Chiropractors and Osteopaths both treat back pain using a variety of techniques to improve musculoskeletal function. But what is the difference between Osteopathy and Chiropractic?
Chiropractic or Osteopathy?
This is a question I get asked all the time by guests at the clinic here in Eastbourne. Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not black and white due to professional differences within both professions. It is worth bearing in mind that chiropractic and osteopathy are not techniques but are the title of the professions. So I will do my best to explain the different approaches for treating back pain that exist between an osteopath and a chiropractor.
What are the similarities between an osteopath and a chiropractor?
Both osteopaths and chiropractors are statutory regulated health professions, the osteopaths by the general osteopathic council and chiropractors by the General Chiropractic Council. In terms of education, both have to complete a four or five-year degree level course. Based on a definition taken from the General Osteopathic Council, osteopathy is described as a primary health care profession. This is similar to chiropractic and means you do not need a referral to visit an osteopath or Chiropractor. In the same way you do not need a referral to visit a NHS dentist or GP. This means both a chiropractor and osteopath have the necessary diagnostic skills to know what we can treat and when to refer.
The NHS describes osteopathy as being based on the principle that the wellbeing of a person depends on their bones, muscles, ligaments and connective tissue function smoothly together. They can help prevent health problems through the use of physical manipulation, stretching and massage techniques. With the aim Increasing mobility of joints, relieving muscle tension, enhancing blood supply to tissues and helping the body to move. As a chiropractor I would agree that a musculoskeletal system functioning to the best of its capability is beneficial for your overall health and wellbeing. We all have experienced days where are muscles and joints ache, leaving us feeling tired and down. I would say we both share the goal of wanting to reduce back pain and improve musculoskeletal system function. With an understanding how that can have a positive impact on your wellbeing.
What techniques do Osteopaths and Chiropractors use?
Both Osteopaths and Chiropractors use manipulative techniques to treat and improve movement within the spine. Chiropractors call these spinal manipulations, chiropractic adjustments. These manoeuvres involve a quick but gentle thrust to the spine that sometimes causes the characteristic click or pop sound to come from your joints. As a chiropractor my goal is to improve the movement of the joint and recognise the beneficial effect this can have on your nervous system. I would expect an osteopath would also have a similar goal. But there are slight differences in the techniques used.
Osteopaths and chiropractors treat joints and muscles using massage and stretching techniques. Personally as a chiropractor I like to adjust, use a facial edge tool to break up any scar tissue within the connective tissue surrounding muscles and combine this with other massage techniques, rehabilitative exercise, and stretching of stiff muscles to improve your musculoskeletal health. Both chiropractors and osteopaths will develop their own style of practicing and this will be based on their own experience with patients and the type of courses they choose to attend after University. It is not unusual for chiropractors and osteopaths to attend the same courses and learn techniques from each other.
Are there any differences between chiropractors and osteopaths?
We have established a lot of similarities between chiropractors and osteopaths. But the biggest difference to the best of my knowledge is chiropractors are trained to take x-rays. Both professions are taught to read and interpret x-rays and MRI scans. Chiropractors can organise a private referral for an MRI scan if you require it. As you can see the answer is not straight forward and it is about finding the right practitioner for you. If you want to find out more about what I do look for James Revell on the Lushington Chiropractic website.
Thanks for reading.
By James Revell
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