Differences between an Osteopath and Chiropractor

At the Wimbledon Chiropractic and Sports Injury Clinic patients often ask what’s the difference between a chiropractor and an osteopath. It’s often very hard to receive an unbiased answer, as the person providing the answer is usually a Chiropractor or an Osteopath, so their response is skewed towards their profession. 

Your experience

 Experience a patient receives when visiting an osteopath or chiropractor may not be clear cut. One pair of hands is different to another, and each clinic may have made different equipment investments.

 Also, in the years following their initial four to five years of training osteopaths and chiropractors may undertake the same or different post-graduate courses. e.g. some might focus on treating babies while some would concentrate more on sports injuries.

The above, results in the overall package of care being different or very similar depending on the individual clinicians / practices being compared. As a Chiropractor myself I inevitably know more about the ins and outs of the Chiropractic profession than Osteopathy. 

While in no way considering myself or being allowed (by law) to call me; an Osteopath, I have a great deal of respect for the osteopathic profession. Below is my best attempt at an unbiased answer, ignoring any additional non-osteopathic / chiropractic post-graduate courses a practitioner in private practice may have taken (apologies in advance to any Osteopaths for any inaccuracies). 

Overview of Osteopathy Vs Chiropractic methods

Osteopathy and Chiropractic share a common origin from late 19th Century America with one becoming big in Europe and the other in North America. Chiropractic is often seen as new in Europe as Osteopathy is seen as new in north America. 

The goal of both professions is to use hands-on manipulation of the body, rather than medication, to relieve and prevent body pain, particularly the spine, where most pain generates from joints. 

The philosophy behind both Chiropractic and Osteopathy.

 Chiropractic traditionally has a strong emphasis on achieving optimum joint alignment, particularly of the joints in the spine to maintain optimum health. Chiropractors place a strong emphasis on the exact position of any misalignments and the direction in which correction needs to take place and are trained to use x-rays to aid in this process (although they may use other methods to avoid x-ray exposure). 

Osteopaths do recognise the potential for misalignments and joints that may be “stuck”, but they do not receive the same training in x-ray analysis as Chiropractors. Due to not having this radiographic training osteopaths tend to place emphasis on palpation (touching an area to feel its position) as a way of diagnosing problems.

Treatment techniques and differences between Osteopaths and Chiropractors.

 Most osteopathic treatments include a fair amount of soft tissue work (massage and stretching) as well as joint articulation or “clicking” (High-Velocity Thrust, HVT) to loosen or re-align stiff joints, and re-set nerve reflexes. 

An average Chiropractic treatment will focus on re-aligning the spine and pelvis using manipulation, but exact method of manipulation will depend on which chiropractic method being used, for example, Diversified, Bio-Physics, Gonstead, Activator, Drop Table, or  Mc Timoney Chiropractic techniques. We use a combination of Diversified, Bio-Physics, and drop table technique and couple it with softening techniques (massage and foam rolling), stretching and stability exercises. 

Diversified is taught to all Chiropractors at the undergraduate level, for the neck and middle back the techniques are very similar to the HVT techniques learnt by osteopaths. For lower back treatment Osteopaths are taught a method known as the “lumbar role” whereby the main thrust is delivered through the Osteopaths forearm on the patient's pelvis. This lower back technique differs in (diversified) Chiropractic where the push is given by direct contact with the Chiropractors hand on the segment being moved. The direct contact reduces the force needed and comes with an emphasis on precision (only moving what needs to be moved)

Appointment length Treatment times tend to be a little longer for Osteopathy, whereas Chiropractic treatments tend to be a little shorter but more frequent. However at The Wimbledon Chiropractic & Sports Injury Clinic, these are usually 30mins a similar length to most osteopaths. Appointment cost Costs and sessions need to get patients out of the crisis are statistically similar to both professions.

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Differences between a Physio and Chiropractor

At the Wimbledon Chiropractic and Sports Injury Clinic patients often ask what’s the difference between a Chiropractor and a Physio. It’s often very hard to receive an unbiased answer, as the person providing the answer is usually a Chiropractor or Physiotherapist.

YOUR EXPERIENCE

Experience a patient receives when visiting a Physio or chiropractor may not be clear cut. One pair of hands is different to another, and each clinic may have made different equipment investments. Also, in the years following their initial three years physio course to four - five years of training Chiropractors each may undertake the same or different post-graduate courses. e.g. Some might focus on treating babies or stroke victims while some would concentrate more on sports injuries.

The above, results in the overall package of care being different or very similar depending on the individual clinicians/ practices being compared.

As a Chiropractor myself I inevitably know more about the ins and outs of the Chiropractic profession than Physio. While in no way considering myself or being allowed (by law) to call me; a Physio, I have a great deal of respect for the Physiotherapy profession. Below is my best attempt at an unbiased answer, ignoring any additional non-Physiotherapy / Chiropractic post-graduate courses a practitioner in private practice may have taken (apologies in advance to any Physios for any inaccuracies). 

OVERVIEW OF PHYSIO VS CHIROPRACTIC METHODS 

Physiotherapy and Chiropractic share a common aim to get you better. The goal of both professions is to use hands-on manipulation of the body, rather than medication, to relieve and prevent body pain, particularly the spine, where most pain generates from joints. 

THE PHILOSOPHY BEHIND BOTH CHIROPRACTIC AND PHYSIO. 

Chiropractic traditionally has a strong emphasis on achieving optimum joint alignment, particularly of the joints in the spine to maintain optimum health. Chiropractors place a strong emphasis on the exact position of any misalignments and the direction in which correction needs to take place and are trained to use x-rays to aid in this process (although they may use other methods to avoid x-ray exposure). Physiotherapist do recognise the potential for misalignments but only in posture and movement patterns, but they do not receive the same training in x-ray analysis as Chiropractors. Due to not having this radiographic training Physios tend to place emphasis on palpation (touching an area to feel its position) as a way of diagnosing problems. 

TREATMENT TECHNIQUES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PHYSIOS AND CHIROPRACTORS.

 Most Physiotherapy treatments include a fair amount of soft tissue work (massage and stretching) in combination with exercise. Although, the physio NHS routine protocols may give more exercise Than the former. From 2016, the physiotherapy profession will start being able to give corticosteroid injections. However, I don't know much more about this or how it would work.

An average Chiropractic treatment will focus on re-aligning the spine and pelvis using manipulation, but exact method of manipulation will depend on which Chiropractic method being used, for example, Diversified, Bio-Physics, Gonstead, Activator, Drop Table, or Mc Timoney Chiropractic techniques. We use a combination of Diversified, Bio-Physics, and drop table technique and couple it with softening techniques (massage and foam rolling), stretching and stability exercises. Mostly, Chiropractors offer a greater breadth of techniques from their undergrad training. However these extra skills are only used for spinal pain, and limb pain is treated in the same manner by both professions 

Appointment length Treatment times tend to be a little longer for Physio, whereas Chiropractic treatments tend to be a little shorter but more frequent. However at The Wimbledon Chiropractic & Sports Injury Clinic, these are usually 30mins, a similar length to most Physios. Appointment costs and sessions need to get patients out of the crisis are statistically similar to both professions. 

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