations used in the training are switching between esoteric and pseudo-scientific.

    Sorry to say but under such circumstances a B.Sc. or M.Sc. in osteopathy in Europe to me is equivalent with any other similar degree in religious “science”.
    But nowadays you might receive a B.Sc. or M.Sc. in anything that’s relevant for marketing.

  • If you know the details and strong effort of European / Commonwealth osteopathic manipulator’s (“osteopaths”) lobbyism in all governments to become a legalized and officially recognized profession in all national health systems all over Europe it’s really interesting obvious how much there is a need to put “evidence” into the foreground in advertisement of European/Commonwealth osteopathic manipulator’s education to camouflage the Trojan horse of pseudoscience by teaching VM or even Craniosacral.

    Because of all the titles BSc (ost) and MSc (ost) and all the overwhelming evidence in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine some regional and even national governments stopped to use the term “alternative medicine” in their internal documents and correspondece in context with European / Commonwealth Osteopathic Manipulators.

    But let’s have a closer look on how the most traditional eldest and extraordinary school of osteopathic education all over Europe and the Commonwealth is teaching right now in 2017! This school is a “luminous role model” the shining example par excellence for all the younger schools in Europe and The Commonwealth.

    It’s the honorable British School of Osteopathy now University College of Osteopathy and to be granted both University College title and the power to award their own degrees like MSc (Ost) .

    They advertise as “evidence-based” but that’s misleading because they teach VM Visceral Manipulation as a CORE SUBJECT.

    In the foreground they talk a lot about “evidence” on their web page
    … “We’re the largest osteopathic educational institution and our evidence-informed approach …”
    … “We support an evidence informed approach to our teaching..”

    But if you look behind for details in
    you can see the pseudoscientific Trojanic Horse in reality e.g. like:
    “page 10 of 18, …
    year 2 Unit CORE osteopathic capabilities for clinical practice 2 ….
    3. … You are also required to demonstrate a developing ability to apply a range of other osteopathic techniques including functional and VISCERAL” !!!

    So riding the Trojan horse of alternative quack VM under the banner of evidence and statutory title as University College that’s disenchanting obvious an unbounded cheek.

  • Hi everyone,
    I am an Osteopath of 20years standing and I trained at the former BSO. Before you all write in to call me a quack please think about the following:
    I learned Anatomy from Grays Anatomy (the book not the tv series) any problem with that = I doubt it. I learned Physiology from among other texts Tatora and Grabowski (set text for all medical students) any problem? No. I learned Neurology from Pattons Clinical Neurological Differential Diagnosis – problem there? and I was taught clinical anatomy by the esteemed Professor Hutchinson of Guys Medical School and in their disection lab where we studied human cadavers assisted by post graduate surgery students. Is this quackery? Because if it is then so is medicine and it clearly is not.
    There are 5 basic principles to the application of Osteopathy;
    1) A good blood supply is healthy for the human body
    2) musculoskeletal structures that are in good structural condition provide for good function
    3) The structures and systems of the human body are interrelated
    4) The human body has a great capacity for self healing (immune system anybody?)
    5) The body has self regulatory mechanisms – Homeostasis
    No medic would argue with any of these principles because they are obviously true.
    The difference between an Osteopathic approach and a medical approach is simply that Osteopaths look at the body as a whole whereas doctors tend to look at structures and systems in isolation. Both are completely valid and both have their place in our healthcare. If I need an operation to remove a tumour I’m off to see my consultant surgeon and my oncologist. If I have a persistent mechanical back pain problem then its the Osteopath for me. It really is about time we started talking and working together for the good of everyones health and stopped throwing rocks because we all live in glass houses.
    Congratulations BSO you so deserve this recognition for educating some of the finest healthcare professionals in the world.

    • 1) A good blood supply is healthy for the human body = PLATITUDE
      2) musculoskeletal structures that are in good structural condition provide for good function = PLATITUDE
      3) The structures and systems of the human body are interrelated = PLATITUDE
      4) The human body has a great capacity for self healing (immune system anybody?) = PLATITUDE
      5) The body has self regulatory mechanisms – Homeostasis = PLATITUDE

    • Do the BSO offer a money-back guarantee?

  • Hi again,
    Just a by-the-by on the subject of evidence based practice.
    I am completely in favour of evidence based treatment and over the years I have stopped using some treatment protocols because of little or dubious evidence for their effectiveness.
    I do think this should apply across the board though. For instance, a few years ago I fractured my tibia/fibula quite badly and whilst still in hospital a doctor tried to prescribe Ibuprofen for me! For those who don’t know the use of anti-inflammatory drugs in cases of fracture is strictly prohibited because research has shown conclusively that it permanently retards healing and this is irreversible. Check the NICE guidelines or Google it if you want to be sure. Oh I refused naturally, despite being a badly educated quack! (Osteopath).

    • could you show us the evidence, please?

    • @Denise Payne

      Check the NICE guidelines or Google it if you want to be sure.

      Well, you could have done that yourself, and learnt that a large study published in 2005 did not confirm the interpretation of older studies that NSAID’s increased the risk of non-union of fractures. Previous studies had shown a correlation between NSAID use and non-union, but the causation was misinterpreted. Non-union was the causal factor, not the NSAID’s.
      You might also have found that NICE do recommend NSAID’s for pain relief in fracture patients, except in the frail and elderly, which of course is for other reasons. NSAID’s do not cause non-union, the pain of non-union increases NSAID use.
      NSAID’s have biological effects that theoretically inhibit healing, but this effect has been shown to be clinically negligible.

    • For those who don’t know the use of anti-inflammatory drugs in cases of fracture is strictly prohibited because research has shown conclusively that it permanently retards healing and this is irreversible. Check the NICE guidelines or Google it if you want to be sure.

      I checked the NICE guidelines, as you suggested. Here’s what NICE had to say last year about pain management in non-complex fractures.

      “Initial pharmacological management of pain in adults (16 or over)
      For the initial management of pain in adults (16 or over) with suspected long bone fractures of the legs (tibia, fibula) or arms (humerus, radius, ulna), offer:
      oral paracetamol for mild pain
      oral paracetamol and codeine for moderate pain
      intravenous paracetamol supplemented with intravenous morphine titrated to effect for severe pain.
      Use intravenous opioids with caution in frail or older adults.
      Do not offer non‑steroidal anti‑inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to frail or older adults with fractures.
      Consider NSAIDs to supplement the pain relief in recommendation 1.1.4 except for frail or older adults.”

      So ibuprofen (a NSAID) is fine for adults except for frail or older people. Do you fall into that category?

      I searched Medline for articles containing the keywords NSAID fracture healing. According to the most recent review this search turned up (Marquez-Lara et al. JBJS Reviews 2016, DOI: 0.2106/JBJS.RVW.O.00055, PMID: 27500434): “This systematic review highlights the limitations in the current understanding of the effects of NSAIDs on bone healing. Thus, withholding these medications does not have any proven scientific benefit to patients and may even cause harm by increasing narcotic requirements in cases in which they could be beneficial for pain management.” So much for “research has shown conclusively that it permanently retards healing and this is irreversible”.

      You’ve made two patronising comments today. Your first, as has already been pointed out, is a mass of platitudes (plus the tiresome old chestnut about doctors not looking at the body as a whole). The second contains some flat statements of fact which 10 minutes of searching revealed to be complete bollocks. Thank you for reminding me why I hold osteopathy in low esteem.

  • European and Commonwealth osteopathic manipulator’s trainings always start with the brainwashing sentence that “Osteopathy is a philosophy a science and an art” as second step you have to incorporate the platitudes shown in the posts above as “philosophy” … then you learn anatomy anatomy anatomy to believe that having learned enough anatomy everything like visceral manipulation and craniosacral techniques to heal diseases of the inner organs like lactose intolerance or infectious diseases or multiple sclerosis could be done by balancing the tissues related and according to the platitudes mentioned above.

    This is why the US government listed oldfashioned osteopathy (only done by OMM/OMT) officially !!! as a medical sect together with homeopathy and christian science until the 1940ties.

    In the US the osteopathic profession then changed their training programs from “osteopath” to “osteopathic physician” and during WW 2 the became fully licensed physicians in any medical field. OMM/OMT is used only by 5% of the osteopathic physicians but it still is the door for pseudoscience in this profession.

    European and Commonwealth osteopathic manipulators consequently refuse to notice such fundamental changes and follow the road of oldfashioned osteopathy and of platitudes riding the trojan horse of quackery esoteric and pseudoscientific explanations and a lot of senseless and partially dangerous bogus techniques..

    Is a booming business worth to sell B.Sc. and M.Sc. for such a religion ???… It is interesting to follow the efforts and actions of lobbyism and of hidden persons to put pressure onto European governments to implement this pseudoscience as a profession in the European health systems.
    They are partially very successful much more than the Homeopaths as you might see here in the example of becoming a university college…

  • Interesting….
    I recently came upon a thoroughly comprehensive reduction-to-absurdity of the ‘works’ of Irvin Korr (in the journal of Osteopathy) the foundational researcher of osteopathy in the 20th century. He was responsible for the exquisitely science-sounding Stuff that supposedly was responsible for the profound effects of manipulation & eliminating the Osteopathic lesion e.g. gamma motor uptake inhibition and the like.
    Problem is, like Palmer and Hahnamann critical thinking was utterly impaired by mis-placed faith in magic and a distinct agenda irrespective of the fact he was a PhD.
    In the US such magic has been successfully dis-engaged from the profession, something Chiropractic and Osteopaths in Europe are unable to achieve….since of course they have NO fall back position. It’s magic all the way down….

  • European and Commonwealth osteopathic manipulators nowadays are fascinated by the endless net of fascias and like to travel through it with magic touch… most of them even don’t know Korr’s name … especially the French “osteopaths” practice Visceral Manipulation regularly doing rectal and intravaginal techniques to heal infertility. They “travel” through the reproductive system via intravaginal and cranial touch through the skull to “twist the pituitary gland” and to “reduce tension on the glands and to harmonize the hormons”

    … pseudoscientific magic …

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