This paper reviews fundamental and practical aspects of optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dosimetry pertaining to applications in medicine, having particularly in mind new researchers and medical physicists interested in gaining familiarity with the field. A basic phenomenological model for OSL is presented and the key processes affecting the outcome of an OSL measurement are discussed. Practical aspects discussed include stimulation modalities (continuous-wave OSL, pulsed OSL and linear modulation OSL), basic experimental setup, available OSL readers, optical fiber systems and basic properties of available OSL dosimeters. Finally, results from the recent literature on applications of OSL in radiotherapy, radiodiagnostics and heavy charged particle dosimetry are discussed in light of the theoretical and practical framework presented in this review. Open questions and future challenges in OSL dosimetry are highlighted as a guide to the research needed to further advance the field.