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Physiotherapist, Osteopath, Chiropractor, Whats the difference?

Updated: Jul 14, 2020

Disclaimer - This is purely a short opinion piece that is directed at an NZ audience:

This is a routine question in our clinic. It is also the type of question that would take quite some time to answer in full, and it would be difficult to give an answer that everyone will agree with. But after repeating our take on the answer hundreds of times now, we think we have a response that covers all the important bits. The clearest and most obvious differences are in the traditional models from which each practice originates. This is because osteopathy and chiropractic were constructed to compete with doctors of their time, whilst physiotherapy was constructed several years later to help doctors manage the influx of soldiers returning from war with injuries. But it's 2020 now, and the differences are more apparent between professionals than they are between professions. Let me explain. Generally speaking, people tend to think of chiropractors as back crackers, physios as exercise prescribers, osteopaths as gentle manipulators. Although overly simplistic, and even a little condescending, this thinking is not too far from the truth. Chiropractors do crack backs, physios do give exercises, and osteopaths do use gentle manipulation. But that’s certainly not all they do, and some do much more. There are plenty of chiros who don’t crack backs or physios who do use gentle manipulation and osteopaths who do give exercises. Heck, all of them could also be qualified in acupuncture, K-tape, pilates, running assessments, pre and post natal care etc etc. Because information is so easy to share now, and science is helping us find what works, the lines between the professions has become progressively more blurred. However, that’s not to say we are all the same either. If we remove the titles for a moment and say we are all just ‘therapists’. The main differences patients describe me between the different therapists they have seen are around the time spent with them per appointment and how they explain what is going on. People who see us tend to like longer appointment times that involve a range of treatment approaches (manual therapy, needling, exercises etc). Whereas other people might find they prefer a simple set of exercises or a short chat with an expert in order to get on top of their pain. It’s about finding a therapist who will deliver the care you need and prefer, and not getting too caught up in their professional title.


Thanks for reading Darryl Jenkins Osteopath Hamilton Jessica Rioufrays Osteopath Hamilton

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