This is a little bit like the “How long is a piece of string?” question. Let’s deal with the cost question first.
How much should an osteopathy appointment cost?
Here are a few factors to take into account when measuring the value of your osteopath’s service, rather than just his/her time.
- Osteopaths undertake 4 years of full-time training – finishing up with a Masters or Degree with Honours. The training is very much full-time, with many of their holidays spent gaining clinical experience (rather than earning doing holiday jobs). So it’s a big undertaking financially. When I trained (1987-1991 RIP) I was at college around 35 hours per week, with considerable time spent outside of that studying.
- It’s a responsible vocation, supporting people who are in pain, or suffering in some other way.
- We are self-employed in the private sector and don’t have a company pension scheme – we have to save for retirement ourselves.
- Like any business, there are overheads to pay – rent, rates, salaries for admin staff, etc.
So, how much should it cost? Enough that the osteopath can pay him/herself a professional’s salary, and save for retirement. In my view the majority don’t charge enough, particularly when you compare them with other professionals (bearing in mind the other overheads in different professions will of course vary). At Active X Backs, our rates are higher than average for Edinburgh, but I have invested more in my training than most other osteopaths I’ve met, and spend a lot of time training our team, and we – being a city-centre clinic – have higher overheads.
At £59 for a first consultation and £55 for follow-up (2019), this is good value – in my humble opinion :-)
How long should an appointment with an osteopath last?
Whether you come with lower back pain, sciatica, or some other problem, each professional has to determine how long it takes to fully assess someone on first meeting, which includes taking a full history, examining you, providing you with a diagnosis/evaluation of your problem, and hopefully providing some hands-on treatment and advice (as well as recording clinical notes). For any subsequent visit there needs to be enough time to assess what progress you’ve made, provide treatment and any variation on the advice – and again, record appropriate clinical notes.
I have had osteopaths spend 45 minutes with me as a follow-up appointment and I’ve felt no benefit, or felt worse afterwards; and I’ve had osteopaths give me a “magical” treatment in 5 minutes that completely resolved a problem I’d had for 6 weeks.
Other points to consider:
- Just as appointments need to be long enough to achieve the above, they can also be too long, resulting in more risk of post-treatment soreness.
- The longer the appointment, the higher the charge needs to be, making it unaffordable for some
- The time it takes you to undress and dress is time you are paying for – tip: come prepared / dressed appropriately.
- The techniques used by the practitioner will affect how long the treatment lasts – some techniques by their nature take time and are slow to get a result; others are much more rapid in this sense.
The most common length of follow-up appointment in the profession is 30 minutes (we are 20mins). The most common length of initial assessment is 45 minutes (we are 40 mins). The main reason our appointments are shorter than average is that when I first set up practice I won a contract to supply osteopathic services to an NHS general practice and they insisted that I see people in this time-frame. I found that compared with my usual 30 minute slots I was – on average – more effective with less risk of over-treating, and so I’ve worked that way ever since.
My advice would be to judge the osteopath on the value he/she provides. I have certainly never been shy of suggesting you book a double appointment if I think you need more time.
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