Despite the growth of the osteopathic profession in Spain in the last few years, reliable information regarding professional profile and prevalence is still lacking. The Osteopathic Practitioners Estimates and RAtes (OPERA) project was developed as a European-based survey dedicated to profiling the osteopathic profession across Europe. The present study aims to describe the characteristics of osteopathic practitioners, their professional profile and the features of their clinical practice.
A voluntary, validated online-based survey was distributed across Spain between January and May 2018. The survey, composed of 54 questions and 5 sections, was formally translated from English to Spanish and adapted from the original version. Because there is not a unique representative osteopathic professional body in Spain, a dedicated website was created for this study, and participation was encouraged through both specific agreements with national registers/associations and an e-based campaign.
A total of 517 osteopaths participated in the study, of which 310 were male (60%). The majority of respondents were aged between 30–39 years (53%) and 98% had an academic degree, mainly in physiotherapy. Eighty-five per cent of the respondents completed a minimum of four-year part-time course in osteopathy. Eighty-nine per cent of the participants were self-employed. Fifty-eight per cent of them own their clinic, and 40% declared to work as sole practitioner. Thirty-one per cent see an average of 21 to 30 patients per week for 46–60 minutes each. The most commonly used diagnostic techniques are movement assessment, palpation of structures/position and assessment of tenderness and trigger points. Regarding treatment modalities, articulatory/mobilisation techniques followed by visceral techniques and progressive inhibition of neuromuscular structures is often to always used. The majority of patients estimated by the respondents sought osteopathic treatment for musculoskeletal problems mainly localised on the lumbar and cervical region. The majority of respondents manifest a robust professional identity and a collective desire to be regulated as a healthcare profession.
This study represents the first published document to determine the characteristics of the osteopathic practitioners in Spain using large, national data. To date, it represents the most informative document related to the osteopathic community in Spain. It brings new information on where, how, and by whom osteopathy is practised in the country. The information provided could potentially influence the development of the profession in Spain.