What is the difference between a chiropractor and an osteopath?

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Posted on 8 April 2021

If you’re suffering from problems with your joints or muscles, you may be wondering if you need a chiropractor or an osteopath. Most people have heard about these two types of practitioners but aren’t always sure which is the better choice for their specific needs. Whilst chiropractors and osteopaths are similar in many ways, there are important differences between them. 

What is the difference between a chiropractor and an osteopath?

What are chiropractors? 

Chiropractic care began in 1895 with the work of Daniel David Palmer who performed the very first chiropractic adjustment. Chiropractors believe that the structure of the spine and how well it functions impacts musculoskeletal and neurological systems.

Chiropractors use their hands to relieve problems with the joints, muscles, and bones, aiming to normalise their functionality. Chiropractic care is based around the belief in spinal alignment, enabling the body to heal itself. They may also use various rehabilitative exercises to help patients heal as well as working with them in other areas of their lives (for example, diet and exercise programs).

Chiropractors need to have completed a four-year degree or a postgraduate master’s course that’s recognised by the General Chiropractic Council. In order to practice, they must also be registered with the GCC. Always make sure that you visit a registered practitioner if need chiropractic care. 

What are osteopaths?

Osteopathy began back in the late 19th Century and focused on the work of the American physician Andrew Taylor Still. He saw the body as having a natural ability to recover from illness when functioning effectively. His therapy focused on allowing the body to restore itself to optimal health without the need for surgery and medicine whenever possible. Osteopathy is detects, treats, and prevents health problems by moving, stretching, and massaging the muscles and joints.

Osteopaths must undertake rigorous training to become qualified in the UK, with new practitioners expected to complete a four or five-year degree, including over 1,000 hours of hands-on clinical practice. Being educated in anatomy, biomechanics, and physiology. This allows them to comprehend the workings of the body. Osteopaths must be registered with the General Osteopathic Council and are unable to practice without this registration.

Chiropractors vs. osteopaths: what are the similarities? 

Chiropractors vs. osteopaths: what are the similarities?

Many people aren’t sure whether they should visit a chiropractor or osteopath when they’re experiencing muscle or joint pain. The main reason for this confusion is that the practices share a number of similarities. Spinal health is important to both, and they share an appreciation of how spinal health can shape overall health.

Osteopaths and chiropractors use physical movements to treat pain. Joint manipulation, and muscle and tissue massage are techniques used by both to achieve optimisation of the body and nervous system and improve blood flow.

You may visit a chiropractor or osteopath to receive your symptoms. However, they may aim to help you with underlying issues affecting your body. Treatment may be aimed at helping with circulation, headaches, or digestion, for example. 

Chiropractors vs. osteopaths: the key difference 

The primary difference between a chiropractor and an osteopath is that the former is primarily focused on the joints and the spine. They carry out adjustments of the spinal vertebrae to treat muscle and joint pains. They aim to restore normal function to joints and other supportive tissues.  

When you visit a chiropractor, they will aim to diagnose your condition before carrying out manipulation and adjustment of the joints, muscles, bones and nerves in your body. They will aim to relieve pressure and pain without the need for surgery. Chiropractors also do not prescribe drugs. They believe this to be the field of traditional medicine, with their role being to pursue drug-free alternative treatments.

In contrast, osteopaths are more interested in the whole body. They take a more holistic approach to their care, focussing not just on the musculoskeletal system but also helping people with other problems within the body. This might include cardiovascular, respiratory, or even digestive issues. 

Whilst these problems often don’t seem to be related to the joints and the spine, a pinched nerve located in the back can produce symptoms similar to those of a heart attack or stroke. Similarly, tight and stiff muscles within the back can make it hard for people to breathe in some cases. Osteopaths look at the structure of the body and the interdependence of the various systems. Using this approach, an osteopath may be able to treat a wider range of problems. An osteopath doesn’t focus only on the muscular and spinal systems. They will examine a patient’s entire body to determine more ‘cryptic’ potential causes for their problem.

Should I see a chiropractor or osteopath? 

Now that we’ve taken a closer look at the differences between a chiropractor and an osteopath, you may be better able to decide which to visit when you need help with joint or muscle pain. Chiropractic therapy has close origins to osteopathy, however, they are different schools of physical therapy.  At Thorne Road Chiropractic, we can remedy a wide range of ailments related to the musculoskeletal system, from neck, back, and shoulder pain to persistent headaches. Our chiropractors in Doncaster have years of experience treating patients with many difficult conditions. 

Contact us 

If you’re suffering from pain related to your muscles, joints or bones, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re one of the leading chiropractic clinics in Doncaster and we have a great reputation throughout the area. Call us on 01302 969 501 to discuss your requirements with one of our friendly team. You can also send us a message via the website if you prefer and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. We can answer all your questions and queries and arrange your first consultation with one of our experienced chiropractors. 

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