What is the Difference Between Osteopathy and Physiotherapy?

If you’re experiencing pain, tension or discomfort in parts of your body such as your back, neck, or in the joints and muscles, you may be wondering about the methods involved in osteopathy and physiotherapy, and which would be best to treat your particular concern.

  • Both osteopathy and physiotherapy are healthcare practices used to diagnose, treat and rehabilitate a range of musculoskeletal problems.
  • Using their hands, both osteopaths and physiotherapists massage and manipulate the soft tissues to identify triggers causing pain and enable progressive healing and recovery.
  • Similarly practitioners will develop personalised treatment plans, to relieve tension and help to improve their patients’ mobility and posture.

Whilst they do overlap, there are some key differences between osteopathic therapy and physiotherapy, in terms of their approaches and how well they can alleviate pain or promote recovery. Which practice you choose will depend upon your specific case.

The main differences between osteopathy and physiotherapy

  • Although both therapies focus on targeting the bones, muscles and joints, osteopathy also works with fluids and the connective tissues that inter-connect the muscles and nerves. This way osteopathy can be useful for identifying and treating a wider range of body tensions, and osteopathy takes into account how the whole body can adapt to an injury.
  • Osteopathic practices take on a more holistic approach to healing. Whereas physiotherapists will look to the directly affected area, such as treating and giving rehabilitative exercises for an injured knee, an osteopath will look at the alignment and functioning of the knee in relation to the rest of the body. Osteopathy is based upon balancing the whole body to allow for whole body health and recovery.

  • Both therapies feature hands on manual techniques to release tension and allow for healing. However, osteopathy often uses gentler techniques and only use their hands to treat patients. In physiotherapy, other devices such as ultrasound or a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) machine may be used, which may not have an effect on everyone. Osteopaths are highly trained to use the sensitivity of touch to help to alleviate the muscles, joints, nerves and other restrictions in the body.
  • Osteopathy is a deeply individualised healthcare approach which may be less protocol-driven than physiotherapy. Often, you may be referred to a physiotherapist through your GP and they may not have the time to properly address your unique concerns with a holistic treatment plan. At Solihull Osteopathic Practice, our experienced practitioners will take the time to get to know each patient, their medical history and goals, on a completely one-to-one basis. We will take the time to evaluate your situation and concerns, assess you thoroughly and treat you according to your unique needs.

If you’d like to find out more about what conditions osteopathy can help to treat and how we can help you with any problems you are experiencing, contact our Solihull practice on 0121 705 4499 and we’d be happy to assist.