What's the Difference Between Chiropractors and Osteopaths?

At our clinic, one of the most common questions we get asked is “Whats the difference between chiropractors and osteopaths?” This is a topic that can be very confusing, because truth be told, there are as many similarities as differences! Hopefully this blog post will help you to understand what some of the differences may be. 

The Short Answer

The short answer is that due to the wide variance within each profession, there might actually be more similarities between a chiropractor and an osteopath than two different chiropractors or two osteopaths. Both professions help patients suffering from pain or injuries to muscles, joints or nerves. Both professions use a variety of hands on techniques to treat their patients, and may or may not incorporate home exercises as part of this approach. At Pro Chiro we are definitely on the side of using rehabilitative exercises in our treatment approach!

The reason there may not be many differences between chiropractors and osteopaths is that in the last ten to twenty years, there has been an abundance of research produced on the effectiveness of different chiropractic and osteopathic treatment techniques. At the highest level of each profession, practitioners over the last decade have “borrowed” techniques from the other profession or otherwise changed the way they practice in line with what the research shows is most effective. Therefore, there has been a convergence between the two professions where chiropractors may use some osteopathic techniques and osteopaths may use some chiropractic techniques. 

Special Interest

On top of the similarity found between general practitioners of each profession, those with shared special interests will be veen more similar. For example, an osteopath with an interest in sports injuries will practice in a very similar way to our sports chiropractor Josh. Additionally, this osteopath interested in sports may practice in an entirely different way to an osteopath specialised in working with children. 

Historically

The two professions have actually always been fairly closely linked. Osteopathy was founded in approx. 1874, and Chiropractic in 1895. The two professions even started in the same state in America. Luckily for our patients, both professions have evolved with the times and the available evidence, just like general medicine has. 

Differences

So we’ve spoken a lot so far about what the similarities may be, but are there any differences? Traditionally there have been a few differences between the two professions. 

In terms of the spinal manipulations / adjustments performed by each profession there are some subtle differences. Chiropractors generally use short lever adjustments, whereas osteopaths utilise long lever adjustments. However, as we spoke before these days members of each profession may borrow techniques from the other profession. 

In terms of topics covered during the degree programmes, chiropractors are trained in how to take and read x rays, whereas osteopaths may only be trained in reading x rays. This may have been a bigger difference in years gone by, but these days taking x rays is understood to be of very low importance.

Here’s a video of our Sports Chiropractor Josh French explaining some of the similarities and differences between chiropractors, osteopaths and physiotherapists. 

Conclusion

To sum up, nowadays the difference between osteopaths and chiropractors may be negligible. There may be more differences between two chiropractors than a chiropractor and an osteopath, particularly if the chiropractor and osteopath are interested in sports injuries. 

With that being said, it’s important that when choosing a chiropractor or osteopath to trust with your care, you find one that stays up to date with modern, evidence based healthcare, and truly puts their patients first with patient-centred care. 

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