Osteopath vs Physiotherapist vs Chropractor

  • Osteopathy, Physiotherapy and Chiropractic; Expanding on the differences between the therapies and benefits of the osteopathic treatment for you as a patient.


    It is not surprising that the question “What is the difference between Osteopathy, Physiotherapy and Chiropractic?” is probably the most popular question asked by new patients on their first visit. Historically, Osteopathy and Chiropractic are inherently linked. Many of the foundation techniques originated from the same group of people in the USA in the 1870’s. The modern day therapies in the UK (note it is different in the US) have a great deal in common. Both of them aim to treat musculo-skeletal/biomechanical problems (i.e. backs, necks, feet, hips, knees etc) and the underlying causes. This requires thorough evaluation of the whole skeletal frame and it’s posture.

    Despite stemming from the same theories for treating a problem, osteopathy and chiropractic approach it from different angles. Osteopaths, having completed a thorough examination and arrived at a diagnosis, use a range of techniques including gentle soft tissue techniques (massage, stretching, muscle energy, inhibition etc) through gentle joint mobilisation, through to the more powerful manipulation known as high velocity thrust or HVT. There is also cranial osteopathy which is a very different subtle and gentle technique. Each session with an osteopath would typically be 45 minutes for the first treatment and consultation and 30 minutes for each follow up. In addition to treatment there will also be advice on lifestyle issues, injury avoidance, posture and exercises given.

    Chiropractors tend to work using more exclusively high velocity thrusts. This enables them to work more quickly and each session may only be 10 to 15 minutes of treatment.

    Nevertheless, every therapist is different and may choose to follow his own set of techniques which he deems appropriate and of most benefit for his patients. It can be due to other relevant additional courses undertaken by a therapist or their chosen direction reflecting on the experience. With the common goal of releasing a ‘trapped nerve’ by freeing up movement in the spinal joints, one therapist might choose to manipulate (or ‘click‘) the spinal joints, whereas another might use massage and stretches to reduce the pulling force between the two vertebrae. Either way, the end goal of many treatment plans is to reduce the pressure on the nerve which is being irritated.

    Physical therapy has its origins in ancient history. The modern practice of physical therapy was developed in London in 1896. It was discovered that hospital patients needed to be mobilized on a regular basis in order to maintain adequate muscle mass, function and mobility. Physiotherapy in the UK is largely carried out within the NHS. Much of the work is post-operative and relies heavily on exercise therapy. Additionally physiotherapists often use electrotherapy (ultrasound, tens etc).


    Osteopathy is a holistic system of healthcare aimed at restoring joint function through soft tissue (massage), articulatory and manipulative techniques. When used in conjunction with exercises it can provide immediate and long-lasting relief.

    The NHS describes osteopathy as being:

    a way of detecting, treating and preventing health problems by moving, stretching and massaging a person’s muscles and joints.”

    Patients seek out osteopaths to enable them to get to the root of the cause as opposed to masking the pain with painkiller and anti-inflammatory medication.

    If one of the predisposing factors involves sitting at a desk all day, we can make suggestions to adapt the workspace to suit the patient in order to minimise the impact on the patient’s body. Poorly angled computer screens, keyboards placed too far away and chairs set at the wrong height can all negatively impact a patient’s joints.


    For more information about osteopathic treatment and what to expect please visit General Osteopathic Council website www.osteopathy.org.uk/visiting-an-osteopath/about-osteopathy.


    No matter the difference, each therapy has it’s patient’s best interests at heart. So if you’re looking for a therapist ask around for recommendations from friends and family and if you’re not sure, speak to a few – we’re always happy to discuss your symptoms. Book your FREE consultation with one of our osteopaths today or give us a call on 01757704152 to find out how we can help you.