The Difference between Osteopathic, Physiotherapy and Chiropractic Care

I frequently get asked what’s the difference between an osteopath, a chiropractor and a physiotherapist. Which one is better for me and which one will get me moving and feeling pain-free the quickest.

Most therapists will get asked this at some point. As a former registered osteopath I tended to be biased towards osteopathic care, but having trained with other therapists to help me  improve your treatment results I’m better able to see where each part fits in to make the best treatment plan for you.

But still when I hear this question, I think, “this sounds like the start of a joke” I keep trying to create a punchline that’s funny, but haven’t come up with one yet (suggestions in the comments section). Another therapist did once attempt a humorous answer, but it was just that, an attempt.

This can be quite a hard question to answer without bias because my initial training was in osteopathy, although I’m no longer a registered osteopath.

This is a go at an oversimplified differentiation of the differences (I hope)


Osteopathic techniques used within an osteopathic framework treat the bones, muscles, ligaments, and joints. Osteopathy can, therefore, treat any part of the body directly. When treating I personally also look at how these different areas connect together. This helps us find predisposing and maintaining factors, i.e. trying to find the real cause of your problem and make sure it doesn’t come back. What I mean by this is you may have pain in your knee that is caused by twisting and torsion in your calf as a result of your flat foot. Treating the knee may make your knee pain go away, but if the foot problem isn’t addressed your knee pain will keep coming back. (still with me?)


A chiropractor would probably look at your knee, X-ray your back and tell you that your knee pain is caused by a joint in your back out-of-place. This is because Chiropractors generally look at spinal joints and the way this would affect the nervous system, and nothing else. (still there?)


A Physiotherapist (now this is a hard one). The best way I can show you the difference is to describe a patient I used to treat and let you work it out for yourself. I used to treat a footballer who suffered from recurrent groin and hamstring strains. The club physio kept getting him pain-free, and back to training. Within a couple of “proper” matches, he’d be out again with the same problem as before.

This had happened 3 times in one season. (nearly the whole season wasted). The player was frustrated. When I saw him for the first time, I looked at his body as a whole and found most of his problems were due to overtight muscles in his hip/buttock area and his low back.

I treated those and I haven’t heard of any problems since (on TV, radio or press. Yes he was that well-known)

Which is the Better for me, Osteopathic treatment, Physiotherapy or chiropractic?

This is a very general reply, and the best way to find out for yourself is to try the 3 therapies. Most offer a free assessment, just make sure they don’t sign you up for life!

The way I practice has changed and while I’m no longer a registered osteopath I still use osteopathic manipulation techniques and other approaches that I used during my 20 years of practicing as an osteopath. These would be familiar to people who have had an osteopath treat them, but I also will use the exercises that Physiotherapists use but in a way that’s tailor made for what you need and can manage.  If you want to find out a little bit more about what I do, I have a free 15-minute assessment to allow you to find out if I can help. You can book an appointment online

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