Osteopathy vs. Physiotherapy vs. Chiropractic: Which One Should You Choose?
You might have a sore shoulder, a pulled muscle, an awkward step or some other abnormal or, potentially, painful problem with one or several of your joints and other body parts. It could also be a one-off issue or a chronic challenge (i.e., occurring for more than 3 months).
No matter the situation, you will have likely sought information about how your problem could be treated. You will have certainly heard the terms “chiropractic,” “physiotherapy,” and “manual osteopathy.”
On the surface, they seem almost identical.
In fact, each of these treatments involves non-invasive, manual techniques without the use of drugs. Practitioners in each of these areas aim to relieve pain and aches in their patients’ joints and body parts, especially the back, neck, and shoulders.
However, these are only superficial similarities. When you dig deeper, you will find that there are significant differences between chiropractic, physiotherapy, and manual osteopathy.
When it comes to treating back pain, as many as 22 million Americans will visit a chiropractor each year for relief (WebMD). Regardless of whether the pain was a result of a sports injury, muscle strains, an accident or something else, people view chiropractors as a reliable route.
Chiropractors run on a theory where “proper alignment of the body’s musculoskeletal structure, particularly the spine, will enable the body to heal itself without surgery or medication.” Overall, chiropractors will use joint manipulation and sudden force to treat pain.
One of chiropractic’s most common or widely used treatment methods is spinal manipulative therapy (SMT). SMT involves “highly-skilled and precise adjustments to the vertebrae of the spine, correcting joint motion to restore proper movement and improve function.”
Those with back pain, neck pain, whiplash, headaches, strains, sprains, arthritis as well as work and sports injuries are likely to reach-out to chiropractors. To treat such issues, chiropractors will use hands-on manipulation to affect the nerve receptors in your spinal joints.
Though chiropractors focus on treating the musculoskeletal system (e.g., muscles, joints, etc), they will also assess their patients’ overall physical, social and emotional condition.
As a result, they will advise on various non-invasive treatment options in addition to hands-on manipulation, such as therapeutic exercises and, potentially, lifestyle changes. Overall, this is considered a safe and gentle method of treating musculoskeletal issues.
Like chiropractors and osteopaths, physiotherapists also apply hands-on, manual methods to treat pain in the back, neck, shoulder, leg and other body parts.
Physiotherapists aim to restore bodily movements (e.g., arm movement, leg movement, etc) following an injury or surgery that has disabled hose movements.
It’s a common treatment method, especially for athletes who are injured and/or recovering from an invasive surgery. Like chiropractors, physiotherapists will combine manual, hands-on therapy to advise on lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercises.
Specific physiotherapy treatments include hands-on techniques, such as joint manipulation, joint mobilization, muscle stretching, neurodynamics, and massage. In some cases, physiotherapists may also use kinesiology tape to relieve pain, help restore movements and prevent injury.
Where chiropractors and osteopaths focus on pain in specific areas, physiotherapists will look at pain in those areas in the context of an injury or disability that’s preventing the patient from their normal bodily movement, such as a broken or — due to invasive surgery — disabled leg.
Besides relieving the pain or aches, the goal of a physiotherapist is to help the patient return to their normal form. In the case of permanent injury, disease or disability, the goal is to reduce the effects of the dysfunction as much as possible.
You can find physiotherapists at hospitals, sports medicine centres, nursing homes, universities, rehabilitation centres and in dedicated physiotherapy clinics.
Given the broad range of injuries people have and recover from, there are, likewise, a number of specializations in physiotherapy, such as musculoskeletal physiotherapy (for treating strains and aches), neurological physiotherapy (for handling issues related to brain injury or nerve diseases) and cardiothoracic (for cardio-respiratory issues, such as asthma).
Don’t Let Chronic Pain, Aches and Sprains Stop You from Doing the Things You Enjoy Most
Manual osteopathic practitioners use low-velocity and rhythmic motions of joints to restore normal bodily movements — i.e., osteopathic palpation. They can treat muscles, ligaments, joints, bones, and fascia.
Unlike chiropractic, manual osteopathy is gentler and it encompasses all of the surrounding structures of the joint. For example, it’ll focus on increasing blood flow into the affected area — i.e., decrease inflammation and encourage faster healing.
In contrast to physiotherapy and chiropractic, manual osteopathic practitioners will look at the body as a whole — i.e., holistically — when determining treatment, even for a specific issue such as neck pain. A core concept in osteopathy is that the body is innately capable of healing itself so long as there are not any impediments preventing it from functioning as it should.
Manual osteopathic practitioners are looking for those potential impediments and, in turn, support the body so that it can remove them. In addition to massage, craniosacral, myofascial release and other treatment, manual osteopathic practitioners will also advise patients on their diet and other lifestyle activities.
You can employ manual osteopathy to deal with a wide range of issues, including arthritis, headaches, back pain, shoulder pain, elbow pain as well as foot, hip, ankle and knee pain. Another way to approach osteopathy is — similar to physiotherapy — as a complement to another procedure.
For example, you or a loved one might have had an injury requiring surgery and/or the use of medication. To ensure that you recover properly, accelerate healing and prevent injury, you can rely on a manual osteopathic practitioner to help you through the process. According to WebMD, patients who used an osteopath consumed fewer painkillers and took fewer days off than those who did not.
Which One Should You Choose?
In many ways, osteopathy, physiotherapy, and chiropractic are similar in that they use hands-on, manual treatment without invasive surgery or drugs. In terms of treating pain or aches, you can’t go wrong with either course, but it’s important to select the method that works best for you.
No two sprains are necessarily the same. Just because physiotherapy works for an athlete who wants to return to form after an injury, it might not work best for someone who’s suffering from a recurring shoulder sprain. The latter person might have underlying problems or causes.
This is where manual osteopathy is a good idea. If you want to find or understand underlying issues that could be causing sprains, aches or other pain in your body, the holistic focus of osteopathy will help. Besides diagnosing root problems of pain and directly treating them through therapy, your osteopathist will also advise on diet, exercises, and other lifestyle options to help prevent future instances of bodily aches and pains.
Better Living builds on over 40 years of experience as a trusted natural healthcare provider. Our osteopaths will both treat pain in your joints, muscles, and other body parts while also providing guidance in preventing such pain from emerging again. Reach-out today to get started!