We are fortunate to have plenty of choices regarding our healthcare in general, let alone our manual therapies.  One of the more frequent questions we get as manual therapists is “what’s the difference between Osteopathy, Physiotherapy and Chiropractic?”  It’s a really good question!

Before I dive into my best effort of answering this question, I’d firstly say that there are often big variations in the styles of treatment within a profession, let alone between professions, so to make a generalisation of a field of therapy isn’t always fair.  So with that in mind, I’ll offer up a summary of each therapies approach to diagnosis and treatment with as little technical jargon possible!

Chiropractic is a form of manual therapy concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system with an emphasis on the nervous system, or spinal column.  The chiropractic model of treatment is aimed primarily at affecting the nerve receptors in spinal joints using manual therapy, the most common form of therapy being mobilisation and manipulations of the spine.

Physiotherapy treats a wide variety of musculoskeletal conditions by examining the interrelationship between joints, muscle and neural factors.  Physiotherapists utilise manual techniques such as massage, mobilisation, stretching and dry needling in combination with specific exercise prescription.  Exercise regimes are typically drawn from core stability, motor control retraining, hydrotherapy, stretching and strength and conditioning principles.  In general Physiotherapy is weighted towards retraining of the musculoskeletal system via the creation of a suitable home or gym based exercise program.

Osteopathy is a form of manual therapy which aims to restore normal function and alignment in the body.  Osteopaths focus on how the skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves, circulation, connective tissue and internal organs function as a holistic unit.  Osteopaths identify areas of restriction in the body and use a range of manual techniques to remove these restrictions.  Osteopathic techniques include massage, stretching, cranio-sacral, mobilisation and myofascial release.  Osteopaths will also prescribe home based stretching and exercises to address any factors that may be contributing to the restriction.  In most cases, Osteopathy is weighted more towards manual therapy than home based management.

So armed with that information the time comes where you need to decide which approach is right for you.  One of the most important considerations is that your health care should be personal to you.  Don’t be shy in asking about a practitioner’s treatment style, areas they specialise in treating or their experience managing your type of pain/complaint.  By understanding the services available to you, you’ll be more likely to find the right practitioner to help you on your way to a happy healthy body.  It may surprise you to know that all these forms of therapy can and should work together in an integrated model.  Finding a business that integrates these services can enable you to get the best treatment outcomes for your condition.


Written by our Director of Osteopathy - Joshua Laurie

Learn more about ATUNE Osteopathy Here