What’s the difference between Chiropractors, Osteopaths, and Physiotherapists?

What’s the difference between Chiropractors, Osteopaths, and Physiotherapists?

One of the most common questions I receive! When faced with a back or neck issue, many people will often ask this, as in which profession treats each condition better. I have been treated by all three, and you have to remember that the next chapter is biased, as I’m a Chiropractor. But I honestly think all three are great and a cross-referral or multi-disciplinary approach for certain conditions is key. 

You often get this in many industries, the ‘he said’ ‘she said’ type situation. It doesn’t help anybody, and most of all it does not help the patient. We will try and help where we can, but if it’s not our condition or we don’t manage it as well, then we will always refer out to someone who is better. We have a sports massage therapist in the clinic, and we refer to them a lot, as there are some conditions that we aren’t as good with as them. 

For example, if someone comes to see me with a pain in the elbow, we do a full examination and try to find the source of the issue. Often, elbow pain can be referred from the neck and shoulder, so treating the elbow is redundant and won’t cause a long term fix, as the problem will keep coming back. We diagnosed a tennis elbow, and although I can help, our sports therapist sees this every day and is much better at treating this, so we refer to him. 

Book a consultation with a Chiropractor here

As far as the difference, Chiropractic was founded in 1895 in Iowa, Davenport by a man called D.D Palmer. His son B.J Palmer brought Chiropractic to the world and promoted it. Chiropractors work on the basis that the spine is a protective casing for the nervous system. This is the brain and the nerves in the spinal cord going to every single muscle, cell, organ and gland. So, for your heart to beat and lungs to breathe the nervous system has to be working optimally. If it isn’t, then the body won’t be as healthy as it could be and the person will experience symptoms such as pain, dysfunction, or immobility. 

If the spine is ever compromised with stress, for example a fall or accident or sitting in the wrong position for too long, then it can put pressure on the spinal cord and thus the nervous system, affecting its ability to function, and therefore symptoms can appear. We call this a subluxation or misalignment. 

This is what Chiropractors are looking to identify and how this affects the spine and the structures around it. Often when we see a subluxation in the low back or pelvis, this will affect how someone is walking and cause more pressure on one knee than the other, thus causing knee pain. If we just treat the knee this is great, but when that person goes back to walking, then the knee pain will come back because of the pressure on the body.

Physiotherapists tend to focus more on the muscles in the body. They use a variety of different techniques to improve the muscle tension and flexibility throughout. They also prescribe detailed exercise rehabilitation programmes to restore mobility and reduce pain. In my experience, they tend to focus on sports injuries like knee and shoulder issues resulting from an injury. They do look at back pain as well, and it just depends on which works best for you. If there is a disc issue resulting from a subluxation, then no amount of muscle work will correct that, as it will keep pulling everything back. It needs to be adjusted first before the muscle work will have a long-term beneficial correction. 

Osteopaths sit somewhere in the middle, and they will focus on the circulatory system, to pump more blood around the body. The theory goes that more blood in the body will provide more oxygen and vitamins to certain structures and allow the body function more closely to optimal. I have been treated by an osteopath and he did very similar adjustments that I would do, although he did admit he had studied a lot of chiropractic and does a lot of adjustments that way. What I have found is that most osteopaths will look at back pain but use a variety of adjustments and muscle work to get results. 

The main thing to find out is who best aligns with what you need. Ring the offices and have a chat with the assistant and see what they treat and their specialities. For us it’s low back, neck pain, and sciatica. This is what we see every day and love treating, as we get great results for our patients. If someone comes with an ankle issue from a walking injury, we will always have a look for them but then either refer them to our sports massage therapist or out to a physio.

When you ring, you will want to ask what the initial process is. Do they perform a full examination, medical history, and do they take x-rays to find out the root cause of the issue?

Book a consultation with a Chiropractor here

If you do know someone who wants more advice, please send them our details. You can send them this assessment as well to diagnose their back pain. It is a great tool to understand where your back pain is coming from, it is free and takes 60 seconds. Click here for assessment

Share This Post

More To Explore

West Chiropractic

Book Your Free Discovery Visit

Want to know more but not ready for a full assessment? Fill in the form below and we’ll be in contact shortly to arrange a free discovery visit – with no obligation.

West Chiropractic

Free Consultation