What is the difference?
What is the difference between Chiropractor vs. Osteopath? This is one of the most common questions we get asked here at Solihull Osteopathic Practice . If you’ve ever had the misfortune of suffering from a bad back, you may have found yourself weighing up your options with regards to treatment. You may be wondering if Chiropractic or Osteopathic treatment is right for you? But what’s the difference, and which one should you choose?
There is no clear-cut answer to this question as there is a huge overlap between therapies, so we hope to give you an overview of both practices to help you make an informed decision.
Osteopathy was founded by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still in 1872 and Chiropractic care was founded by Daniel David Palmer, a student of Dr. Still in 1895.
The clearest difference between Chiropractic and Osteopathic treatments is that a Chiropractor will mainly focus their efforts entirely on the spine, whereas an Osteopath will adopt a more whole-body approach and will look for ways to treat their patient which involve the entire body, not just the spine.
Chiropractors treat those who are suffering from back pain and pains in other areas of the body by manipulating the spine and its vertebrae. The ultimate goal is to make ‘adjustments’ to the spine through the process of re-alignment to improve the dysfunction of the spine. Chiropractors believe that if the spine is aligned, then the body can heal itself. Chiropractic treatment is mainly focused on manipulation, but some chiropractors may also include some more gentle mobilisation and soft tissue treatment of the spine.
Osteopathy, on the other hand, focuses on the relationship between the musculoskeletal system and spine as well as a person’s overall health. Osteopaths believe that you can have dysfunction anywhere in the body, not just the spine. If you have pain or dysfunction it is going to change the way you move, and this is going to cause problems in other parts of the body. For instance, a dysfunction of the knee can change the way you walk which can cause pain in your hip and/or spine. Osteopaths use manipulation techniques similar to a chiropractor but will also provide a wider scope of treatments – including massage, stretching and gentler mobilisation.
Chiropractors tend use imaging to identify any issues, with x-rays being the most commonly used equipment, but they also use other forms of imaging. After screening you with the equipment, you will be booked in for a second appointment where the findings will be explained, and a treatment plan discussed. On your third appointment you will be given a treatment.
Osteopaths use imaging when needed in a similar way to seeing your doctor. They will rely more on their case history, palpatory findings and orthopedic testing to formulate a diagnosis and treatment plan. You will usually be treated within your first appointment when you go to see an osteopath.
Another main difference between osteopaths and chiropractors is the treatment itself. Chiropractic treatments are often shorter, usually about 15 minutes and consist almost purely of manipulation techniques. Osteopathic treatments last around 30 minutes and involve more massage work, stretching and joint mobilisations before using manipulation technique. Osteopaths believe that if you massage the soft tissues first then when it comes to manipulation the body finds it less aggressive.
In terms of the similarities between the two practices, both Osteopaths and Chiropractors believe that having the correct spinal alignment is key to overall better health. Ensuring that a patient’s spine is healthy and aligned correctly, can improve functionality of the central nervous system, as well as offer further support to areas such as blood flow. The primary objective is to alleviate aches and pains felt throughout the body.
Chiropractors and osteopaths complete a 4-to-5-year degree course which includes a combination of academic, research and patient-facing clinical training. There are no comparative studies to suggest chiropractors are better than osteopaths or that osteopaths are better than chiropractors.
Both osteopathy and chiropractic are recommended by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) as manual therapies for pains such as lower back pain and upper back pain, and both are regulated by the General Osteopathic Council and General Chiropractic Council. These laws ensure that practitioners are properly qualified and adhere to the right standards and codes of practice.
Osteopathy is also one of 14 professions included in the NHS health practitioners group known as Allied Health Professionals (AHP’s).
Ultimately, which ever type of treatment you choose it is important that you find a practitioner who you get on with and who treats you in a way that suits your body. It is hugely important to find the approach that suits you, that makes you feel comfortable and confident so that you have the best outcome.