BACKGROUND AND AIM: Effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is not yet available. Osteopathy is a manual treatment which relies on mobilizing and manipulating procedures in order to relieve complaints. In the present study, a randomized controlled trial was carried out to evaluate the effects of osteopathic treatment for IBS. METHODS: Eligible IBS patients were randomized between osteopathy and standard care. Follow-up was 6 months and validated means of follow-up were used. After 1, 3 and 6 months an overall assessment of symptoms was noted and a symptom score was obtained on a 5-point Likert scale. Quality of life (QOL) was scored with the standardized IBSQOL 2000 questionnaire and the Functional Bowel Disorder Severity Index was used. RESULTS: Twenty patients were randomized into the osteopathy group (OG) and 19 patients were included in the standard care group (SCG). Sixty-eight percent of patients in the OG noted definite overall improvement in symptoms and 27% showed slight improvement. One patient (5%) was free of symptoms at the end of the study. In the SCG, 18% noted definite improvement, 59% showed slight improvement, and in 17% worsening of symptoms was present. The difference in change in overall symptomatic improvement was statistically significant in favor of the osteopathic treatment (P < 0.006). Mean Functional Bowel Disorder Severity Index (FBDSI) score in the OG decreased from 174 to 74 at 6 months (P < 0.0001). Also, a significant decrease was noted in the SCG from 171 to 119 (P < 0.0001). However, the decrease in the OG was significantly higher compared with the standard treatment (P = 0.02). Mean symptom score in the OG decreased from 9.1 to 6.8 but this did not reach statistical significance. In the SCG, no change in symptom score occurred (8.7 vs 10). At 6 months, the score in the OG was significantly lower (6.8 vs 10; P = 0.02). The QOL score increased in the OG at 111 versus 129 (P < 0.009). In the SCG an increase was also noted, but this was not statistically significant (109 vs 121). CONCLUSION: Osteopathic therapy is a promising alternative in the treatment of patients with IBS. Patients treated with osteopathy overall did better, with respect to symptom score and QOL.