Who do I choose? How are you different? Aren't you just backs? If I could have a pound for every time I heard these questions I would be very rich! We get asked this all the time and I’m going to try to explain the difference as best I can, but remember I am an Osteopath and this is my opinion, so please take it with a pinch of salt.
First of all let’s look at the similarities. All three professions will examine, come up with a working diagnosis and then formulate a management plan. We all are known for our association with treating dysfunction of the musculoskeletal system and all have our own regulation bodies. So when you break it down we all can treat a range of presentations and sometimes it will depend on the suitability of a practitioner and their specialisation.
Physiotherapy is probably the most well known therapy due to its long association within the NHS. They are extremely competent in management and rehabilitation of given injuries and focus on exercises away from the treatment couch to aid recovery as well as using extra tools such as ultrasound and TENs machines which generally Osteopaths do not. Their association within the NHS means that Physios train to treat musculoskeletal, postoperative patients as well as chronic physiological conditions, specialising later on in their career.
Chiropractic was founded in 1895 following their creator Daniel David Palmer studying at the hand of the founder of Osteopathy the fantastic Andrew Taylor Still, perhaps explaining some crossover in our philosophies and approach to the human body. However, chiropractic did seem to go off slightly on a tangent to Osteopathy as it focuses heavily on spinal positioning and therefore neurological function. Whereas, Osteopaths tend to look at fluid movement be it blood, lymph or inflammatory fluids. Chiropractors differ from Physiotherapists and Osteopaths further in their ability to conduct and interpret X-rays, utilise a variety of manipulation techniques and shorter treatment times and therefore often increased frequency of appointments.
Osteopathy has been around for approximately 150 years and has had to adapt with time, but has always been known as a holistic or alternative medicine. The word holism to them as a profession means that out of all the therapies they ask what has predisposed you to an injury and what may be maintaining it or preventing it from improving. This approach comes from the founding principles: the rule of the artery is supreme, the body is its own medicine chest, structure governs function and the body is a unit. This means when treating, Osteopaths' focus tends to not be reductionist to the presenting complaint but looks at the body entirely, intervening where appropriate to improve the overall function.
Ultimately, this was a very brief and personal insight into the differences in our professions. Speaking to patients has made me realise that often it’s not the specific discipline that will make them choose a given therapy but often the practitioner themselves. My advice is to find a therapist in whom you trust, understand and have a good rapport with and this in the end will bring you the best outcome. Especially as you can see that often it is really hard to differentiate between us. However, if you have any further questions do not hesitate to get in contact: