Physiotherapy, Chiropractic or Osteopathy: What’s the Difference?
Are you in pain and considering physiotherapy but a friend suggests you see their chiropractor, while your mother insists on a visit to an osteopath? Their suggestions are well-meaning.
All professions aim to ease you of your pain and help your body work better with their own philosophies, techniques, and focus.
The Similarities and Difference between Physiotherapy, Chiropractic and Osteopathy
In Australia, physiotherapists, osteopaths and chiropractors have extensive training and are registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)
All of these health professionals are primary contact practitioners, meaning you don’t need a referral to seek treatment
Professionals from all three occupations all intend to treat and eliminate your body aches and improve your wellbeing, whether it be physiotherapy, chiropractic or osteopathy.
Major differences between physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths lies in their:
Methods of treatment
The underlying principles of how the body should function
Adherence to current medical and scientific evidence.
How does each profession help?
The main purpose of physiotherapy is to improve body mobility via a multitude of treatments to the musculoskeletal system, founded on the latest evidence based research available. The methods aim is to reduce damage, pain and stiffness, whilst assisting to improve general musculoskeletal function. This includes the rehabilitation of injuries and movement disorders. Most often, physios treat problems with posture, muscle pain, sports injuries and post-surgery rehabilitation.
There are physiotherapists with special interest in treating a range of other issues including:
People with diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease or diabetes.
Individuals who recently suffered from a stroke that has affected their motor skills.
People with spinal cord injuries.
Body systems such as neurological, musculoskeletal and respiratory systems to improve mobility.
Rehabilitation for people suffering from asthma or heart disease.
Women’s health issues such as pregnancy problems, post-partum care and loss of bladder control.
Men who currently have or are in the process of recovering from prostate cancer.
Your local physiotherapist will use methods such as therapeutic exercise, dry needling, stretching, massage and more. Common tools they use are needles, tape, ice and mostly their bare hands for precise musculoskeletal physio treatment. Many of these specialists cater to athletes, promoting the industry’s advocacy for an active lifestyle. Often, they recommend different forms of exercises to their patients to treat mobility issues, the majority of which you can do on your own, at home.
The core belief of chiropractic is that body should be able to give the right response stimuli for its environment. Treatment focuses on targeting and preventing musculoskeletal problems throughout the body, using manual adjustment of the spine. Common areas treated include back and neck pain, headaches and arthritis.
The basis of treatment is based on traditional medicine and has very limited medical evidence for its effectiveness. Chiropractors have a technique called “adjustment” that they use to enhance your body movements, usually done on the spine and bodily extremities. They have a method called the Gentle Activator which is a form of treatment that can be applied without the cracking of joints. Whilst there is no solid medical evidence that this is effective, it remains a popular treatment choice.
Osteopaths have a holistic view of the body and how health issues should be treated. They focus on the whole body, rather than just the injured or affected part. While sharing strong similarities with chiropractic, osteopathy gives more emphasis on the soft tissues of the body. They look at how the skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves, circulatory system and connective tissue function as a whole unit and how this is contributing to a patient’s pain. Common issues treated by osteopaths include back pain, sporting injured, digestive issues and headaches.
Osteopaths work on the premise that posture, injury, or lifestyle patterns compromise structures, leading to poor health. Osteopaths also employ techniques such as stretching, massaging, and pressure points, methods also used in physiotherapy. As with professionals in the previously mentioned fields, osteopaths tend not to resort to medicine and surgery, unless required.
SUMMARY OF DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PHYSIO, OSTEO & CHIRO IN MELBOURNE
Overall, the main differences between these professions come down to what you are expecting as a patient and what type of treatment you prefer. All professions offer a mixture of hands-on treatment as well as exercise rehabilitation.
What can you expect from an initial physio, chiro or osteo appointment?
Regardless of the type of therapist you choose, your practitioner will take a detailed medical history, so bring along any relevant reports, ultrasounds, scans. They will also conduct an examination, so wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows the practitioner to see the body part of concern.
Ready to book an appointment at a physiotherapy clinic?
At Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy our goal is to get you moving pain free as soon as possible. But we also want you to actually move better and live a healthier, more active and fulfilling life!
If your sports, fitness training or work has been wearing your body down, book in with one of our expert massage therapists so we can help you reduce your pain or stiffness.