Physiotherapy vs Osteopathy: Which Is Best For What?

Physiotherapy-vs-Osteopathy-Which-Is-Best-For-WhatWhat is the difference between physiotherapy and osteopathy, and which is best for what? Are two of the most commonly asked questions by patients with pains and injuries. In order to answer these questions it is useful to refer to their definitions and general information. Physiotherapy vs Osteopathy, there are many similarities between the two including treatment of musculoskeletal pain, university based education, gained protected titles after completion of relevant accredited course and both requires license to practice. Both professions treat pretty much the same problems successfully yet they differ in approach.

Physiotherapy is a manual therapy that specialises in the treatment and rehabilitation of people with movement disorders or acute and chronic injuries by using evidence-based natural methods such as therapeutic exercise, adapted equipment and nutrition. A physiotherapist commonly treat specific area rather than holistically. They aim to restore movement and function and facilitate recovery to help people remain independent for as long as possible.

Osteopathy is a form of holistic manual medicine that diagnoses and treats a wide range of acute and chronic conditions of the musculoskeletal and visceral systems of the body. It uses hands on techniques to restore structural alignment to improve pain and physical function. The primary osteopathic philosophy is treating the whole body rather than just their symptoms. It maintains that if movement and balance exists good health will follow.

Diagnosis and referral to a Physiotherapist or Osteopath
Physiotherapists are trained to evaluate, often they do not diagnose specific illness because their patients are referred by GP, orthopaedic surgeon and rheumatologist who pre-diagnosed the problem. And when they do diagnosis is less hands on compared with osteopathy just around 60% because they use equipment to diagnose patients.

Osteopathy practitioners combine detailed health case history with thorough physical examination to diagnose patient’s condition before treating it. Osteopaths use their hands to diagnose patients; diagnosis is 90% hands on. They use palpation for examination to identify problem area and identify points of weakness and excessive strain.

Treatment by a Physiotherapist compared to Osteopath
Physiotherapists frequently use a range of treatments including joint manipulation, hydrotherapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) machine or ultrasound as part of their treatment approach. TENS reduces pain by releasing tiny waves of electrical pulses that stimulates the nerves. Ultrasound works like deep tissue massage by generating heat and movement in the soft tissues targeted by the machine. Treatments vary from soft tissue techniques, such as massage and passive joint movements to more extensive rehabilitation exercise programs. Treatments are more area specific than osteopathic treatments. If you have knee pain, the physiotherapist would mostly work in the area around the knee joint, as well as give you specific exercises to do at home to help the muscles recover.

Osteopathic treatment focuses on correcting disturbance caused by muscle weakness, restricted joint movements, poor posture or working practice. Problems treated by osteopaths involve muscles, ligaments, joints and nerves such in the case of back pain, arthritic pain, repetitive strain injuries, sports injuries and migraines. Treatment is more holistic than physiotherapy because they believe that in order for the body to be healthy; all body tissues need to move according to their function. The osteopath doesn’t treat a painful back or knee, but the whole body. For example back pain will be treated after addressing the back, ankle, hip and the pelvis. It does not only provide symptomatic relief but address the causes of the pain as well as prevent re-occurrence.

Once you understood the fundamental differences between physiotherapy and osteopathy, we suggest you select the practitioner knowledgeable, trusted and friendly who can provide the best quality treatment for your concern. Here are some guide questions to ask yourself to help you choose the best practitioner for you:
• What is his particular area of expertise?
• Does he have a post-graduate qualification such as Masters or PHD?
• Have you tried his services before and did you achieve a positive outcome?
• Is he referred by family or friends who had a good experience from his clinic?
• Are there positive reviews online about his clinic?
• What is the cost for an initial consultation and follow-up?
• Do they require upfront payment packages?
• Will you be able to claim on private health insurance?

If you are thinking about seeing a physio or an osteopath, think about what stage of injury you are in. If you’re currently in pain, I suggest you see an osteopath to treat the pain. Once the pain subsided you can see a physio who would be able to help you gain the function through exercise. But your choice will still depend on your personal preference. Choose what’s right for you and your condition after considering all available information. Treatment will vary between practitioners but the aim is the same. The most importantly visit a physiotherapist or an osteopath rather than see no one at all.