Osteopathy vs Physiotherapy: What is the Difference?

If you’re feeling discomfort or pain in a given area, or have sustained a particular injury whilst playing sport or at work, you might be weighing up who it is best to see for treatment. Without understanding the difference between osteopathy vs physiotherapy, you won’t know which professional is most appropriate to visit for your particular condition. 

In this article, BodyMotion Physiotherapy explores the differences between the two, including the approaches around the study for physiotherapy & osteopathy, assessment processes, spinal manipulation and more.

What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy focuses on the musculoskeletal system and the way it interacts with the body’s other systems. It is based on the belief that, given the right conditions and manipulation of the musculoskeletal system, the body can heal itself, rather than rely on medication. 

Osteopathy is practised by licensed osteopathic physicians, applying a range of manual techniques, such as stretching, massage, and manipulation, to improve joint mobility, relieve pain, and increase overall wellness. They also often use other treatments, such as exercise therapy, dietary changes, and stress reduction techniques to promote healing.

Common Reasons to See an Osteopath

  • Pain in your ankle, foot, hip and knee
  • Sciatica, back, neck and jaw pain
  • Headaches
  • Golfer’s and tennis elbow
  • Sporting and workplace injuries
  • Issues with posture
  • Osteoporosis and arthritis
  • Lower back pain and scoliosis
  • Muscular strains and sprains
  • Repetitive strain injuries

What is Physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy is a form of healthcare designed to help people restore and maintain proper movement and function, overcoming injuries, disabilities, and chronic illnesses. Physiotherapists work with patients to assess their needs and develop customised treatment plans that may involve a combination of exercise equipment, stretches, manual therapy, and other techniques.

Each licensed physiotherapist is extensively trained in assessing, diagnosing, and treating movement disorders, working with patients of all ages and backgrounds to help them improve their physical function and quality of life. 

Common Reasons to See a Physiotherapy

  • Pre & Post-Surgical Rehabilitation
  • Ankle, hip and knee pain
  • Issues with tendons
  • Wrist, elbow and shoulder pain
  • Arthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Neck and back pain
  • Issues with posture
  • Sports injuries
  • Headaches

Physiotherapy vs Osteopathy: Requisite Study & Training

Both osteopathy and physiotherapy involve undergraduate degrees, with physiotherapists completing four years of study, while osteopathy typically requires four to five years of training. Each profession is registered with AHPRA and demands the completion of a minimum number of hours of continuing professional development each year.

Physiotherapists and osteopaths can work in various settings, including private practice clinics, hospitals, aged care facilities, sports clubs, medical clinics, health clinics, or even research facilities. 

Physiotherapy vs Osteopathy: Assessment Process

When visiting an osteopath or a physiotherapist for the first time, both practitioners will conduct a thorough case history by asking about your medical history, medications, and factors that could be affecting your health. They will then conduct a physical examination that may include assessing your range of movement, strength, neurological function, and posture. 

Osteopaths will take a holistic approach, assessing and treating areas of the body that may not be directly related to your symptoms, while physiotherapists will examine specific areas related to your areas of concern, as well as other issues that may be contributing to your condition. 

Physiotherapy vs Osteopathy: Treatment Process 

Following a comprehensive evaluation, your physiotherapist will develop an individualised treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and concerns. They will employ various therapeutic techniques during your session, such as joint mobilisation and manipulation, dry needling, taping, soft tissue treatment, and small exercises to perform with specialised equipment.

On the other hand, during your osteopathic session, your practitioner may use a combination of soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation and articulation, general stretching, muscle energy techniques (MET), and other methods as part of a holistic approach. 

Both physiotherapists and osteopaths may suggest at-home exercises and stretches, provide ergonomic or movement advice, and offer further guidance for managing your condition and symptoms.

Physiotherapy vs Osteopathy: Spinal Manipulation

High-velocity thrust techniques, or spinal manipulation, is a method used to improve joint range of motion. The sound you hear during manipulation, commonly called “cracking,” is the release of air bubbles from the joint.

Both osteopaths and physiotherapists are trained to perform spinal manipulation techniques for various conditions. However, osteopaths tend to use this technique more frequently than physiotherapists, with spinal manipulation not only applied for treating the spine, but also the upper and lower limbs.

Learn More about the Potential Benefits of Physiotherapy with BodyMotion Physiotherapy Today

 For more information on how a physiotherapist may be able to assist with your condition, please feel welcome to contact us at BodyMotion Physiotherapy today.