Difference between Physiotherapy, Chiropractic and Osteopathy

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Physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths all take a slightly different approach to treatment, so it can be difficult to know which one might be right for you.

A good physio, osteopath or chiropractor can all fix injuries. There are probably more crossovers than differences in how each therapist treats. Each different therapist will approach things from a slightly different perspective but we all have the same aim; to decrease pain and fix an injury, using a drug free and non invasive approach to improve physical health and wellbeing.

While we all have a different tool box of interventions, each different discipline aims to diagnose and treat problems related to muscles, joints, bones and nerves. We all have different hands on techniques to – among other things – mobilise joints, decrease muscle tension, get nerves moving better and make sure the body is moving how it was designed to move. Our hands on interventions are backed up with different exercises to control movement, get better balance between different muscles and prevent injuries from coming back in the longer term. We will all try to find the problem rather than just treat the symptom.



Physiotherapists specialise in the diagnosis, management and prevention of movement disorders.

The aim of physiotherapy is to rehabilitate and improve a person’s ability to move and function

They look at the interaction between your muscular, skeletal and nervous systems to see what could be contributing to your issue. Then they look at what aspects of your sporting, work or recreational life may also be contributing.

Physiotherapists can use hands on techniques for mobilisation of joints or massage for release of tight muscle or connective tissue. They also use an individualised exercise program to maintain the improvements/gains reached throughout treatment.


Chiropractors will generally treat pain and altered body alighment related problems using manipulation of the joints (adjustments), either of the spine or the limbs. Manipulation is a fast manual technique that takes the joints being treated to the end of their available range of motion.

Chiropractors can also use soft tissues techniques, stretching, strengthening and rehab techniques

But the main difference between the two is that a chiropractor traditionally uses manipulation of the spine and limbs, whereas a physiotherapists will more commonly use mobilisation techniques and rehabilitation exercises.


Osteopaths use techniques to influence joints, muscles, nerves, circulation, connective tissue and internal organ’s function, so osteopaths try to have an all-encompassing “big picture” approach to diagnosis and management.

Osteopaths focus on the health of the entire body, rather than just the injured or affected part. They look at how your skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves, circulatory system, connective tissue and internal organs function as a whole body unit.

They also use manual techniques, mobilisation and manipulation of the joint, as well as soft tissue release and exercises.

Crânio-sacral techniques are also used in osteopathy.

Regardless which therapist you end up choosing, remember that you have to feel comfortable with the treatment and go with what works for you.

The beauty of a multidisciplinary clinic like Physiofocus, is that your therapist can ask advice and discuss with other therapists onsite and guide you and refer you as needed during your rehab process.