Osteopath, Physiotherapist, Chiropractor - What's the difference?

Updated: Apr 28, 2020

One of the most common questions I get asked in clinic is "so what's the difference between an osteopath and a chiropractor/physiotherapist?" I wish the answer was simple!

  • All 3 of the professions have a common goal - to relieve your pain or discomfort.

  • All 3 of the professions have extensive training in anatomy, physiology and pathology.

  • All 3 of the professions require qualification and registration with governing bodies. These promote and maintain professional standards across their fields, including encouraging learning and Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

It's important to remember that these are generalisations and individual practitioners within each profession may also treat very differently. Throughout training, therapists are taught a wide variety of methods and techniques for treatment and these can often be used interchangeably depending on the cause of the problem.

Here's a quick overview of how each profession might differ:


  • use a combination of case history, tests and palpation to provide a diagnosis

  • use a mix of massage, manipulation, cranial and other techniques

  • try to view the body as a whole


  • often also use x-rays or MRI scans to help form a diagnosis

  • use a lot of manipulation techniques

  • work a lot on the spine


  • often use imaging or other specialists for diagnosis

  • use a mixture of hands on therapy and exercise prescription

  • tend to focus on the area of pain

If you are unsure of whether an osteopath is best suited for your problem, feel free to give us a call!

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