What is the difference between an osteopath, a chiropractor and a physiotherapist?

What they have in common: 


⚫️  they all treat musculoskeletal pain 

⚫️  they all have protected titles and need to be registerd with their regulatory body

⚫️  they all have a university based education


They all try to reduce pain but with different philosophies and techniques.


Chiropractors treat pain by doing several manipulations (also called adjustments or HVT- high velocity thrust) to the joints of the spine and the limbs. 

Treatment is based on "subluxations” / misalignment of the bones and muscles , ie joints out of place as a cause for the pain and hence the need for the manipulations (the ‘click’) to get those joints back in position. 


They may use X-rays to the relevant joints to assist their diagnosis.


Both in chiropractic philosophy as in osteopathy the integrity of the spine is important in ensuring good health. This philosphy is in fact shared by almost all traditional healing arts, like yoga, tai chi, chi gong as well as in modern complementary treatments like Alexander technique and Rolfing. 


Osteopaths may use specific manipulations too, but it may not be the first choice in the treatment 

plan. They use manual, hands on treatments like


⚫️ specific massage, soft tissue work and stretching to the tight muscles and connective tissues

⚫️ articulation to the restricted joints and focussing on releasing the surrounding blood and lymph flow

⚫️ gentle osteopathic balancing techniques to the skeletal system as well as the internal organs


This is to restore structural and postural alignment of the whole body.

Osteopaths treat restrictions because: For a body to be healthy, ALL tissues and structures in the body have to move and function as they should. If the movement is present, good health will follow. Osteopaths are trained to detect the absence of movement through precise palpation. 


They always assess the whole body and treat globally: Apart from bones, muscles and joints, they also focus on the connective tissues, nerves, circulation and the internal organs. Past medical history and eventual psychological stressors are also taken into account. 

After skilled evaluation, diagnosis, explanation of the cause for the pain and tailoring the treatment to that individual, they usually offer advice on how to prevent the problem from reoccurring, with targeted exercises and nutritional/ lifestyle advice.




Physiotherapists occasionally are also trained in performing adjustments, but also may not use it as their first choice of treatment. They tend to give and supervise exercises and may use mechanical devices like ultrasound to aid recovery. Some may be more hands on use some massage or stretching to help the pain locally. 


Physios tend to work closely with hospitals and in post surgical recovery and rehabilitation where they are invaluable in regaining strength and control after a medical intervention. Their clinical setting demands for constant research and update with the national health standards. Due to their special requirements in the hospital settings many physiotherapists specialise in a particular part of the body, disease or needs of the ward that they work on. 

These three professions share the aim of 

making the patient better

However please note: Each Chiropractor, each Physiotherapist  and each Osteopath will vary a little from the next chiropractor, physiotherapist and osteopath because we all find ways that work for us the best. So the lines between professions may blur a lot - or not at all! 

Equally there may be one profession that works best for you! As different as we are as practitioners as different is each body and that is why specific treatment specific to one patient is vital in getting things better quick.

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