What is the difference between osteopaths & chiropractors?

01 January 2013

What is the difference between osteopaths & chiropractors?
The big question: What is the difference between osteopaths & chiropractors?By Philip Godfrey Bsc (Hons) Ost. Med. D.O. N.D.
Perhaps the most common question we get asked at our North West London Osteopathy Clinic, Backinhealth is:"What is the difference between osteopaths and chiropractors?"
You would think that I’d know the answer to that but actually, it’s not an easy question to answer!  Way back in 1874, Osteopathy was “founded” by a medical Doctor Andrew Taylor Still.  Some 20 years later one of his former students (a self-trained healer from Canada), founded the Chiropractic profession.  Both professions importantly share the same philosophy which is that “structure governs function.”  In other words, if the structure of the body is out of alignment, for whatever reason, it can have a detrimental effect on function and cause 'dis-ease'.
Both osteopaths and chiropractors tend to treat similar conditions using similar techniques.  This is particularly apparent in Britain where the two evolved along parallel (but converging) paths and there is significant overlap between the disciplines.  In fact, in some countries such as Australia, the two fields are overseen by the same regulating body and a practitioner can graduate from university with both an osteopathic and chiropractic qualification.
To become an osteopath or a chiropractor in the UK students must attend a degree program which is usually full time and a minimum of 4 years during which time they will complete around a thousand hours of practical clinical training!  In the UK both professions have state registered regulatory bodies and it is compulsory for practising practitioners to be members of these bodies and to hold the correct insurances.
Both osteopaths and chiropractors will physically examine and observe their patients before arriving at a diagnosis. Osteopaths can usually form a diagnosis via careful case history taking and tissue palpation as well as orthopaedic and neurological tests and occasionally, we will order further investigations such as X-Ray or MRI. Chiropractors tend to use X-ray as part of their initial diagnosis, although the profession was recently criticised for using X-Ray too readily so this practise has been cut back now in line with new legislation.
Generally speaking both professions look at each patient in a holistic way although chiropractic treatment tends to focus slightly more on the spine and vertebral alignment. Osteopaths also treat spinal alignment but tend to employ soft tissue techniques as well as joint 'manipulation' or 'adjustment'. Bizarrely, often the most significant or noticeable difference between the two treatment modalities is the time each appointment takes! Osteopaths tend to treat for around 30 minutes roughly once a week whereas chiropractic treatment is often around 10 minutes two or more times a week.
In summary, both osteopaths and chiropractors are manual therapists born from a virtually identical philosophy and that differ from orthodox medical practitioners in that neither will prescribe drugs or perform surgery. Both will use techniques to adjust or move joints into their anatomically correct position to improve function and general health. Chiropractors perhaps unfairly often have a reputation for being more aggressive with their treatments as they tend to 'click' joints without performing the massage that osteopaths will usually do to prepare the joints prior to manipulation.
You can find me at Chase Lodge Hospital in Mill Hill, where my wife, Laura Godfrey and I run Backinhealth Osteopathy Clinic, contactable on 020 8203 8977 or by email philip@backinhealth.co.uk

Tags: Back Pain

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