Osteopaths, children and the wider health care system

A policy statement by Osteopathy Australia about the role of osteopathy in treating children, in the context of paediatric care in the broader health system.

Position statement

Not all osteopaths treat babies, infants and young children; however, many do provide clinical support and assistance to them and their caregivers for musculoskeletal and related issues. Osteopaths who do are responsible for providing duty of care, reflecting optimum safety, risk management and clinical quality in the best interests of children.

Osteopaths, while working mainly in primary practice, perceive their role as one part of the broader health care system for adults, children (including babies and infants), their families and caregivers. Osteopaths work with, refer to and receive referrals from child health nurses, paediatricians, general medical practitioners and other health professionals. Osteopaths incorporate the profes- sional opinions of other health professionals and coordinated health care principles underpin practice.

Before any manual therapy or other musculoskeletal intervention is provided to a child, a thorough case history and health status is taken to rule out potential contraindications. This draws on previously performed health and medical tests in addition to an osteopath’s own diagnostic tests and observations. Referral to a medical practitioner or other relevant health practitioners is facilitated wherever any pathologies or complex health risks are identified or suspected.

Osteopaths recognise the importance of connecting children and their caregivers with the right clinical care, provided by the right health practitioner, at the earliest possible time - wherever possible for prevention. Osteopaths recognise the important role of medical, pharmaceutical or surgical intervention for children as indicated.

Osteopaths maintain working knowledge of developmental milestones, age specific health checks and vaccinations for children.a b A routine component of practice involves educating caregivers regarding age-specific health checks and/or vaccination to promote optimal development. Where caregivers express concern regarding vaccination, they are advised to consult a medical practi- tioner, maternal health nurse or state health department.i

Conventional practice guidelines adopted by a range of health professionals, including medi- cal practitioners, physiotherapists and others, inform the type of clinical support and follow up approaches applied by osteopaths for key childhood conditions, including plagiocephaly ii, torticollis iii, hip dysplasia iv, v , scoliosis vi and juvenile arthritis vii.


a: Including but not limited to assessments for height and weight (body mass index), hearing and sight, behavioural and cognitive assess- ments, oral health, toileting and allergies - consistent with the Australian Government’s Healthy Kids Framework

b: Including but not limited to vaccinations for influenza, rubella, measles, mumps, tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis and other communicable infections - consistent with the Royal Australian College of Physicians position on immunisation and the Australian Government’s Immunise Australia Program recommendations


This position statement will be reviewed as often as required to align with legislative, regulatory and/or practice change.

Need more information or help?

For further information, a suggestion or to discuss this topic, please:

  • Email your enquiry to info@osteopathy.org.au
  • Call Osteopathy Australia on 1800 467 836
  • Access further information via www.osteopathy.org.au


i.Osteopathy Australia, Vaccination Policy Statement. Published 2011, revised 2013 and 2015

ii.The Royal Children’s Hospital, Deformational Plagiocephaly [online];

iii.The Royal Children’s Hospital, Clinical Practice Guidelines: Torticollis [online]; https://www.rch.org.au/clinicalguide/guideline_index/Congenital_Torticollis/

iv.Government of Western Australia Department of Health, Hip Examination - To detect developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) [online];

v.Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, RPA New Born Care Guidelines- Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip [online];

vi.Brian, Reamy., Joseph, Slakey., ‘Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis: Review and Current Concepts’, American Family Physician, 64 (1), 2001, 111-117

vii.The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Clinical guideline for the diagnosis and management of juvenile idiopathic arthritis [online];