/ Pain management

Pain management

Pain management is a key focus area for all osteopaths. Osteopaths help people manage their pain, whether this is straight after a physical injury to the body or longer-term persistent pain.

What is pain?

Understanding pain

  • Pain can be classified as either acute or chronic.
  • Pain experienced straight after an injury is called acute pain, and is defined as pain lasting up to three months.
  • Chronic pain is persistent pain that lasts for more than three months or past the time of tissue healing.
  • Persistent pain can affect attendance at work or education and participation in daily activities.
  • Persistent pain is also a leading cause of depression, poor mental health and wellbeing.

Osteopathic pain management assessment

An osteopathic pain assessment aims to understand the type of pain you are experiencing and what is causing or influencing your pain.

Your osteopath will ask you a range of questions about your pain. This will include questions about when your pain gets better or worse. As your pain is influenced by many factors, this might involve talking about emotions, life stresses and what you are thinking or feeling when pain levels change. Your osteopath will also ask whether you have had any other tests carried out by other health professionals and what the results of those tests showed about your pain.

Your osteopath may carry out additional tests such as nerve, movement or joint tests, and may include using patient questionnaires to assess your pain.

Patient questionnaire

Pain management plan

A pain management plan includes pain education and advice to help and support you on how to manage your pain.

Understanding your pain is an important part of your management plan and your osteopath will take the time to educate you on what pain is and isn’t. Did you know that understanding your pain can reduce the sensation of pain, improve function, enhance movement and decrease your use of healthcare services? (Louw et al 2016)

As part of this plan, your osteopath will give you advice on the steps that may help to relieve your pain. First, this will involve asking you what strategies and treatments you have used in the past for pain relief and whether these strategies helped or not. Your osteo may then:

  • Provide information on how to move or position your body to relieve or avoid pain.
  • Suggest activities for when your pain gets worse. This can include diversion (distraction activities) or exercises to strengthen or train parts of the body to carry out daily activities.
  • Recommend manual therapies for pain relief.
Reference: Louw, A., Zimney, K., Puentedura, E. J., & Diener, I. (2016). The efficacy of pain neuroscience education on musculoskeletal pain: a systematic review of the literature. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice32(5), 332-355.


Osteopaths may recommend other health services for pain relief. They work closely with GPs, psychologists, exercise physiologists, medical specialists and other health professionals to provide the best healthcare for you and your needs.