What is the difference between a chiropractor and an osteopath?

If you have been experiencing pain in your joints or muscles, you may be thinking of consulting an osteopath or chiropractor. However, if you’re unsure what the difference is between a chiropractor and an osteopath, you might be struggling to decide which one to choose. 

We’re here to help you to understand the differences between osteopaths and chiropractors, so you can make the decision that’s right for you. 

Similarities between chiropractors and osteopaths

Chiropractors and osteopaths believe in the importance of the overall health and integrity of the entire body, and both work closely with patients to address their health problems and individual needs. Therefore, making the decision to use either service is a step in the right direction.

It may give you peace of mind to know that both chiropractic and osteopathy are primary healthcare professions. They are both regulated in the same way as medicine and dentistry by the General Chiropractic Council and the General Osteopathic Council, respectively. In addition, the Chiropractic profession has also succeeded in establishing a Royal College, establishing postgraduate pathways to facilitate training and encourage excellence in clinical practice.

Should I see a chiropractor or an osteopath?

Both chiropractors and osteopaths use gentle joint manipulation and mobilisation; massage; muscle stretching and other exercises to relieve musculoskeletal pain. However, there is a subtle difference between the two professions.

In addition to carrying out physical examinations, Chiropractors also train more extensively in interpreting MRI scans and x-rays. Many chiropractors also have their own imaging suites and are qualified to take x-rays. Chiropractic training also has a greater emphasis on neurology and focus their treatment on correcting and improving nervous system function.

With statutory regulation, the similarities between the two professions have increased greatly over the last 25 years.

What is a chiropractor?

Chiropractors can be found in over 160 countries around the world with agreed standards of training. This enables them to diagnose, treat, manage and prevent disorders of the musculoskeletal system (the bones, joints, nerves, ligaments and muscles that support the body), as well as the effects that these disorders can have on general health.

Although chiropractors are best known for treating back and neck pain, they can also help clients with a range of other complaints including headaches and migraines, arthritis, repetitive injuries, muscle spasm and cramps, joint pain, sciatica, minor sports injuries, tension and stress.

What treatment does a chiropractor offer?

Chiropractors are trained in a wide variety of techniques to manipulate and mobilise the spine and joints of patients to relieve a wide variety of symptoms and restore proper function and mobility; improve performance; and reduce pain.

Other treatments include exercises to help stretch and strengthen affected areas and improve posture, and hot and cold therapy. At Chiropractic Care Clinics, our chiropractors are also trained in medical acupuncture (also known as dry needling), exercise and rehabilitation and in prescribing nutritional and metabolic support for the body to function optimally.

What qualifications do chiropractors and osteopaths need?

New graduates from both professions need to have completed a minimum of four years full-time university training, although most chiropractors have trained for five years and will have a Masters qualification. Practitioners from overseas have to pass a test of competency.

Only people registered with their regulator can call themselves a chiropractor or an osteopath. To re-register, they must prove they are properly insured and have completed training courses to keep their skills up to date.

I still can’t decide, what should I do? 

It’s a personal choice deciding whether to visit a chiropractor or an osteopath. If you’re unsure, our advice would be to contact a few practitioners for an initial online or telephone consultation to see how they would deal with your presenting problem. You can also be guided by reviews or recommendations for services in your local area and by exploring their websites, which often lay out their experience, additional qualifications and their treatment approaches.

Get in touch

Our clinics have been helping clients feel better for more than 30 years. We offer a range of services in addition to chiropractic, including counselling, aromatherapy, sports massage and a specialist multidisciplinary headache clinic to keep your health on track and enhance your life. We also have a diagnostic imaging suite at our Yeovil clinic offering digital x-rays and peripheral bone density scanning.

If you’re undecided whether to use a chiropractor or osteopath, feel free to contact us and we will be happy to discuss options that suit your personal needs. Get in touch to find out more about how we can help.

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