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What is the difference between Osteopathy, Chiropractic and Physiotherapy?

All three therapies are referred to as manual therapies and are considered Primary Health Care Systems. All practitioners will be trained in anatomy, physiology, pathology, evaluation and diagnostic skills. Whilst initial manual training for each of the disciplines can be very different, it is not unusual for osteopaths to find that chiropractors and physiotherapists attend the same post graduate professional training courses as they do.

Each profession is regulated and is required to complete a predetermined number of continuing professional development hours each year.

The most important factor is that the patient feels that they can trust their practitioner to understand their presenting complaint, and that they can assess them and treat them appropriately.


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 it’s own medicine chest and has the capability to heal itself if its structure and function are working together optimally. To achieve this osteopaths believe that “the rule of the artery is supreme”. Osteopaths use a holistic approach considering not only the presenting symptoms, but also other factors which may have resulted in these symptoms.



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 around the spinal column and the neurological system.



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