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30 years of osteopathy experience

Osteopathy in Cambridge​

Alan Szmelskyj a registered osteopath in Cambridge with over 30 years of osteopathy experience. Specialising in the treatment of chronic pain.

What is osteopathy?

Osteopaths diagnose, treat and advise on the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain, neck pain, joint problems (shoulder, elbow, knee, hip pain), general stiffness and tension, etc.

There are over 100 osteopathic techniques. Osteopathy is a hands-on treatment that involves highly skilled manipulation of the spine and joints, and massage of soft tissues (muscles, tendons and ligaments) in order to relieve pain and tension.

Your osteopath will explain what they are doing and will always ask your permission before they treat you.

How does osteopathy work?

Osteopathy focuses on the musculoskeletal system (the joints, muscles, ligaments, connective tissue and the bones) and the way in which these interrelate with the body as a whole. 

Osteopaths use a detailed knowledge of anatomy and physiology to diagnose and treat back pain, neck pain, joint and muscle pain, sciatica, headaches, tension and other conditions.

Problems with the body framework may occur because of injury, stress or disease. By using the bio-social holistic health model (in other words treating body and mind) holistic osteopaths improve a patient’s overall health as well as treat the strained or pained part of the person. 

As a result of osteopathic treatment, the musculoskeletal system is able to function as efficiently as possible. This allows the body to have a much better chance of restoring itself to normal health.a

What Conditions Can Osteopathy Treat?

It has been scientifically proven that osteopathy can treat the following conditions:

  • Arthritic pain
  • Circulatory problems
  • Cramp
  • Digestion problems
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Frozen shoulder, shoulder pain
  • Elbow pain, tennis elbow, certain types of lateral epicondylitis
  • Headache caused by neck pain (cervicogenic)
  • Joint pains
  • Hip pain from osteoarthritis as an adjunct to core treatment and exercises
  • Knee pain from osteoarthritis as an adjunct to core treatments and exercise
  • General, acute and chronic backache, back pain (not from injury or accident)
  • Generalised aches and pains
  • Lumbago
  • Migraine prevention
  • Minor sports injuries
  • Muscle spasms
  • Neuralgia
  • Tension and inability to relax
  • Rheumatic pain
  • Sciatica
  • Uncomplicated mechanical neck pain (as opposed to neck pain following injury i.e. whiplash)

Osteopathy is one of the most popular musculoskeletal services. Around 30,000 people consult osteopaths every day in the UK.

Is osteopathy safe?

Research shows that osteopathy is very safe. Most people find osteopathy enjoyable and relaxing. 

As with all manual therapies such as physiotherapy, chiropractic or even massage, minor soreness after osteopathic treatment is not unusual but should resolve in 24-48 hours.

Moderate reactions such as post-treatment ache that lasts for several days, numbness or tingling are uncommon. 99% of patients do not experience these. 

Osteopathy is significantly safer than alternatives such as medication or surgery. A recent meta-analysis study found that taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen even for a short duration increased the risk of a heart attack. Other estimates are that the risk of death over 1 year from taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for osteoarthritis is estimated to be 1:4,000 compared to 1:400,000 from a course of manipulation therapy.

Osteopathy is much safer than surgical alternatives. The risk of death from surgery to the neck is estimated to be 1 in 145 operations. 

Does osteopathy hurt?

Unlike chiropractors, osteopaths rarely use strong force. If the osteopath makes a professional decision that you would benefit from having your joints manipulated, they will explain to you the reasons and ask for your consent. The will use the most gentle form of manipulation. 

Other osteopathy techniques, such as deep tissue massage and stretching, may sometimes feel a little uncomfortable but shouldn’t be painful. If at any point during your osteopathy treatment you feel uncomfortable, please let your osteopath know.

Alan Szmelskyj Registered Osteopath in Cambridge

Alan Szmelskyj

DO, MSc, Adv Dip Clin Hyp, FRSPH

Registered Osteopath in Cambridge

  • Registered with The General Osteopathic Council

  • Registered with The British Society of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis

  • Over 35 years’ osteopathic experience

  • International speaker and presenter

  • Author of many scientific publications on osteopathy and hypnotherapy

Links with the NHS

Throughout his 35 years of clinical practice, our osteopath Alan Szmelskyj has been closely involved with the NHS in improving the management of musculoskeletal patients. Some of Alan NHS roles included:

  • Employed as an expert advisor by the Occupational Health Department at Hinchingbrooke Hospital and Papworth Hospital NHS Trusts advising the hospitals’ workforces on prevention of back pain.

  • Has trained GPs at the Postgraduate Education Department at Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

  • Worked at both GPs surgeries in Ramsey (Huntingdon).

  • Has done multiple presentations about treatment of back pain at various GPs surgeries, including in Ramsey, Warboys, St Neots, Papworth (Huntingdon). 

  • Was invited by the Clinical Services Advisory Group together with other experts including a number of rheumatology and orthopaedic consultants to participate in the Huntingdon Focus Group on the Government’s guidelines on the management of back pain. One of Alan’s academic publications was mentioned in the Appendices section of the guidelines. 

  • Has been involved in several research studies exploring GPs’ referral patterns and attitudes to osteopathy. This research resulted in several academic publications. The most recent research surveyed hundreds of GPs in Cambridgeshire with the results analysed by statisticians of the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at University of Cambridge School of Medicine. GPs were encouraged to participate in this study by Professor Sir David Haslam, former Chair of National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). 

As a result of Alan’s close links with the NHS, many GPs and hospital consultants come to see him as patients and also refer patients to him. 

What happens during the initial osteopathic consultation?

The initial osteopathy appointment will include medical history, examination, diagnosis and, if safe, treatment.

Before your initial osteopathy appointment, you will be asked to complete a detailed medical questionnaire. You will be asked about:

  • how long you have had the problem
  • how it started
  • what makes your symptoms better or worse
  • the impact on your daily activities
  • medical tests and investigations
  • history of similar problems, injuries and illnesses
  • hospitalisations or operations
  • the impact of your lifestyle on your health, for example, your diet and exercise

During your initial osteopathy consultation, we will ask you more questions about any aspects of your medical history that require more detail.

Osteopathic examination is really thorough as osteopaths assess how different muscles and joints function. The examination may include a detailed evaluation of your standing and sitting postures and the flexibility level of your spine and other joints. A neurological examination may be needed and may include testing:

  • your nervous system reflexes
  • strength and power of your muscles
  • the sensation levels of your skin
  • other specialist neurological tests.


It is likely that you will be asked to remove some of your outer clothing. Other examinations or testing may be required, e.g. x-rays, scans or blood tests. The osteopath will explain how to arrange for these.

The osteopath will make a professional judgement if osteopathic treatment is appropriate and, if so, what osteopathic techniques are likely to be most effective.

There are over 100 osteopathic techniques. Some are similar to massage and stretching; others require patient participation; some osteopathy techniques are very light in touch, whereas others are relatively deeper. 

An osteopath may prescribe exercises to help you improve your posture or may give you advice on diet and lifestyle to help maintain good muscle and bone tissue as you age.

Sometimes, a referral to another healthcare practitioner may be deemed to be in your best interest.

Osteopathy FAQs:

Osteopathic examination is very thorough, similar to how a good neurology consultant would examine you. An osteopath may require you to undress to your underwear to examine how well your muscles and joints work. This is because excessive clothing may get in the way of an accurate assessment being made.

Yes, of course. We can arrange for another member of staff to be a chaperone or you can bring a friend or a family member with you to your appointment.

Usually yes, unless during the initial consultation we decide that osteopathy is not appropriate or safe in your case.

If you are unsure if osteopathy can help you, you can book a 15 minutes free consultation with our osteopath who will give you an opinion whether osteopathy is the right therapy for you.

No, an osteopath will explain what treatment techniques will be used and you will be asked for your consent. You do not need to agree and, if you change your mind, you can withdraw your consent at any point.

Unlike chiropractic treatment, osteopathic techniques are gentler and safer. We do not routinely manipulate (crack/ click) joints.

If an osteopath thinks neck or back manipulation is appropriate and safe in your case, he or she will discuss this with you and ask for your consent. If you do not want manipulation, you do not need to agree to it.

In some cases patients expect that their backs or necks will be “clicked”. A common misconception is that “clicking backs” can “pop the disc back in”. If in their professional opinion your osteopath considers manipulation not clinically appropriate or safe, he or she will not manipulate your joints and will explain to you why it is not appropriate to do so.

Most people feel relaxed and some may even feel sleepy after an osteopathic treatment. Many patients notice an immediate improvement in their condition and others soon after treatment (for example, within a day or two). Rates of improvement vary and can be affected by many factors. These include the severity of the presenting problem, the length of time it has been present, a person’s age and pre-existing state of health. Your osteopath will discuss with you your likely rate of improvement during the consultation.

Occasionally, particularly if the treatment has been slightly stronger or, sometimes, after the first treatment session, some patients may feel slight soreness. This soreness is comparable to that experienced after doing unaccustomed exercise. This soreness usually disappears in a day or two. This is more likely to occur in those people who are not as flexible as they should be for their age and in those who are inactive or who exercise very little. As the underlying problem improves, soreness is not normally experienced.

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Acupuncture, Osteopathy, Hypnotherapy, Gut Directed Hypnotherapy, Pain Reprocessing Therapy