Wellness dictionary

Little ABC for your spa-break questions ...

In their treatment discriptions, wellness hotels often use technical terms, which are hard to understand for potential guests. We have therefore collected and defined the most relevant terms in our small wellness ABC. A tip: Our wellness dictionary also supports word requests. You don't need to know the exact wording.


Where does osteopathy come from?

Osteopathy was founded by the American doctor Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917). Still had a holistic view of the human body and took it as an inseparable entity. His philosophy also included the idea that people already have all the possibilities for recovery within themselves and that only the self-healing powers need to be activated. He saw movement as one of the fundamental principles of life. 

Osteopathy is based on the idea that the human body is permanently in motion. The heart also beats during sleep, the chest rises when breathing and the internal organs work. If movement restrictions occur in certain parts of the body (e.g. back pain), this can - according to osteopathy - be the beginning of illness. This is because even minor tension can impede the flow of movement in the body and lead to discomfort. Osteopathy therefore considers the free movement and dynamics of all parts of the body as a basic requirement for healing.

What does the word osteopathy mean?

The word osteopathy is composed of the Greek words osteon (= bone) and pathos (= suffering) and thus means "bone suffering" in direct translation. However, this should not lead to confusion, because osteopathy is about restoring the mobility of the body and thus eliminating or preventing pain.

How does a treatment with an osteopath work?

Every osteopathic treatment is preceded by a detailed anamnesis, in which the patient's medical history is requested. This involves much more than just surviving childhood illnesses or previous operations. Numerous other factors can have an effect on the organism and affect health, such as "inherited burdens". These include, for example, possible falls or accidents, which the patient often only remembers on request. Other triggers for functional disorders can be

  • Allergies
  • chronic diseases
  • poor eating habits
  • taking medication or
  • mental stress


How does the osteopath make a diagnosis?

The diagnosis is made exclusively with the hands, without medication or surgical intervention. Osteopathy is therefore one of the manual therapies. Through palpation, the osteopath tries to detect functional disorders that interfere with the normal fluid balance (homeostasis) in the body. From an osteopathic point of view, such restrictions of the dynamic equilibrium are often at the beginning of complaints or illnesses, as each organ or body part needs optimal freedom of movement in order to function perfectly. If this is no longer guaranteed, a wide variety of problems can arise, such as

  • Muscles can no longer stretch and harden or atrophy
  • Bones become thinner and
  • Organs can reduce their function.

The diagnosis is made by feeling the movements and structures of the patient with the fingers and palms. Every part of the body - whether

  • Joint
  • Tendon
  • Vessel
  • muscle or 
  • organ

executes specific movements. If the therapist feels an altered movement, he can draw conclusions about a functional disorder. In this way, the causes of the complaints, such as back pain, are first identified. Tensions in muscles, bones and connective tissue indicate where body functions and organs are impaired. 

What treatment techniques are used in osteopathy?

Osteopathy offers a variety of treatment options to restore the affected body part to its original range of motion.

The following 4 techniques are often used:

  1. Parietal osteopathy:

    It is the oldest healing method in osteopathy and the basis of today's osteopathic treatment techniques. A student of Stills, the Englishman Dr. John Martin Littlejohn (1865-1947) finally brought osteopathy from the USA to Europe and founded the British School of Osteopathy in London, which still exists today.

    Parietal osteopathy treats disorders of the musculoskeletal system, i.e. the bones, muscles, fasciae and joints. For example, if one joint is restricted or injured, the other joint compensates. This also applies to the musculature. Another muscle does the work. The aim of parietal osteopathy is to find the compensation and eliminate the original suffering. The compensatory pain due to the strain then also disappears.
  2. Myofascial osteopathy:

    The term "myofascial" is made up of "myo" for muscles and "fascial" for fasciae. Fasciae are structures of connective tissue that surround all muscles and organs. Because they are connected all over the body, disorders in one area can lead to pain in another. With the help of myofascial techniques, the therapist can identify these dysfunctions in the muscles and fasciae and treat them gently. Various pressure and traction techniques are used to stimulate the blood circulation in the tissue and thus achieve better tissue tension.
  3. Craniosacral Osteopathy

    A further development of osteopathy is craniosacral osteopathy. The inventor of this treatment method, Dr. William Garner Sutherland, was also a student of Stills. He extensively researched the anatomy of the skull and its sutures and discovered a slow, fine and independently pulsating movement that is not related to breathing or heartbeat. This so-called "primary respiratory movement" was the basis for solving disturbances in the area of the skull as well as in the spinal column up to the coccyx with various techniques.
  4. Visceral Osteopathy

    The most recent development in osteopathy finally took place in France in the 1980s. Two French therapists, Jean-Pierre Barral and Jacques Weischenk, conducted extensive research into the internal organs. Visceral osteopathy is mainly concerned with the effects of organ disorders on the musculoskeletal system, the nervous system and the extremities.

When and for whom is osteopathy suitable?

Osteopathy can be used as a preventive or therapeutic adjunct to many diseases and complaints. Many people consult an osteopath for back pain. Osteopathy is aimed at infants, babies and children as well as adults. The osteopath's approach as well as the number and duration of sessions depend on the individual disease and the patient's medical history. However, the aim is always to strengthen the individual's self-healing powers.

Which complaints are treated?

Locomotor system:

  • Foot
  • Knee
  • Hip
  • Shoulder
  • Elbows
  • tendon sheath
  • Meniscus

Internal medicine:

  • Stomach
  • Gut
  • Lungs
  • Oesophagus
  • Diaphragm

ENT and head area:

  • Head
  • eyes/ears
  • Paranasal sinuses


  • Back/pelvis
  • Cervical spine
  • Thoracic spine
  • Lumbar spine
  • Intervertebral discs
  • Sacrum
  • Coccyx
  • Basins

Are there any reservations about the use of osteopathy?

Osteopathy is an important natural healing method, but its effect is controversial. So far there are few scientific studies that confirm the effectiveness of osteopathy. Nevertheless, many patients find the therapy very pleasant and helpful.

Who may use osteopathic techniques?

In Germany osteopathy is considered a medical science and may only be practiced by doctors and alternative practitioners. The treating doctors and alternative practitioners are either members of an osteopathic professional association or have a training entitling them to join such an association.

Physiotherapists or masseurs may not offer osteopathic treatments without being licensed as a doctor or alternative practitioner. 

Even if the treatment in osteopathy is only very gentle and gentle, interested parties should always only place themselves in the hands of a well-trained therapist. If the therapist has no medical training, he or she has completed a five-year training course, which is concluded with a scientific paper. To be able to detect the so-called "osteopathic lesions" or "dysfunctions" at all, osteopaths must have excellent knowledge of human anatomy and be good physiologists. They must know exactly where which structures are located and what functions they have in the organism.

Are the costs of osteopathic treatment covered by the statutory health insurance or private health insurance?

In the meantime, many statutory health insurance companies offer full or at least partial coverage of the costs of an osteopathic treatment. Some health insurance companies require a doctor's certificate that the treatment is medically induced. 

Private health insurance companies often cover the costs of osteopathic treatment on the basis of the fee schedule for alternative practitioners. This depends on the chosen tariff.

Contraindications for an osteopathic treatment

As a general rule, a specialist should be consulted before treatment with an osteopath to determine the causes of the symptoms.

The following cannot be treated

  • Acute diseases, such as heart attack or stroke
  • injuries, such as broken bones, wounds or burns; or
  • Serious diseases, such as cancer.

Even psychological illnesses cannot be cured with osteopathy.

Related topics: Mindfulness Chiropractic Cranio Sacral therapy Fasciae Reiki Rolfing