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What is the difference between an osteopath, physiotherapist and chiropractor?

Categories: Blog
Tags: osteopath, chiropractor, physiotherapist

Osteopaths, physiotherapists and chiropractors. I'm sure you'll have heard of them all before and maybe you've even been helped out by one or more of them in the past, but what's the difference? Well, there are many similarities between the three medical practices and they are largely working towards the same goals but by using slightly different techniques and following different schools of thought.


Osteopathy focuses on the musculoskeletal system and the effects it has on our overall health. Osteopaths diagnose and treat a variety of conditions by examining and treating a patient's muscles, ligaments and connective tissues to help to increase the mobility of their joints, relieve any tension in the muscles and promote the flow of blood to muscles and tissues. They use a variety of techniques to achieve this including physical manipulation of joints, massage, stretching and acupuncture.


Physiotherapy is primarily used to rehabilitate someone after an injury or illness, or for anyone with a disability. Physiotherapists aim to restore full range of movement and to get their patients functioning as fully as possible using specific exercises and therapy, as well as educating the patient on their recovery. They focus on a variety of bodily systems, depending on the patient's requirements, including neuromuscular and musculoskeletal.


Chiropractors specialise in treating and preventing neuromusculoskeletal disorders, with a specific focus on the spine. They manipulate the spine and nerves in your body to free up any joints that are stiff as well as ligaments and tendons. . Posture plays an important part in problems related to the spine and the neuromusculoskeletal system, so advice may also be given regarding maintaining correct posture.

All of the above can also offer Exercise and acupuncture as part of there treatment.

So What's the difference?

Recently i read some information in a blog from a fellow therapist i found to be incorrect.  Here is what i know.

You can probably see from these brief descriptions that there are a number of similarities. They all treat musculoskeletal conditions and aim to get rid of any pain or restriction caused by these conditions. Here are some of the main differences:

  • The main treatment method in chiropractic is joint manipulation - while this is also used in the other two practices it is not their first port of call. The general idea is that the spine relates to the majority of issues experienced. In their education and training, chiropractors are taught how to take and read x-rays, so this is often used as part of the diagnosis process for their patients. A chiropractor is trained for 5 years and completes a masters degree. They are classed as a "doctor" within chiropractor circles.
  • The philosophy and reasoning behind osteopathy is that movement must be balanced and all tissues must move as they are supposed to in order to achieve good general health, Spinal manipulation is also used as part of the process but less focus is put on this one process. An osteopathy degree is now days generally a masters degree. Taken over 5 years.
  • Physiotherapy takes a more holistic approach, looking at patients in relation to strength and flexibility of muscles, mobility of joints, posture and lifestyle, as well as psychological aspects such as stress and patients' beliefs. Physiotherapy is a more popular degree and generally takes 3 years to complete with added masters etc afterwards.

So who do Adjust refer to them?

In a nutshell, this isn't always the case.  We look at each individual separately, but as a rule;

Osteopaths - Biomechanical problems

Physiotherapists - Rehab

Chiropractors - Joint / spine mobility

If you are experiencing pain and are unsure about which practitioner would be best suited to help you, get in touch for more information by calling 0115 8373553 or email

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