Tackling misleading information about osteopathy

A lot of the information available online about osteopathy is misleading and includes claims to treat conditions for which there is no good evidence of effectiveness. This makes it easy for a patient or member of the public to be misled into having (and paying for) a treatment that is completely inappropriate for them.

The Good Thinking Society has done a lot of work over the past year or so to highlight misleading claims in advertising about osteopathy. This resulted in further guidance being provided to all osteopaths by the General Osteopathic Council (regulatory body for osteopathy in the UK), the Advertising Standards Authority and the Committee of Advertising Practice. See this link for the guidance they provided to osteopaths: http://www.osteopathy.org.uk/news-and-resources/document-library/practice-guidance/gosc-asa-cap-letter-to-osteopaths/ In December 2016, the General Osteopathic Council and Advertising Standards Authority issued further guidance to osteopaths about the claims they can and cannot make about treatments for pregnant women, babies and children. More background to this can be found here. Although some osteopaths have improved the accuracy of their advertising, others continue to mislead with inappropriate claims.

I have been contacting independent websites (i.e. not those associated with a particular osteopathic practice) that carry misleading information about osteopathy. In most cases, the authors of these sites are not experts in osteopathy, have been given the information for their articles by others (mostly osteopaths) and are therefore unaware that they are providing misleading information. Several sites that I’ve contacted have either amended their content to make it more accurate or removed the misleading pages altogether. These include:

  • MadeForMums – They had an article that suggested cranial osteopathy could help with learning difficulties, toddler tantrums, behavioural disorders and repeated infections as well as common infant problems such as colic, excessive crying, feeding difficulties, sleep problems and glue ear, and the general statement that it is “effective in young children”. None of those claims have evidence to support them and making these kinds of claims in advertising would be in breach of the above guidelines. MadeForMums opted to update their article and, whilst the article is not perfect (particularly with regards to some of the comments from osteopaths), it is much improved from the original version. You can see the updated article here: http://www.madeformums.com/baby/cranial-osteopathy-could-it-help-you-and-your-baby/10768.html
  • Mumfidential – Their article had an entire section listing unsubstantiated claims about osteopathy for treating babies and also older children. The claims included crying all the time, not crying at all, sleeping problems, constipation and wind, developmental delay, cerebral palsy, ADD / ADHD and many others. Initially Mumfidential said they would update their article. However, nearly three weeks later it remained unchanged so I contacted them again. At that point they opted to remove the article. Interestingly, the osteopath who contributed to the original article is Rosie Scott from Black Swan Osteopathy. Their website is still not fully compliant with the CAP code including claiming to be able to help with whiplash (specifically excluded in the CAP) and irritable bowel (IBS) and suggesting that stresses and strains from birth can lead to health problems.
  • West Bridgford Wire – They had several articles relating to osteopathy that were essentially adverts written by Moore Osteopathy. Unsubstantiated claims included those relating to wind and colic, feeding difficulties and plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome). West Bridgford Wire responded very positively, removing all of the misleading articles within one working day and writing back to inform me that they had done so. This was a very professional response.
  • Mother&Baby – I covered their excellent response in another article here

The accuracy of the information available about osteopathy is improving. However, there is still much more to be done to ensure that patients and members of the public are not misled into taking unsuitable treatments.


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