Chiropractors, osteopaths and physiotherapists are primary health care professionals who operate within the scope of practice of musculoskeletal care. They all involve a hands on approach in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of complaints or disorders of the skeletal frame and its soft tissues.
To help you understand the difference between these professions, we’ll start by giving you a quick description of each.
Chiropractic: A health profession concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, and the effects of these disorders on the function of the nervous system and general health. There is an emphasis on manual treatments to address the spine, which involves spinal manipulations/adjustments, as well as for other joints and applying the use of soft-tissue manipulation. (1)
Osteopathy: is a form of manual healthcare that recognizes the important link between the structure of the body and the way it functions. Osteopaths focus on how the skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves, circulation, connective tissue and internal organs function as a holistic unit. (2)
Osteopaths use a variety of techniques, however they predominantly use similar, if not, the same manipulative and soft tissue techniques as chiropractors to address the spine, pelvis, hips and other peripheral joints.
Physiotherapy: Physiotherapy is a healthcare profession that assesses, diagnoses, treats, and works to prevent disease and disability through physical means. Physiotherapists are experts in movement and function who work in partnership with their patients, assisting them to overcome movement disorders. (3)
The training required to become qualified for each of these professions is outlined below.
In Australia , chiropractors complete a minimum of five years university training in anatomy, physiology, pathology, general medical and musculoskeletal diagnosis, nutrition, neurology, orthopaedics, pharmacology, radiographic imaging and interpretation, as well as spinal and peripheral joint manipulative techniques with complimentary soft tissue therapies and musculoskeletal rehabilitation. The final year involves a year long clinical internship (4).
In Australia, osteopaths complete a minimum of five years' university training in anatomy, physiology, pathology, general medical and musculoskeletal diagnosis, nutrition and osteopathic techniques, as well as over 200 hours of practical /clinical training managing and treating the general public. (5)(6)
Physiotherapists in Australia complete a minimum of 4 years of University training in anatomy, physiology, neurology, human movement/biomechanics , orthopaedics, musculoskeletal rehabilitation, neurological rehabilitation, cardiorespiratory rehabilitation, manual techniques, paediatrics, and exercise training prescription, as well as clinical experience placement in either a hospital setting or outpatient clinics treating the general public. Physiotherapy students also have the option of further 2 years postgraduate training. (7) (8)
The training between all three practitioners, is similar across the board except for some specialised subjects, however the main difference is that physiotherapists have a greater understanding of rehabilitation for cardio-respiratory as well as neurological conditions/disorders, hence, the reason why physiotherapists are often seen working in hospital settings.
There are more similarities between chiropractors and osteopaths, as compared to physiotherapists.
This is due to the use of spinal, peripheral and soft tissue manipulative techniques in chiropractic and osteopathy, and also the holistic and whole body approach used to apply these techniques.
There are some physiotherapists who take additional training in spinal and peripheral manipulative techniques, however the majority are more inclined to apply only massage/soft tissue releasing techniques, manual machine equipment (i.e Electrical Physical Therapy), muscular dry needling and exercise prescription. Utilising their techniques is usually based on a singular region of the body, as opposed to a whole body approach used by chiropractors and osteopaths.
At Spinal Symmetry, we have both chiropractors and osteopaths on our team.
Our therapists specialise in musculoskeletal manipulative techniques and are trained in the Spinal Symmetry® approach.
Every practitioner provides treatment consistent with the Spinal Symmetry® model.
The Spinal Symmetry® method is unique from other manipulative therapies. Our intention is to correct the primary cause of the primary problem of your back pain not just your symptoms.
The fundamental principle of our treatment is that "structure governs function".
Our focus is on the skeletal structure and its joint biomechanics, in particular the hips and pelvis.
The hips and pelvis are the foundations of our spine and skeletal system. Much like the foundations of a building, when there is a 'structural'imbalance occurring at the hips and pelvis, cracks in the walls can occur throughout the entire skeletal system which relies on this foundation.
The nervous system controls the way the body 'functions', including the muscles and ligaments. Any dysfunction to the nervous system can lead to back pain and other health problems.
When we correct an imbalance of the hips and pelvis this affects the spine, which houses the spinal cord i.e. the nervous system. This correction allows for the nervous system to return to function normally and remove symptomatic effects such as pain.
So even though the practitioners who work at Spinal Symmetry may have different qualifications, the skill set, methodology and intention are all the same. This allows our treatments to be consistent, whether you see a chiropractor or an osteopath at our clinics.