Osteopath or Chiropractor: What’s the difference?
If you are suffering muscle or joint related back pain, you may be thinking about visiting either an Osteopath or Chiropractor.
Both Osteopaths & Chiropractors spend 4-5 years training which includes practicing treatment methods and studying a variety of medical subjects. Both types of treatment have been around since the 1800’s and their philosophy is based on optimizing the nervous system and blood flow by working on the spine and other joints. Both Osteopaths & Chiropractors must be registered in good standing with their respective associations in order to practice; the General Osteopathic Council for Osteopaths and the General Chiropractic Council for Chiropractors. These associations ensure each therapist is properly trained at a reputable institution and the individual practitioners are fit to practice under the guidelines set out and are insured to do so. Lastly, both types of treatment are hands on, physical therapies although how the treatments are carried out may be very different.
So, what is the difference between an osteopath and a chiropractor?
The most significant difference between the two practices are Chiropractors tend to focus mainly on alignment of the spine whereas Osteopaths take a more holistic approach and concentrate on the whole body. Most Osteopaths use a wide range of therapeutic techniques such as soft tissue release, joint mobilisations and cranial therapy along with spinal manipulation whereas Chiropractors can be more ‘spinal joint focused’ and so perform more spinal adjustments of the two professions. To patients who enjoy spinal manipulation it may seem like osteopathy and chiropractic are the same, there are in fact many other differences.
Because Osteopaths focus more on the structure of the whole body, they tend to treat a broader variety of conditions and complaints with a greater array of techniques. Osteopaths may do more muscle and soft tissue work and adjust joints other than just the spine. They use physical examination to come to their diagnosis and will refer patients back to medical professionals if further tests are needed.
Chiropractors concentrate on alignment of the spine; the idea is that by preventing or releasing pinched nerves the nervous system will work more effectively and pain will be alleviated or reduced. The treatment of neck and low back pain is the mainstay of their practice. Due to their focus on the spine they favour the use of X-ray or MRI scans to come to a diagnosis, in fact many have X-Ray machines in their clinics!
Osteopaths are also trained to use very gentle techniques that are effective in patients who are more fragile or young. Cranial Osteopathy is specialty within the Osteopathic profession. It is a very gentle treatment which is suitable for the elderly, children, even infants. It involves very gentle manipulation of the skull (cranium) and the spine to release tension throughout the body. Another gentle type of treatment is myofascial release. This treatment involves applying gentle but sustained pressure onto the areas where there are restrictions in the facial connective tissue to release tension, reduce pain and increase motion to the area. Many Chiropractors do go on to train in cranial osteopathy and myofascial release after they become Chiropractors but Osteopaths have this training within their core study.
Lastly the difference between Osteopaths and Chiropractors relates to the treatment itself. Chiropractic treatments generally last 10-15 minutes as only the spine is assessed. Conversely Osteopaths spend 30-45 minutes per treatment with their patients. Chiropractors tend to see their patients more frequently than Osteopaths. The average cost per treatment between the two types of therapies is about the same.
At the end of the day it comes down to personal choice when deciding between an Osteopath and a Chiropractor. Think about the type of problem you are having and research into the local practitioners to decide which treatment would suit you best. Is it just a back problem or are other joints or tissues involved? Do you have the time to consult someone 3 times per week instead of just once? The best decider is how you connect with the practitioner once you are in front of them and how you respond to the type of treatment they give you.
If you would like more information about Osteopathy and how we can help you, please check out our osteopathy page or contact The Maple Clinic directly on 01474 850 500