This is a question I’m often asked. The origins are quite different but today there are similarities in the way a treatment is delivered. Some of you may have experienced these approaches in different settings such as the NHS or private clinics. Another question I am often asked is which one of these practitioners do I need to see for a particular condition. In general these types of therapists will treat conditions associated with neuromusculoskeletal disorders. All Osteopaths, Physiotherapists and Chiropractors are regulated by their respective governing bodies and have gone through rigorous training to prepare for clinical practice.
Osteopathy is a system of diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and aims to restore balance and function between all body tissues including joints, muscles, connective tissue, the vascular and nervous system. Osteopaths will also gather information to attempt to recognise what influence other systems have on the presenting complaint such as the hormonal system and the internal organs. The techniques used during treatment may include joint mobilisation and manipulation, as well as soft tissue techniques such as massage and exercise.
Some Osteopaths may have gone through further training and could include additional treatment approaches in their clinic such as exercise rehabilitation, ultrasound, shockwave therapy and acupuncture. You may find some Osteopaths associated with a NHS clinic depending on the area, however they are mostly in private practice.
Physiotherapists primary approach to treatment is the use of therapeutic exercise for rehabilitation and building strength and function for the return to normal health. The conditions treated can be associated with the neuromuscular, cardiovascular and respiratory systems therefore you will find a specialist therapist in rheumatological, cardiopulmonary and neurological departments within the NHS. The treatment might be different depending on the setting e.g. some NHS clinics have recently taken a more hands off approach and use mainly exercise to restore health whilst private clinics may combine other techniques that are similar to that of an Osteopath.
The primary focus of a chiropractor is the alignment of the spine to treat neuromusculoskeletal issues. Treatment techniques mainly use adjustments of the spine. This involves mobilisation and manipulation to create symmetry and therefore potentially balance the nerve flow that arises from each level of the spine. Chiropractors will also treat other joints of the body to help to improve movement of that joint. Chiropractic is not widely available on the NHS and mainly operate in private practice.
You may also find some Chiropractors offer other treatments following further training such as acupuncture, ultrasound, shockwave therapy and exercise.