There’s a charming building in the heart of that quietly fashionable part of London called Marylebone, where you can find medical doctors training to become osteopaths.
The college is called the London College of Osteopathic Medicine, and is run by the Osteopathic Trusts, which was founded by American osteopaths in 1931 to train doctors in osteopathy. It is just around the corner from the tube, in the fittingly named Boston Place. It is cosy, it is friendly, it has a few floors – the top had been rented out to someone running a course when I was there – and it is home not only to LCOM with its teaching clinic, but also the Osteopathic Association Clinic, both overseen by the Osteopathic Trusts. Confused? You will be. Let’s go slowly. There is a charity called the Osteopathic Trusts which oversees both a clinic staffed by graduate doctor/osteopaths, called the OAC, and a college (LCOM) which trains doctors to become osteopaths, plus that college has its own teaching clinic. Just to confuse you more, the College of Osteopaths (another osteopathy college) also runs a training clinic on Tuesdays and Thursdays on these premises. Oh, and there’s also a separate, standalone craniosacral therapy clinic, and in addition a performing arts clinic. I hope that’s clear.
So who exactly are these doctors who wanted to be osteopaths?
Of the cohort that are just graduating, one is a dermatological surgeon with an interest in hair restoration and sports therapy, two are GPs (one of those with a sports science degree as well), and one seems to want a full quiver of therapeutic modalities, already being trained in numerous therapies from medicine to homeopathy to Traditional Chinese medicine.
Ioannis and Soumen, doctors and osteopaths
So why do these doctors want to train in osteopathy?
The four recent graduates (they have just passed their FCCs) are an enthusiastic and personable group. They did not seem to have a particularly magnetic attraction to osteopathy over the other manual therapies. A mixture of opportunity and convenience seemed to be at work in their choice, and at least one had considered physiotherapy some years earlier. Their reasons for wanting to train in a manual therapy seemed to boil down to three:
- They wanted more hands-on connection with patients. A quote on their website reads: “As a former GP I have loved the change in emphasis, using my hands much more to explore the cause of the problem & to treat.”
- They wanted more fulfilling and rewarding work. Another quote: “… My perfect answer to GP burnout; this course transformed my professional life and gave me the fulfillment I still enjoy today from practice.”
- It filled a gap in their knowledge. The GPs in particular felt that they were not well trained to deal with musculoskeletal complaints, which can constitute a significant part of the complaints they see. One said he felt that doctors weren’t good at treating back pain, and already he had noticed his GP practice improve in that area. This view was echoed by another, “… Qualifying at LCOM was the best thing I’ve done for patients since becoming a doctor in 1990. I now see about 50 musculoskeletal patients a week as a GP in the NHS, and treating them osteopathically there and then is fantastic. There’s no doubt that osteopathy works and works well …”
They seemed fairly open-minded, interested in acquiring indirect osteopathic skills suitable for treating children, and totally unfamiliar with the Good Thinking Society campaign.
Well it’s not the long four years that I had, but it still doesn’t look easy. Having already been through medical training, they have a much truncated academic part of their education and concentrate more on hands on experience. They start with 2 months of distance learning, with special focus on anatomy, pain physiology, and concepts of osteopathy, then two weeks of intensive training at the college getting them ready for clinic, then straight into the clinic for about 78 weeks. Each week these brave four make a 2 day trip to Marylebone – spending the time mostly in clinic, but having half a day’s tuition plus four hours learning a week at home. For this the new intake will be paying £11 500. The curriculum initially consists of fairly traditional osteopathic thinking, but branches out as time goes on. They also learn how to integrate medical skills and learn how pathology interacts with dysfunction, to a larger extent than osteopathic undergraduates. (And if you feel like you missed out here, catch a talk on this very subject at this December’s UCO conference.) According to Mark Andrews, one of the 15-strong faculty, a couple of other things also distinguish the teaching of osteopathy to doctors:
- The difficulty in getting a paradigm shift from the biomedical model that they have been brought up in, rather than the blank slate of an undergraduate, and the fact that they revert back to this model when under stress or feeling insecure
- Not having to teach them to be safe as far as red flags etc. goes
And finally, what do you know, they also do proper research
Theo Peters has been in my NCOR research hub for years, and so I had already heard about his research (along with Rod MacDonald and Janine Leach) into the tragically under-taught and overlooked strain counterstrain modality of treatment, in this case into restless leg syndrome. It was a positive result and an interesting study to catch up on, if you have a moment to read it click here.
Thanks for reading, Penny