Osteopath vs Chiropractor: What’s the difference?

Young woman weighing up osteopath vs chiropractor

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Most of us are familiar with that feeling you get when you move your body in a way that creates an objection. The number of people suffering from body aches and pain is increasing, in no small part to the effects of the pandemic.

Whether it is a stiff back, tight hips, or even regular headaches, there often comes a time when we realise that putting up with these disruptions to our lives isn’t right, and we think about seeking professional help.

But when looking for a specialist, is a chiropractor or an osteopath the answer to your suffering?

Many people get confused about what it means to see an osteopath vs a chiropractor. To help, we’ve prepared a comprehensive breakdown of their differences and similarities.

The Origins and Philosophies of Chiropractic vs Osteopathy

As is often the case when comparing different disciplines, it’s easy to pit them against each other. However, the origins of osteopathy and chiropractic are pretty similar.

Daniel David Palmer was the originator of chiropractic care starting in 1885. Through years of treatment, Palmer was able to see significant improvement in his patients when he manipulated their spines.

Stemming from Greek words meaning ‘done’ and ‘hand’, the name Chiropractic was chosen by Palmer to describe how he successfully treated his patients using his hands.

The spine is at the core of the philosophy of chiropractic. Your musculoskeletal and nervous systems stem from and interact with your spine. Manual manipulation of the spine may therefore have positive outcomes for the well-being of your musculoskeletal and nervous systems.

In 1997 The World Federation of Chiropractic was admitted as a non-governmental organisation (NGO) with the World Health Organization (WHO).

In 2019 the WHO published recommendations to initially manage lower back pain with non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as spinal manipulation while avoiding opioids, spinal injections and surgery.

Osteopathy similarly has its origins in the late 19th century.

Andrew Taylor Still, a physician and surgeon, noted the value of the whole body needing to be in the best condition to achieve good health. This belief led him to the core philosophy of osteopathy: A health problem in one area could lead to detrimental effects in another part of the body.

In 2010 The World Health Organisation recognised osteopathy through the publication of, Benchmarks for training in traditional / complementary and alternative medicine: benchmarks for training in osteopathy.

What Does a Chiropractor Do?

Your chiropractor studied for five years, often completing a diploma of applied science and then a Bachelor of Chiropractic. In New Zealand, they also need to take part in a yearly quota of postgraduate education. With this in mind, you can be confident that your chiropractor is a highly trained healthcare professional.

A typical visit to the chiropractor’s clinic will involve a review of your medical history and symptoms. Then the next steps will be a thorough chiropractic exam. The exam includes checking your movement, blood pressure, pulse, and reflexes. They may also perform neurological and orthopaedic tests as well as diagnostic studies.

Chiropractors can be of real help if you have back pain due to sciatica. But they can also assist you with pain and mobility in your joints, neck, or even with regular headaches. Chiropractors also provide relief for sports injuries, whiplash and repetitive stress syndrome.

Chiropractic can be of assistance if you have chronic pain issues. Studies have shown that regular chiropractic treatment can lead to a reduction in opioid pain relief medication.

Your chiropractor will use non-invasive techniques such as spinal and joint manipulation, among other practices in your problem areas. While not necessary all the time, when appropriate, a chiropractor may use grade 5 manipulation: High velocity, low amplitude thrusting action resulting in the pop sound that may come to mind when you think of a visit to the chiropractor.

The treatment received from a chiropractor may help the body to heal itself without medication and, even better, potential surgery.

In what may be surprising for many, chiropractic treatment can also be effective in improving high blood pressure without taking medication.

What Does an Osteopath Do?

An Osteopath is a licensed practitioner who has studied for 4-5 years. They achieve a bachelor of applied science or musculoskeletal health as well as a postgraduate diploma in osteopathy.

A typical visit to the osteopath will involve a consultation and examination. Here they will ask you about your symptoms, medical history and also any medication you are taking. They will then ask to you make simple movements to check your mobility and stiffness. If they come across something severe that they cannot treat, they will refer you to your doctor or a hospital.

Osteopaths have a holistic approach to treating patients. They consider your body as a whole when trying to assess your health problems. A typical assessment includes your spine and your bones, muscles, ligaments, and even your organs.

Osteopaths believe that lifestyle choices and environmental factors may be at the root of medical complaints. For example, suppose you are to see one for lower back pain. In that case, they will assess multiple parts of your body: Analysing your medical history and asking you questions that you may not have considered a likely cause.

Due to the wide range of different areas that they can treat, osteopaths can use many techniques on their clients. These include dry needling for muscle tightness, gentle spinal manipulation, deep tissue massages, and stretching. The more hands-on approach is called osteopathic manipulative treatment.

What Are Their Similarities and Differences?

Chiropractic and osteopathy are drug-free, non-invasive manual therapy that aims to improve health by manipulating and stimulating the body employing various techniques, treatments and therapies.

It is important to note that both a chiropractor and an osteopath have the same goal of relieving you of pain, increasing mobility and improving your overall health.

There is some cross-over in their techniques, particularly in their treatment of the spine. Their shared belief of the spine as integral to the health and function of the nervous and musculoskeletal systems is a crucial similarity.

Where their differences lie is mainly in their overall focus.

While assessing your health, an osteopath is trying to identify deformations and misalignments that can have knock-on effects on your well-being. Their course of treatment for these issues may include things related to your nutrition or respiratory system, for example.

As mentioned before, they may conduct muscular or joint manipulation. Osteopathic therapy may include several different points of the body without a primary focus on the spine.

A chiropractor focuses on the spine and its interaction with the neuromuscular system, including all muscles and the nerves serving them. If one of the joints in your back compresses a nerve root in your spine, this will harm the signals it can send and receive. The results of this are aches, pains and loss of mobility.

To better understand this, x-rays of your spine on an initial chiropractic visit is commonplace. An x-ray will provide a clearer understanding of your musculoskeletal health and how chiropractic can improve it.

In contrast, an osteopath will use visual and physical examinations of their patients. If a more in-depth analysis is needed, they are likely to refer patients to other healthcare professionals.

Chiropractors are also much more likely to treat muscle and joint pain daily than osteopaths due to the osteopath’s broader scope of service.

So Should I See an Osteopath or a Chiropractor?

There is much value in each profession. Most modern and forward-thinking osteopaths and chiropractors are happy to learn from each other.

If you have headaches or back and joint pain, a visit to the chiropractor is sure to do wonders for you due to them being specialists in these areas.

On the other hand, if you are aware of any underlying health issues, such as any viral or bacterial infections that could affect your overall well-being, it may be worth considering an osteopath.

However, the most important thing is that you are comfortable that the person treating you is qualified and capable of providing you with the best service possible.

Arte you looking for one of the best chiropractor services in Wellington CBD? Look no further than Inline Chiropractic. 

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