Niamh Honey from Open Circle Osteopathy: Specialising in the Diagnosis & Treatment of Musculoskeletal Conditions


Today Bristol Mum features a post from respected Bristol osteopath, Niamh Honey from Open Circle Osteopathy in Westbury-on-Trym.

Niamh practises personalised and patient centred osteopathy and specialises in the diagnosis, management, treatment and prevention of a wide range of musculoskeletal disorders and medical conditions. Niamh also treats mums-to-be, new mums and children.

In this article, Niamh responds to some commonly asked questions she hears in her practice.

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“I get a little confused about some of the differing treatments available for medical conditions. I have lower back pain so do I need to see an osteopath, chiropractor, a physiotherapist or someone else?”

All three of these professions have been trained to effectively diagnose, triage and treat musculoskeletal disorders such as lower back pain. All three are recognised primary care professions and are statutory regulated by a governing body. This means you can see any of these professions without going to see your GP first.

Variation in approach and style exists between the professions and indeed between individual practitioners within the same profession. In the main physiotherapists tend to focus on exercises, chiropractors tend to focus on manipulation of the spine and osteopaths tend to utilise exercise, manipulation and soft tissue massage as part of an integrated approach.

It is a personal choice and I believe due to the nature of the professional relationship it is important that you warm to your practitioner as a person as well as trusting their competence clinically.

“So what is the basis of osteopathy?”

Osteopathy is ‘hands On’ manual medicine for the musculoskeletal system. We specialise in the diagnosis, management, treatment and prevention of a wide range of musculoskeletal disorders and medical conditions.

The ethos of osteopathy is to not simply treat symptoms but address the underlying cause of pain and dysfunction. We aim to restore normal biomechanical function to the musculoskeletal system and in doing so engage the body’s own inherent healing mechanisms.

Osteopathy is a recognized primary care profession and is regulated by the statutory body – the General Osteopathic Council.


“Is it just bad backs then, or does osteopathy provide a wide range of benefits?”

Back pain (including lower back and neck pain) is very common and is what we specialise in. However, osteopathy can help treat mild to severe symptoms in a range of common musculoskeletal conditions including: headache arising from neck dysfunction, shoulder and arm disorders, pelvis, hip and leg disorders, minor sports injuries, pregnancy related musculoskeletal pain, arthritic and rheumatic pain and Fibromyalgia.

Osteopathic care also has the potential to provide other positive benefits in relation to general wellbeing. Every new patient has a thorough case history taken. Within this, the osteopath ascertains what the patient experiences in relation to diet, exercise, work and lifestyle.

This holistic approach enables the osteopath to identify potential causes or maintaining factors to the patient’s pain. Stress and tension is a common predisposing factor and osteopathy can help counteract this with specific hands on techniques and advice. Many people seem to derive positive benefits from seeking a trained professional, taking ownership of their problems and understanding the nature of the problem itself.

“How specifically can osteopathy help women during pregnancy and post partum?”

The increased weight and postural changes that occur during pregnancy may place increased strain on the vertebral column.

Pain often centers in the low back and pelvis but may extend to the mid-back, neck, shoulders and arms. Discomfort in these areas may also be due to an increase in breast size and is often exacerbated by feeding postures and carrying the baby post pregnancy.

At the chemical level, a hormone called ‘relaxin’ is produced in the early stages of pregnancy. Relaxin causes softening of the ligaments and loosening of the joints of the pelvis, in preparation for birth.

This effect on the ligaments is widespread throughout the body, making other joints more vulnerable to strain. Relaxin continues to be produced throughout breast feeding, up until 8 weeks following the cessation of breast feeding.

We can help to support the mother’s musculoskeletal system throughout this time by providing gentle soft tissue techniques and joint mobilization of the problematic areas.

“Can you briefly discuss osteopathic care for children?”

Correcting strains early on in life can allow your child to reach and express their full potential as an adult. We treat a wide range of symptoms and conditions in children from birth onwards.

Please feel free to contact me at the practice to discuss whether osteopathic treatment is appropriate for any condition your child may have.

Because children are very delicate compared to adults, we adapt our treatment to suit the needs of the young body. We use very light touch also known as “cranial osteopathy” to identify areas of tightness in the body and in particular the head (cranium). Treatment consists of a light but more directed touch to begin to restore motion where possible.

“How do you undertake a diagnosis?”

Osteopaths are skilled in diagnostic techniques and believe that forming the correct diagnosis from the outset is key in the successful management of a problem.

We do this by conducting a thorough case history and physical examination, which includes a postural assessment and may include other clinical examinations such as assessment of blood pressure or a neurological exam.

This level of care and attention takes time and in my practice appointments are approximately 40 minutes in duration. From a combination of the case history and examination findings a diagnosis will be made.

In some cases further tests may be required. We are trained to identify any pain arising from a musculoskeletal problem and to recognize when a patient needs to be referred on to another health care professional.


“So once you know what is wrong is it a case of a one treatment and I’m cured, or will a course of sessions be necessary?”

The number of treatments required will vary between individuals. It will depend upon the nature of the problem and the individuals response to osteopathic treatment.

Usually acute conditions tend to respond relatively quickly, whereas chronic conditions may take a little longer to resolve. The average number of treatments is in the region of 2 – 5, unless long-term treatment of a chronic problem is required. My main objective of treatment is long-term change in tissue health, if possible without continued reliance on treatment.

“Can osteopathy be proactive or is it just a reactive treatment to the physical symptoms I’m experiencing?” (i.e. can you help me manage the problem?)

This really does depend on the nature of the problem itself. However, we aim to prevent symptoms recurring by taking the time to identify the potential predisposing and maintaining factors that contribute to the problem. This may include imbalances in the musculoskeletal system to poor work station ergonomics for example.

I now advise my patients to return when they feel any ‘niggles’ or minor discomfort in an area that was previously problematic. From my experience treating a problem at this stage requires fewer treatments with more rapid response and avoidance of acute and chronic pain states.

I think “management” is a keyword here and this extends to the management strategies employed by the osteopath and those employed by the patient themselves. Understanding the nature of the problem helps to enable this, as does a personalised rehabilitative exercise programme.


“Why did you start your osteopathic practice (Open Circle Osteopathy)?”

I started Open Circle Osteopathy (the OCO) after working in different osteopathic practices and wanting to develop and make subtle changes to the patient experience a teach stage.

I chose Westbury-on-Trym Primary Care Centre specifically, so that the osteopathic care was being provided within a context of GP’s surgery. Open Circle Osteopathy practice is open to everyone in the area and not just patients registered at Primary Care Centre.

Our ethos is to provide personalised and patient centered osteopathy. I am passionate about patient education and I believe this to be a fundamental part of the treatment process. This is reinforced outside of the treatment room by the online access to an exercise prescription tool that enables our patients to view video clips of their personalised exercise programme and a summary of information about their musculoskeletal condition.

I believe that being able to contact your practitioner when required is important and patients can contact me directly via email and telephone.

I provide a broad scope of treatment techniques, such as: soft tissue and muscle energy techniques, more robust joint manipulations, gentle cranial osteopathic technique and medical acupuncture. I aim to keep up to date with the latest research and current health legislation and I have a blog on my website that helps to reinforce this.

Please get in touch with Open Circle Osteopathy:

You can call us on: 07858 026 849
or email us at:
or visit the Open Circle Osteopathy website

We are situated in Westbury on Trym Primary Care Centre at the back of the Westbury Hill / Methodist Church car park. (BS93AA).

Opening times: 8am – 1pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 2 – 7pm on Wednesdays.


*Disclosure: Sponsored post.