Osteopathy, Chiropractic or Physiotherapy?

Osteopathy, Chiropractic or Physiotherapy?

Osteopathy – what differentiates it from Chiropractic or Physiotherapy?

I am often asked what the difference is between different manual therapies. I think it is very much a personal preference that is guided by the therapist you see.

Osteopathy, Chiropractic and Physiotherapy are all referred to as manual therapies and are considered Primary Health Care Professionals (and in this current climate have been identified as Essential Workers who can support the NHS by seeing patients in pain, who may otherwise seek assistance from the NHS). 

All practitioners are trained in anatomy, physiology, pathology, evaluation and diagnostic skills. Each profession is regulated and is required to complete a predetermined number of continuing professional development hours each year.


A.T. Still was the founder of Osteopathy and the key principles he stated form the basis for the osteopathic approach. Osteopaths believe that the body has its own medicine chest and can heal itself if its structure and function are working together optimally. To achieve this, osteopaths believe that “the rule of the artery is supreme”, which means that it is important to ensure that there is a good blood supply to all tissues.

Osteopaths use a holistic approach considering not only the presenting symptoms, but also other factors which may have resulted in these symptoms.

Since 2017 Osteopaths have been recognised as Allied Health Professionals (AHP), these are a group of 14 professions who work alongside the medical, nursing, dental professions assessing, diagnosing and treating patients, with a focus on the prevention and improvement of the health and wellbeing of patients through the NHS, independent and voluntary sectors.

These professions are Art Therapists, Drama therapists, Music therapists, Chiropodists/podiatrists, Dietitians, Occupational therapists, Operating Department Practitioners, Orthoptists, Osteopaths, Paramedics, Physiotherapists, Prosthetists and Orthotists, Radiographers, Speech and language therapists.

To find out more about osteopathy http://www.osteopathy.org.uk/information/about-osteopathy/ or check out these questions and answers https://osteopathic-clinic.online/any-questions.


Whilst chiropractors have a similar approach to osteopaths, they believe that the health of the body is related to spinal health and that the neurological system manages this. Chiropractors may use radiography and radiology reports to form the basis of their treatment which is focused on the spinal column and the neurological system.

To find out more about Chiropractors go to https://www.gcc-uk.org/chiropractic-standards/why-see-a-registered-chiropractor.


Physiotherapists tend to use fewer manual techniques than osteopaths and chiropractors. They will often prescribe a range of exercises to help with rehabilitation. Physiotherapists often specialise in a particular area, for example sports injuries or postoperative rehabilitation. 

To find out more about physiotherapists http://www.csp.org.uk/your-health/what-physiotherapy.

How to choose between Osteopaths, Chiropractors and Physiotherapists?

In my experience, whilst there may be a difference in the undergraduate training and the theoretical approaches used, I often see chiropractors and physiotherapists attending the same postgraduate courses as I do. I believe that it is often the case that we cross over in terms of the skills, tools and knowledge that we can share with our patients.

Therefore my recommendation is to ask to speak to the therapist you are considering, have a brief discussion regarding your problems, and ask them how they would treat you. You need to trust whichever therapist you choose, and so long as the trust is in place, they build a therapeutic relationship with you, and you feel comfortable and like the techniques they use, you will find a benefit from their treatment and advice.

Where appropriate Osteopaths will cross refer to other medical professionals when they think their patient is better suited to a different form of treatment, or where they feel that further opinions or investigations are needed.

If you would like to talk to one of our osteopaths to discuss your problems, please call us or email us.