What is the difference between an Osteopath and a Physiotherapist?

So you are in pain, and you go to a clinic and find both physiotherapist and osteopath within the same practice, treating the same conditions with the goal to reduce pain, improve mobility and improve better quality of life. What is the difference?

Approach: Physiotherapists usually have treatment protocols for treating specific problems, while osteopathic treatment is tailored to the individual not the symptom(s).

Treatment: Physiotherapists techniques vary from soft tissue techniques such as massage, rehabilitation exercise programs to passive joint movement. Modalities like ultrasound, electrotherapy and hydrotherapy is also usually employed.

Osteopathic treatments vary from soft tissue techniques like massage, passive joint movements and thrust techniques (commonly referred to as “cracking”), with lifestyle and postural advices and exercises. However many osteopaths are also known to use ultrasound, hydrotherapy, western acupuncture and other equipment you may find a physiotherapist using. So for example if you have lower back pain:Both a physiotherapist and osteopath will examine, diagnose, form a treatment plan and treat you hands on. However you generally get more hands on treatment from an osteopath because osteopaths take into account the interrelationship between the nervous system, musculo-skeletal system and even your psychological health, so they may treat your diaphragm, upper back, hips and your lower limbs when you have lower back pain. I say all of these but in reality there are differences in the ways practitioners within both professions treat.

Treatment and approach can vary between individuals within the same professions. So some physiotherapists may treat like osteopaths and vice versa.

Cost: In the UK, physiotherapy is very popular within the NHS. You can get a referral via your GP, hospital doctors and surgeons to visit a physiotherapist, so it’d be free.In private practice, average cost to see a physiotherapist or an osteopath is about the same.So what is really important is YOU. As long as:

Then you have found the right practitioner and the right clinic regardless of whether it’s an osteopath or a physiotherapist.I hope this helps. If you have any questions or suggestions for the next post, feel free to ask below or email.


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Osteopath and Medical Acupuncturist. Based in Thurrock and Havering.

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