Osteopathy in Alberta

As Osteopathy developed it split into two branches, a predominately manual approach and a more medical approach. Both share a common philosophy but use different techniques to provide osteopathic healthcare to an ever increasing proportion of the public.

The world wide alliance of osteopathic organizations is called the Osteopathic International Alliance (OIA). The OIA has members of both branches and differentiates between them by calling them Osteopathic Physicians and Osteopaths.

According to the OIA an Osteopath has achieved a nationally recognized academic qualification enabling them to practice manual therapy based upon the principles of osteopathic philosophy and does not have full medical practice rights.  However in Alberta the title osteopath is reserved for Osteopathic Physicians.  In order to avoid any confusion this association encourages its non-medically trained members to refer to themselves as osteopathic manual therapists.

An Osteopathic Physician is a graduate of an American College of Osteopathy. They have full medical practice rights and have achieved the nationally recognized academic qualifications within his or her country. They can use both conventional medicine and manual therapy within the principles of osteopathic philosophy.


Most countries have a nationwide governing body that sets the guidelines for osteopathic practice. For example in Britain Osteopathy is regulated by the General Osteopathic Council and only people who graduate from schools accredited from this council are able to call themselves Osteopaths. This type of organization is the case for many European countries as well as Australia and New Zealand. Osteopaths in these countries are all exclusively manually trained with high standards of clinical skills in diagnosis and treatment of neuro-musculo-skeletal problems.

In Canada

To explain the current situation it is useful to take a brief look at the history of Osteopathy in Canada. As there were (and still are) no schools teaching Osteopathic Physicians in Canada the Osteopathic Physicians worked hard to get medical practice rights for physicians that have graduated from U.S medical schools approved by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA). The Osteopathic Physicians were striving for recognition long before osteopathic manual therapists became a significant part of the therapeutic community. At that time, in Canada, there was no need to make a distinction between the two branches, therefore to protect themselves and the public they lobbied hard for protection of the title Osteopath. So far, in most provinces, these laws have not been changed and it is still illegal to call yourself an Osteopath unless you have been trained at a medical school in the U.S.

Despite this there are a number of successful schools that teach osteopathic manual therapy in Canada. The entry requirements for these schools are that the students must have a previous qualification in manual therapy, like physiotherapy or athletic therapy. The courses are generally 5 years long and as a result they produce highly trained manual practitioners. The numbers of graduates grow every year and at present osteopathic manual therapists far out number the Osteopathic Physicians in nearly all provinces.  Students who meet the World Health Organisation’s benchmark standards for education in osteopathic therapy are eligible to join one of these provincial associations:

British Columbia




Nova Scotia


In Alberta

In Alberta the title Osteopath is protected by the Health Professions Act. This means that only licensed medically trained Osteopathic Physicians can use it. For this reason members of the AAOMT use refer to themselves as osteopathic manual therapists.

The Future

The AAOMT is a member of the Canadian Federation of Osteopathy (CFO) www.osteopathy.ca . The CFO was formed to unite manual Osteopaths across Canada. Membership is open to provincial associations only. The CFO provides voluntary guidelines on education and best practice enabling Canada to come inline with other countries and have osteopathic manual therapy as a regulated health profession alongside the medically trained Osteopathic Physicians.

This Association

This AAOMT is a first step in the organization and regulation of osteopathic manual therapists in Alberta. In order to support both these organizations and further this profession in Canada the AAOMT will be taking all the steps necessary to get osteopathic manual therapy recognized and protected both nationally and provincially.