Osteopathy, Physiotherapy & Chiropractic: What’s the difference?

Woman receiving Osteopathic Treatment

By Hannah E. Whitcombe

When suffering from issues such as back or neck pain it can be difficult to know who to turn to. Many people don’t really understand the differences between various types of treatment and it can make the first step on the road to recovery a little confusing.

With this in mind, our blog this week looks at the core differences between osteopathy, physiotherapy & chiropractic.

Woman Receiving Osteopathic Treatment

So, what are the differences between osteopathy, physiotherapy & chiropractic?

Well, all three types of treatment do have one thing in common; they use non-invasive, drug-free, manual techniques which aim to improve physical wellbeing. Beyond that, however, there are some core differences between these three types of treatment. Let’s look into these a little deeper…



Physiotherapy’s primary objective is to enable function and movement throughout the body and it’s often used as a form of treatment following an operation, illness or other form of trauma. Physiotherapy places a strong focus on exercise which is used to reinstate muscular function and strength, improve physical ability and prevent future issues.

One of the main differences between osteopathy and physiotherapy is the way in which conditions are diagnosed. Physiotherapists follow more traditional approaches of compartmentalising issues and pain. Although osteopaths take the immediate problem into consideration as well, we also look at the wider picture to detect factors that helped cause the pain. This is what we call a holistic approach which is at the core of the outlook and treatment which we take and implement as osteopaths.

Fundamentally, physiotherapy is an exercise-based form of treatment, so, if you’re looking for a more hands-on therapy, it may not be for you.



Chiropractic specialises in identifying and treating issues which affect the joints, ligaments, tendons and nerves and always focuses on the spine. Fundamentally, chiropractic involves the manipulation of specific areas in order to free joints in the spine. The majority of chiropractors treat issues specifically related to the spine and neck however they do provide treatment for other related conditions too.

Although there are likenesses between osteopathy and chiropractic, there are a number of core differences too. Osteopaths apply their own methods of diagnosis and treatment to each individual patient. We also typically use more gentle, slower stretching techniques in addition to more direct methods. Perhaps the most significant difference that a patient would notice is the length of the treatment and the techniques used. As chiropractors predominantly manipulate joints (clicking), treatment time can be significantly less at approximately 10-15 minutes rather than 40 minutes for a follow up appointment with an osteopath.



Osteopaths work to ensure that the joints, muscles, ligaments and tissues throughout the body are able to function smoothly together in order to treat conditions. A combination of physical manipulation, massage and stretching is used to maximise patient mobility while also improving balance and optimal function within the body. This works to relieve muscle tension, improve blood supply and encourage healing, achieving improvements in overall health and relief from pain for the patient.


As you can now hopefully see, osteopathy, physiotherapy & chiropractic have a number of things in common. Despite that, they also differ in many ways and it’s important to ensure that you seek out the best type of treatment for your problem.


If you’d like to find out more about our treatments and how we may be able to help you with your condition, please don’t hesitate to call us on 0208 088 0614. Alternatively, if you prefer, you can book a FREE consultation with one of our osteopaths now by clicking here.

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