What’s the difference between a Chiropractor, a Physiotherapist, and an Osteopath?
By Don Williams
B.Sc., M.Chiro., ICSSD., PG Dip. NMS Rehabilitation Cert DNS. Memb: FICS, CEA
One of the more common questions we get from patients is what is the difference between a Chiropractor, a Physiotherapist, or an Osteopath?
On the surface this would appear to be a simple question however the number of questions and confusion support that it evidentially is not. On the basis of the evolution of these practices it is quite common for Chiropractors to deal just with manipulation and joints, where by a Physiotherapist tends to deal more with stretching and muscles, and an Osteopath tends to do soft tissue work manipulation similar to a Chiropractor. However the evolution of these professions has blurred the boundaries considerably, it is not uncommon to see a Physiotherapist that does a lot of manipulation and it is not uncommon to see a Chiropractor that does lots of soft tissue work and stretches.
So where do we draw the lines?
I generally believe that anytime someone has an injury it is always a joint and a muscle involved. When you think about it, every joint in the body is crossed by at least one muscle, and every muscle in the body crosses at least one joint. So as a result, anytime you injure a muscle it will affect the joint and every time you injure a joint it will affect the muscle so we must deal with both areas simultaneously.
The team at Institute of Sports and Spines do a range of different treatment interventions that would commonly be more regarded as Physiotherapy techniques. The confusion is that these techniques while being used often by Physiotherapist are not specifically Physiotherapy techniques. So when we look at rehabilitation from a knee injury, sporting injury, a muscle tear, or a strain people predominately think this is a Physiotherapy only activity, however this makes up a large proportion of the injuries that the team see at Institute of Sports and Spines.
Generally the management of different injuries is time based surrounding milestones that are inherit in recovery of the tissue in question. What this essentially means is that a strain of a muscle will improve or repair faster than a tear of a muscle, ligament injuries take longer to repair than muscle injuries, and tendon issues can be extremely stubborn if you don’t address the underlying concern.
Although our treatment strategies with the Chiropractic team at Institute of Sports and Spines may confuse our patients as to the background of why we’re using a particular technique and whether it is Chiropractic or Physiotherapy we certainly deal with a wider range of complaints then most people would realise.
When we look at athlete injury management particularly, we would always use a combination of soft tissue work in conjunction with manipulation or adjustments when and if indicated followed by corrective exercises to address the underlying movement patterns. This tends to be the model we use with the general population as well; adjustments to relieve the irritation, soft tissue to take out tension, and exercises to re-educate the muscles and postural system.
I think that the only reason that Chiropractic, Physiotherapy, and Osteopathy don’t amalgamate into one profession is due more to egos and understanding in the public rather than the actual differences between the professions. I would think that if we sub-specialised into the different areas that we treat this would probably be a clearer distinction than whether it was a Chiropractic, Physiotherapy, or Osteopath problem.
For many conditions any of the three professions or modalities could get a great result and interestingly some people seem to respond more to a particular person or style of intervention rather than a particular profession. This doesn’t stop people from having the impression that all Physiotherapists ‘are stupid’, or all Chiropractors ‘hurt you’, or all Osteopath’s ‘don’t do anything’ these opinions are often based on hearsay and not always in reality. However there are certain cases of people who may have had an interaction with someone previously that has not gotten a good result and unfortunately this often leads them to label all of that profession as ineffective.
I hope this has cleared up some of your thoughts or questions in regards to Chiropractors, Physiotherapists, and Osteopaths. If you have any further questions, please contact us at Institute of Sports and Spines and we would be glad to help.