Osteo, Physio vs Chiro (2023)

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Osteo, Physio vs Chiro (1)

(Video) Physiotherapist, Chiropractor or Osteopath - Who's Best for Lower Back Pain?

Osteopathyvsphysiotherapyand chiropractic are three holistic or alternative medical treatments which are primarily designed to aid physical well-being, repair and regenerate the body, and improve general well-being in the long-term.

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Osteopathyvs physiotherapy and chiropractic are three holistic or alternative medical treatments which are primarily designed to aid physical well-being, repair and regenerate the body, and improve general well-being in the long-term. However, when faced with the challenge of overcoming an illness, an injury or a disability, it is difficult to know which of these three treatments is right for you. Broadly speaking, all three treatments have the same desired outcome, but they approach physical well-being from different perspectives and will use subtly different techniques.

When our clients first come to us, we know that deciding on the right course of treatment can be difficult. When seeking out the most cost-effective treatment for you, it’s helpful to have a comprehensive understanding of the three disciplines, their origins and their ultimate treatment goals. Which is why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to osteopathy vs physiotherapy and chiropractic…

Part 1: Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy aims to restore movement and function when someone has been affected by illness, injury or disability. It is also used as a means of ensuring that a similar illness or injury does not affect you in the future. Physiotherapy is a treatment where the patient is encouraged to plan and participate in their own care. This means that physiotherapy is a medical practice that transcends the physical, overlapping into mental health and social care.

How physiotherapy can help you

Broadly speaking, physiotherapy helps to ameliorate conditions that affect the following four systems of the body. Here are some examples of just some of the ways physiotherapy can help.


  • Stroke: physiotherapists play a key role, both in the immediate aftermath of a stroke, but also after you have been discharged from the hospital. Physiotherapy is designed, amongst other things, to help victims of a stroke regain their muscle control and strength.
  • Parkinson’s disease: physiotherapy helps Parkinson’s sufferers plan for how their condition is to be managed. Physiotherapy aims to help you work out goals and possibilities for the future. For example, your general physical activity and endurance will be assessed, as will your ability to manage every-day tasks.Physiotherapy for Parkinson’s sufferers is part of a joined up package of health and social care, all of which is designed to help patients best lead the life that they want to.
  • Multiple sclerosis: physiotherapy can help with mobility, independence and fitness. It is worth seeing if you can get a referral to a physio who specialises in neurological conditions. Physiotherapists play a key role in the management of MS.


  • Back and muscle pain: physiotherapy for back pain can include manual treatment or acupuncture. A physiotherapist will also advise you on exercises, posture and fitness to ensure that the pain does not return.
  • Falls and fractures: physiotherapy can help in the aftermath of a fall, or a fracture. For example, weight bearing exercises can help strengthen your bones and prevent another one. Physiotherapy after a fall or fracture is also likely to emphasise the importance of improving your balance.


  • Cardiovascular diseases: cardiovascular disease refers to all health conditions that can affect the cardiovascular systems of the body, which in turn affects blood flow. Physiotherapy can be crucial after a heart attack or a stroke. Cardiac rehabilitation programmes can be very effective and offer education and support through the recovery process.


  • Asthma: physiotherapy can help asthma sufferers take control of their condition. For example, a course of physiotherapy can help an asthma sufferer with retraining their breathing; this means that symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath can be managed more effectively.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): this is an umbrella term for conditions such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema and cases of chronic asthma. Pulmonary rehabilitation and physiotherapy has been shown to be most effective in helping sufferers manage their condition; for example breathlessness and coping with everyday tasks.

How physiotherapists work

(Video) Osteopath v Physiotherapist v Chiropractor

Physiotherapists will advise and work with their patients in a number of ways; they will treat patients actively, but also on a more consultative basis.

Education and advice

As we have already seen, a big part of physiotherapy is about educating the patient so that they are encouraged to feel like they are in control of their own rehabilitation. This means that a very simple, but very crucial part of treatment involves both a correct diet and regular exercise.

Depending on what you are seeking physiotherapy for, a physiotherapist will also advise you on things such as posture and breathing, with the intention of making you better at regulating your own health.

Manual therapy

As part of the wider rehabilitative programme, a physiotherapist will also use manual therapy to mobilise the body tissues. The end goal is to relieve pain and stiffness, improve general circulation, promote motivation and ensure relaxation.

Other therapies and techniques

As well as a concentrated manual therapy, a physiotherapist may suggest other treatments to help your rehabilitation. These can include:

  • Acupuncture – fine needles are inserted into certain parts of the body, to help ease pain and promote well-being and recovery.
  • Electrical nerve stimulation – small electric currents are delivered to the affected area, in the hope of relieving pain.
  • Ultrasound – high frequency sound waves are used to treat deep tissue trauma or pain.

Osteo, Physio vs Chiro (3)

Part 2: Osteopathy

Osteopathy focuses more on the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal disorders. Like physiotherapy, it involves both physical treatment mixed with a wider treatment plan that focuses on diet, lifestyle and empowering the patient.

The principle of osteopathy is that the well-being of the individual relies on the way that bones, muscles, ligaments and connective tissues work with each other. Osteopathy arguably focuses more on the body as a system, as opposed to the rehabilitative strategies of physiotherapy – however both treatments seek very similar outcomes.

How osteopathy can help you


Arthritis is the name for a swelling and inflammation and stiffness in the joints of the body. There are two common types of arthritis – osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, but there are many other types of arthritis that people suffer with.

The massage and manipulative techniques employed by osteopathy can help osteoarthritis sufferers. The arthritic joint is moved and stretched; the surrounding muscles are also massaged and soothed as part of the treatment. The osteopath will often work on other joints and muscles so as to improve the mechanics of the body.

Back Pain

Osteopathy is a means of treating very common back pains and aches. Osteopaths use manual treatments depending on age, fitness and diagnosis. Osteopaths work to gently massage the soft tissues of your back, release tension and loosen joints.

Headaches & Migraine Prevention

Osteopathy has proven to be quite successful in treating the root causes of headaches; it helps to loosen the muscles and joints of the neck, relieving the muscular tension that can cause headaches. Osteopathy also helps with migraine prevention.

Shoulder problems

The root causes of should pain are often complex, but an osteopath can work with you to understand the root cause of the problem. Treatment will mainly focus on stretching, reducing the tension of any tight muscles and improving the general movement of the shoulder.

Foot pain

Osteopathy can help with some of the many common conditions that can give rise to pain in the foot. These can include flat foot, Achilles pain and swelling or bruising of the ankle. Osteopathy will often look at root causes beyond the foot itself, working on muscles and joints in the lower limbs, hips and lower back pain.

Osteo, Physio vs Chiro (4)Part 3: Chiropractic

Chiropractic treatment focuses on the same system of the body as osteopathy – the musculoskeletal system. This means that chiropractic treatment is also concerned with the muscles, the joints and the ligaments of the body. Like osteopathy, chiropractic treatment views the body as a system, meaning that treatment of the bones and the joints of the body can promote a feeling of overall general well-being.

What chiropractic treatment has in common with osteopathy is that they both fall under the category of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMS). This will usually mean that there is not a great deal of availability on the NHS, which mainly offers primary care, free at the point of use.

(Video) Should I see a Physio, a Chiropractor or an Osteopath for my pain?


Chiropractic treatment will either be used as a complementary treatment (i.e. alongside a primary course of treatment) or as an alternative treatment (i.e. instead a primary course of treatment). Either way, an initial assessment will allow a chiropractor to determine how chiropractic treatment can help you.


The treatment most associated with chiropractic is spinal manipulation, wherein force is applied to the joints and muscles around the spine. A chiropractor will apply short, sharp thrusts to the spine, as well as gradually moving joints through a range of different positions in the hope of improving general movement.

As with osteopathy and physiotherapy, your practitioner will also advise you on a range of diets, exercises and nutrition to help prevent a further recurrence of your condition.

As well as back, joint, hip pain and foot problems, it has been suggested that chiropractic therapy may be useful in the treatment of the following conditions.

  • Headaches
  • Migraine Prevention
  • Tension and inability to relax.
  • Uncomplicated mechanical neck pain

Osteo, Physio vs Chiro (5)

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(Video) Finchley Osteopath FAQ: What's The Difference Between An Osteopath and a Physiotherapist
bodytonic clinic blog2022-10-14T14:23:07+00:00


What is the difference between physio osteo chiro? ›

Physiotherapy – to treat physical issues caused by injury, illness and ageing. Chiropractic – to treat health problems related to the skeletal and muscular system. Osteopathy – to treat muscle and joint issues through massage and manipulation to improve mobility and reduce pain.

What is better a chiropractor or physiotherapist? ›

Chiropractic care

Focuses mostly on issues related to back pain, neck pain, joint pain in the arms or legs, and headaches. Physical therapists help you perform stretches and exercises, as well as performing some manipulations for certain conditions, to improve your mobility.

Is an osteo or physio better? ›

Osteopaths are well versed in the application of spinal and joint manipulation in comparison to Physiotherapists. Osteopaths will look to treat the body as a whole whilst physiotherapists are generally area specific and target the tissues involved and are much more likely to include exercise as a part of treatment.

What does an osteopath DO vs chiropractor? ›

Chiropractors focus on spinal adjustment and use techniques that facilitate optimal nerve transition. Osteopaths aim to improve the body's overall healing system. This way the patient's entire body is positively affected.

Should I see an osteo or chiro? ›

If you're just dealing with pain and want to get back to a better quality of life, going to an osteopath is likely your best bet since they've studied key areas of anatomy. However, if your doctor specifically suggests a chiropractor for something like lower back pain, heed their advice.

Is an osteopath more qualified than a chiropractor? ›

Both chiropractors and osteopaths undertake several years of in-depth training, but they use different approaches to manipulation. There are no comparative studies to suggest chiropractors are better than osteopaths or that osteopaths are better than chiropractors.

Why are osteopaths better than chiropractors? ›

Osteopaths usually rely on a whole host of different treatment types, whereas a Chiropractor will predominantly involve spinal adjustments. Osteopaths will also provide a wider scope of treatments – including treatments involving the respiratory system and the digestive system.

Are physios more qualified than chiropractors? ›

They tend to focus on stretching, exercises and soft tissue techniques to improve mobility and strength. Physiotherapists do not receive the same degree of training in spinal manipulation as Chiropractors. Physiotherapists training has a much wider scope of training than the chiropractic degree.

What is higher than a chiropractor? ›

The primary difference between chiropractors and osteopaths is the degree they hold. An osteopath holds a medical degree and has the same medical rights as any M.D., including the right to prescribe medication. Chiropractors hold a Doctorate of Chiropractic degree and cannot write prescriptions.

What are the disadvantages of osteopathy? ›

In rare cases, serious complications have been linked to therapies involving spinal manipulation, including osteopathy. These include the tearing of an artery wall leading to a stroke, which can result in permanent disability or even death. These events usually occurred after spinal manipulation involving the neck.

Is chiropractic or physio better for back pain? ›

Chiropractic care and physiotherapy are both safe and effective treatments for back pain. Discuss your concerns with a healthcare professional for referral for appropriate therapy options. In some cases, incorporating both therapies can maximize benefits and provide both immediate relief and long-term gains.

Should you go to a doctor or a physio? ›

Doctors seem to be a common first port of call when a person injures themselves or requires management of pain. However, physiotherapists are first contact practitioners for musculoskeletal (muscle and joint) pain and injuries. So, to answer the question – either is acceptable.

Is an osteopath a real DR? ›

A doctor of osteopathic medicine, also known as a D.O., is a fully trained and licensed doctor. A doctor of osteopathic medicine graduates from a U.S. osteopathic medical school. A doctor of medicine, also known as an M.D., graduates from a traditional medical school.

Do osteopaths use massage? ›

Osteopathy is based on the principle that the wellbeing of an individual depends on their bones, muscles, ligaments and connective tissue functioning smoothly together. Osteopaths use physical manipulation, stretching and massage with the aim of: increasing the mobility of joints.

Do osteopaths adjust spine? ›

Seeing an Osteopath will often combine various techniques tailored to you and your pain, one of which may include a spinal manipulation. The technique has been around for over 2000 years.

Can an osteopath treat a pinched nerve? ›

Osteopaths can treat trapped nerve

Osteopaths can help to release a trapped nerve. It occurs when the surrounding tissues such as bones, cartilage, muscles or tendons apply too much pressure on a nerve. This pressure upsets the nerve's function, causing pain, tingling, numbness or weakness.

When should I see an osteopath? ›

7 reasons to see an Osteopath

Why are osteopaths sore after? ›

Should you feel a bit sore and achy after your treatment, this feeling should ease within a couple of days. This occurs due to your body adjusting to the changes that may have been made through treatment. If you feel concerned, or your pain is significantly worse, then you should call and speak with your Osteopath.

Can you be over adjusted by a chiropractor? ›

Over-manipulation syndrome can begin after high velocity adjustments from a chiropractor or through self-manipulation. While chiropractors provide wonderful care in many cases, there is a risk of damaging the ligament structures and causing joint instability with continued high-velocity adjustments.

Do you have to take your clothes off for osteopath? ›

No. Light comfortable clothes are best. That way, if we do need to view an area for medical reasons, we can work around your clothing.

Why do I feel sick after osteopathy? ›

Often, osteopathy treatments end up making an infection worse before it gets better. This is because the treatment stimulates the flow of infected fluids around the body, which can cause an unpleasant feeling.

What does an osteopath actually do? ›

An osteopath is a licensed physician who practices medicine using both conventional treatments and osteopathic manipulative medicine, which focuses on relieving pain and tension in the musculoskeletal system.

Can chiropractic worsen back pain? ›

It's not uncommon for patients to leave a chiropractic visit feeling sore or sometimes may even feel worse than when they came in. If this has happened to you, don't panic! This is one of the normal potential side effects of visiting the chiropractor.

Which type of physiotherapy is best for back pain? ›

The approach of manipulative physiotherapy is used to target the specific point of pain for the purpose. Specific stabilization exercises – In this aspect of physiotherapy, stress is laid on improving the strength and stability of the muscles which have been weakened due to the lower back pain.

Can a physio diagnose nerve damage? ›

Your physio will be able to identify where your nerve problem is coming from by assessing your symptoms. Treatment will begin with a thorough assessment and examination, including your history, to determine the cause and severity of your condition.

What is better than a physio? ›

As mentioned earlier, osteopaths often treat more holistically than physiotherapists. An osteopath may treat one part of the body to reduce pain in another. For example, they may treat your right shoulder pain by treating on your left hip.

What is physio best for? ›

Physiotherapy helps to restore movement and function when someone is affected by injury, illness or disability. It can also help to reduce your risk of injury or illness in the future. It takes a holistic approach that involves the patient directly in their own care.

Why would someone see an osteopath? ›

Osteopathic intervention can help treat arthritis, back pain, headaches, tennis elbow, digestive issues, and postural problems. Treatment can also assist with sleep cycles and the nervous, circulatory, and lymphatic symptoms.

Why would you refer to an osteopath? ›

Osteopaths focus on how your skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves and circulation worktogether to maintain health and wellbeing. They use techniques such as massage,manipulation and stretching to treat injuries and other health problems. Someosteopaths specialise in pain management, specific injuries or particular sports.

Why do osteopaths call themselves doctors? ›

'Doctor' is not a protected title (1). This means that chiropractors as well as osteopaths, pharmacists, optometrists, dentists, vets, podiatrists, chinese medicine practitioners and other specific registered health professionals are allowed to use the title 'Dr' as a courtesy title. Think of 'Dr' as a title.

Do osteopaths release toxins? ›

Shortly after an OMT treatment, you might feel a slight increase in pain. You may also have a mild headache and/or feel fatigued. These effects are temporary and usually disappear within a day or so. Any initial discomfort means your body is releasing toxins and that the treatment is working.

Can osteopath fix bulging disc? ›

Osteopathy Can Help With A Slipped Disc, Disc Bulge Or Lower Back Pain.

What is the best form of chiropractic? ›

There are many chiropractic methods doctors use, but the Gonstead procedure is the most effective. It helps to detect where the pain comes from before the chiropractor administers treatment. Once in our lifetime, we might experience pain in the spine.

What is the difference between a physiatrist and a chiropractor? ›

“Chiropractics was born out of the practice of osteopathic medicine, with a focus on body health by manipulating the spine.” Physiatry involves more medical investigation and lab work to find the cause of pain.

Who should not get chiropractic adjustment? ›

Don't seek chiropractic adjustment if you have: Severe osteoporosis. Numbness, tingling, or loss of strength in an arm or leg. Cancer in your spine.
  1. A herniated disk or a worsening of an existing disk herniation.
  2. Compression of nerves in the lower spinal column.
  3. A certain type of stroke after neck manipulation.
Sep 30, 2022

What should a chiropractor not treat? ›

By adjusting your spine, chiropractors may be able to relieve many types of muscle, nerve and joint pain. They also believe these manipulations can help your body heal itself.
Also, chiropractors do not treat:
  • Thinning of bones (osteoporosis)
  • Broken bones.
  • Bone tumors.
  • Infections.
  • Severe arthritis.

What is the most gentle chiropractic technique? ›

Cervical Mobilization

Using this gentle technique, the patient lies on their back to get comfortable and smooth stretches are used to help improve motion in the neck. The chiropractor uses their hands to move the vertebrae from left to right so that the bones move in a figure of eight motion.


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