This is one of the most common questions I get from prospective new patients when they call the clinic considering booking a chiropractic consultation. There isn’t a straight forward answer as both chiropractors and osteopaths can work in quite varied ways.
Similarities between chiropractors and osteopaths?
Chiropractors and osteopaths are both manual therapists, they perform hands on treatment and they are both manipulative therapists. In many cases both will also work on the muscles and soft tissues as well.
Differences between chiropractors and osteopaths?
The spinal manipulation techniques themselves may vary. There are many different ways of manipulating a joint and it comes down to the individual preference of the therapist for certain manipulation techniques. In some cases osteopaths favour a longer lever adjustment which can sometimes be a little rougher than chiropractic manipulation but it has to be said that some osteopathic techniques are extremely gentle.
Historically there were more differences with osteopaths believing all pain to come from dysfunction of the blood vessels and chiropractors’ claiming it is nerve dysfunction that causes pain. However if you take a look at an anatomy textbook you will see that every nerve is closely followed by a blood vessel so interference of one structure is likely to also affect the other. Also chiropractors used to take a lot of x rays of their patients and structural changes were important. Some chiropractors do still routinely use x rays however I do not unless I think there is a valid clinical reason for example fracture or infection of the bone.
So who should I see?
As with most professions and especially in manual therapy, there are different styles of practice and chiropractic and osteopathy are no different. It is more important to find a chiropractor or an osteopath who you trust and feel comfortable talking to and someone who you feel understands your symptoms. In truth, if the clinician has graduated (both professions now require university education) within the last 5-10 years they will practice in a very similar fashion. Evidence based medicine is upon us and so students are taught according to the latest research meaning educational syllabuses have a lot in common. Chiropractors, osteopaths and even physiotherapists all look at each other’s techniques and where there are examples of good practice we tend to steal the idea and incorporate it into our practices. I personally have a lot of respect for other treatment techniques and would never suggest chiropractic treatment is superior over anther profession. This is for patients to decide!